I feel like I should disclose the fact that I really like Attack on Titan and that I’m still caught off guard by how much I enjoy it. I’m not an anime guy at all, but the show was sufficiently buzzworthy for me to look into and I was immediately hooked. Hell, I’m even following the manga series right now since we aren’t getting a second season anytime soon. God help me, I’ve turned to the Dark Side…
With that out of the way, I should also tell you that the live-action Attack on Titan film that is currently getting a very, very limited release in North America is kind of dreadful. You already knew that if you pay any attention to all things Titan, but here’s the part you might not know: it is a fucking beautiful disasterpiece.
I’m nowhere near well versed enough in Japanese film to tell if the acting and writing is bad by their industry’s standards but my gut instinct says yes. Bad art is a universal phenomenon that transcends cultures and languages and I’m pretty sure Japanese audiences were sniggering just as much as my fellow attendees and I were. In the realm of bad movies that inadvertently morph into gonzo, madcap comedies, Titan out does all of them except maybe The Room. And that is its greatest-check that, only-strength.
I mean you certainly won’t be seeing this to watch the characters and story that you love be brought to life. Example: I can’t for the life of me remember how or why film Eren (Haruma Miura) gives film Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) the red scarf. If that doesn’t warn the purists just how far this thing strays from its source material, I don’t know what will. Titan shares a premise, most of the characters and a few key scenes with Hajime Isayama’s opus and pretty much nothing else.
So what’s so funny about all of this? For one the Titans themselves are pretty much an abysmal failure. Everything that was so creepy, off putting and threatening about them in the manga/anime is completely lost in live-action. They shamble around like Burners who’ve taken some bad acid and they are never not hilarious, even though you start to pity them after awhile. That Titan’s visual effects range from just all right to YouTube fan film quality doesn’t help matters.
Weirdly enough the jokes or at least the parts that seem like they are meant to be funny actually work. It’s really bizarre and something I’ve never experienced in these kinds of bad movies before, but all of the stuff with the perpetually hungry “Potato Girl” Sasha Blouse (Nanami Sakuraba) and eccentric genius Hange Zoë(Satomi Ishihara) is pretty damn funny and the filmmakers and actors milk those gags for all they’re worth. For a few glorious minutes, you will be laughing with Titan and not at it.
All of the serious stuff, though? It’s exactly the sort of shit-awful, what-the-hell-am-I-watching chucklefest circus you were expecting. Dialogue is lathered in non sequitur. A single mom Survey Corps member tries to deprive Ehren of his virginity in the midst of a battlefield and is promptly devoured by a Titan that somehow snuck up on them (16 and Pregnant: Trost Edition). A woman sobs for her dead lover and insists that he’s still alive, only for the camera to pull back and reveal that the dude has been chomped in half. People eating apples somehow gets turned into a running gag. There is a guy who is pretty much supposed to be fan-favorite Captain Levi but somehow he isn’t. Hilarity ensues.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Attack on Titan: it’s pretty bad, there’s an action scene or two that almost work but are undermined by shoddy effects and it pulls off the truly impressive double feat of being both intentionally and unintentionally funny. If you can accept the fact that this isn’t the Attack on Titan movie we all wanted, you’ll have a pretty good time. Judging by the audience reaction at my screening, I strongly suspect this will become an On Demand/Netflix classic for groups of geeky friends to throw on for some cheap but hearty laughs and drinking games (think apples and potatoes). It’s not quite The Room (the Mortal Kombat films might be a better comparison) but it’s gloriously unhinged and a total blast.
Find out if part one of Attack on Titan (yep, there’s another one) is playing near you right here.