After I was disappointed in the live action remakes of Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, I though I would give Fullmetal Alchemist a try since I have never seen an episode of the anime and thought that maybe, going in with a fresh perspective, I might enjoy this movie based on its own merits.
Will someone please tell me what the hell I just watched?
So, the movie is about these two brothers, Ed and Al (traditional Japanese names, I’m sure) who, after messing up a godless experiment to bring their mother back from the dead, one of them is left without a body and the other literally pays God an arm and a leg to put his brothers soul in a suit of armor.
Now, just like Harry Potter, they search for the philosopher’s stone to make themselves whole again and, just like Harry Potter, their adventures are overstuffed, over-complicated, and apparently inconceivable unless you’ve already watched the anime or read the manga.
Half of the time, I didn’t know what was going on and, the other half, I was marveling at the random character interactions and motivations. Does everyone absolutely have to scream at each other for no reason? Why is Japanese Winter Soldier fighting his Transformer brother? I feel like I needed a primer to understand this stuff.
What’s worse is that this movie is almost two and a half hours long so, you could figure that somewhere in there, it would have found some time to make sense. Actually, even though I haven’t seen the anime, I could tell what was happening… the movie seemed episodic, with internal vignettes each with their own little climaxes… like episodes of a television show. In many ways, it reminded me of The Last Airbender and how it fell into the trap of trying to chronicle an entire season of television in two hours. At least I wouldn’t call Fullmetal Alchemist as bad as The Last Airbender, but it does have the same problems and needed some desperate streamlining. That whole bit with the chimera guy could have been chucked out and it would have made barely any difference.
To the movie’s credit, there is humor and there is brightness which made Fullmetal Alchemist less of a chore to sit through. It’s got a few moments of cool action and, yeah, there are a couple of times that there was some genuine heart. I will also say that there were a few times when I thought, “Oh, yes! That’s how earth-bending should have looked!”
Overall, though, it’s a convoluted mess of an adaptation and not worth a watch.