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Film Review: Fullmetal Alchemist

I don't even know where to begin with this one. So, I guess I'll start with a history on Fullmetal Alchemist or FMA for short. FMA is a manga written by Hiromu Arakawa that tells the story of the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse. After their father leaves and mother dies, the boys, skilled in alchemy attempt to bring their mother back to life. Things go wrong, instead Edward loses his leg, Alphonse loses his body, Edward sacrifices his arm to get Alphonse's soul back, which he then binds to a suit of armor. The two boys then spend their days searching for the legendary philosophers stone to get their bodies back, until they learn of a government conspiracy and team up with various characters to save their country. FMA was adapted into anime twice, first in 2003, which deviated heavily from the then unfinished manga, and again in 2010 under the title Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which is my favorite anime.

Last year, Warner Bros. Japan released a live action version, which Netflix recently added to its platform this month. I was actually excited to see live action FMA, it's one of the few anime I can see being a good live action production. Instead, it went wrong.....horribly wrong. So wrong in fact that Netflix sensed my pain and shut off 30 minutes from the end of the film. Don't believe me? Go see my tumblr clararogersparker for the picture of the timeout screen.

Where to start?

I guess I can give some positives. The actor playing Alphonse Elric was honestly the best actor in this mess. At one point in the source material, Alphonse believes he doesn't exist and that Edward created him and implanted him with false memories, which causes a fight between the brothers. This scene is present in the live action and is acted really well amongst the two brothers.....until Winry ruins it, but I'll get to that later. Finally, the actor playing beloved character Maes Hughes actually looks a lot like how Arakawa drew him.

Now for the negatives, and there are A LOT.

#1 Costuming

FMA takes place in a fictional European looking country, but as it is a Japanese property, all the actors are Japanese, which would be fine if the costumes didn't look like rushed cosplay. The child actors playing Edward and Alphonse as children have their hair dyed blonde. However it is such a poor dye job, you can see their natural hair and it honestly makes the blonde look green. The actor playing Edward is wearing a very terrible looking blonde wig, to the point that in many scenes, it looks like it is falling off and no one bothers to fix it. It's hard to focus on the subtitles when the main character's wig is clearly falling off. The actress playing Riza Hawkeye is also wearing a wig, and in a scene where she has her head down, you can see the wig sliding off. As for the clothing, the costumes look so cheap, if the actors move a certain way, the clothes could rip. Maybe that's why there is very little action.

#2 Winry

Winry Rockbell is the Elric brothers' best friend and the mechanic of Ed's prosthetic limbs. In the anime she is blonde and spunky and takes no one's crap. She doesn't appear until about episode 5 or 6 maybe even 10. Anyway, in the live action Winry isn't even blonde. Which makes no sense cause every other character who has blonde hair in the source material has the aforementioned terrible wigs. She also appears very early on, she is present during plot points that she was not there for in the manga and anime, the biggest example being her presence at Shou Tucker's house, playing with Nina and Alexander before their murder. She also acts nothing like the character. She screams all the time. In one scene Al is worried about Ed and Winry literally screams about how she's worried about Ed too. She also doesn't speak up for herself, her and Ed's signature fights she is mostly quiet during them. Also, her acting in the scene where Ed and Al fight is so over the top it's cringy.

#3 Movie length vs plot length

As a manga, FMA is 27 books. FMAB had 64 episodes. This film is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. Thus, it had to cut some aspects of the plot, such as that of the Ishvalan Civil War (which is a huge part of the main plot, it is literally mentioned in one sentence), the pursuit of Scar, King Bradley's involvement in the conspiracy, the murder of Hughes is highly condensed, the subplot about Xing, Ed and Al's training, the fort at Briggs, Dr Marcoh's plot, etc etc. Instead, the movie picks and chooses various plot threads and puts them together into such a confusing mess that even a fan like me can't understand. From what I understood the film starts with the death of the Elrics' mother, the failed transmutation, a time skip with a 6 minute long condensed version of the corrupt preist story line, 3 homunculi show up, Hughes is transferred to keep an eye on Roy Mustang for some reason, Winry shows up, the Nina and Alexander thing, skip to a nightmare sequence from about halfway through the source material, back to Nina and Alex, skip to Dr Marcoh's murder, Hughes' murder, Mustang is accused of murder, the lab 5 shows up, Envy gets killed by Mustang, the 3 homunculi make it rain zombies and then Netflix cut out. So idk where it went but it's confusing a.f.

#4 Characters

Seeing as they condensed the plot, they condensed the cast as well. Many beloved characters are not mentioned or appear. The list includes: Scar (the Ishvalan man who started the series as a villain then helped the Elrics), Van Hohenheim (the Elrics' father), Elicia (Hughes's daughter, whom he was always gushing about in the source material), the Mustang gang (Havoc, Alex Louis Armstrong, etc etc), 4 of the 7 Homunculi (Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Pride), the series' main villain Father, Black Hayate (Riza's dog), Izumi Curtis (the Elrics' teacher), Pinako Rockbell (Winry's grandmother), Rose, May Chang, Xao Mei, Ling, Lan Fan, Lan Fan's grandfather, Cheska (whose role is combined with Maria Ross'), Olivier Mira Armstrong and crew, and King Bradley. In fact, the only characters shown are Ed and Al, Riza, Roy, Maes, Winry, Gracia, Shou, Nina and Alexander, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, and Ross. 

#5 The CGI

You thought Justice League had bad CGI? Honey, this crap looks like it came out of a Playstation 2 game. Seriously when Alphonse showed up, I thought my Netflix was loosing it's signal, I called my dad to my room to look at it and he was like "I think that's just how he looks." Seriously Alphonse looks so bad. The alchemy looks terrible too. The only somewhat good looking things are very brief shots of Edward's prosthetic legs and a small bird looking chimera. You would think they would spend the CGI budget on the major character and alchemy over 3 second shots of stuff.

#6 The acting.

It is bad. Like worse than soap opera bad. The guy playing Edward is not an actor, but a singer, and you can tell he has never acted before. Winry screams all her lines. Riza doesn't do anything other than stand there with a Kristen Stewart bored mouth open face. In fact, for the character being an acclaimed sniper, Riza Hawkeye is never shown doing so, she always stands behind Mustang and takes orders. Mustang sounds like a robot. Lust and Hughes laugh at their lines too much.

#7 Unforgiveable plot changes

Due to the lack of integral characters some plot points are given to other characters and either makes the plot confusing or ruins iconic scenes. Examples

a.) in the manga and anime, Alphonse gets the idea he isn't real from Barry the Chopper. Instead he gets it from Shou Tucker, but the conversation is never shown.

b.) Envy disguises themself as Hughes' wife Gracia and as Maria Ross when they kill Hughes. This prompts a manhunt for Ross. In the film, Envy is disguised as Roy Mustang. However, Ross leads the hunt for Mustang, who burns her to reveal she is Envy. Which is confusingbecause they changed the murderer but still go through with the fake burning of Ross scene? Why?

c.) the boys' loss of their bodies is shown in the manga and anime. The live action film starts with a tornado and then a time skip. And then shows it later in a nightmare. The placement is jarring as the scene transitions from a conversation between Mustang and someone else to Edward with real limbs in a white room reliving the event. 

d.) the film makes the implication that Mustang and Hughes hate each other. The two are best friends.

e.) the film nearly completely skips over Edward's guilt of Alphonse not having a body, and just makes him look like a selfish power hungry jerk

To conclude, Cosplay and CGI The Movie.....I mean Fullmetal Alchemist is an insult to fans of the source material. There is no effort put into anything, the costuming, the CGI, the acting, etc, that it seems like no one wanted to make this film. Also, the condensation of the plot and the lack of characters make the storyline incredibly hard to follow. I mean, I guess it's better than live action Death Note and Ghost in the Shell because it didn't try to Americanize the story, but still, if you are gonna adapt a popular thing, at least get somewhat close to the source material. It's so bad, the Netflix thumbnail should be the poop emoji. Save yourselves guys, don't bother with this crap.

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