Thursday, 24 September 2015

Attack on Titan 2: End of the World (進撃の巨人 エンド オブ ザ ワールド) (2015)

Attack on Titan tries to have its cake and eat it

When a popular work gets an adaptation, who is it made for? In the first Attack on Titan film, director Shinji Higuchi stripped the anime adaptation of the manga series to its bare bones and reconfigured the sci-fi horror franchise as a knowing nod to the zombie apocalypse genre.

It worked as great cinema: I for one loved the specifically Japanese historical allegory, existential anxiety, and political paranoia invoked by Higuchi, none of which were in the source material. "True fans" were horrified and incensed. The director failed to slavishly and mindlessly deliver a carbon copy of what they had watched or read. Which presumably is what true fans of modern fantasy and sci-fi adaptations have grown to love and demand. (Let's just pretend that Game of Thrones isn't a copy-paste of the novels, and isn't expected to be.)

If the first film set up an entire world and milieu, the second film sets everything into motion, at long last. Attack on Titan 2 also offers an olive branch to fans of the manga and anime series. If the predecessor was an attempt at worldbuilding and cinema for the sake of cinema, the sequel is an attempt at pure adaptation.

The sequel begins where the first ended: with the capture of the hero and protagonist Eren. There's still a mission to destroy the giant zombie Titans but first, the military would like to interrogate our shapeshifting hero and possibly dissect him for the sake of science. It's really a trick to put in all the fluff, exposition, and overcomplicated backstory that Higuchi stripped away in the first film. Even the annoying, over the top, cartoonish extras that didn't quite fit in the zombie apocalypse feel of the first film are given meaty roles here. I'm talking about the narcissistic captain and the overenthusiastic, weapons-crazy lieutenant.

It's a commendable effort, though pacing decidedly suffers for it. I am convinced that both parts of Attack on Titan are best seen in one viewing, like two-part movie adaptations of Gantz and Parasyte before it.

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