Movie Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Live Action) (Spoilers!)

Recently, it seems that there are more and more live action adaptations of popular anime and manga franchises than before. This shouldn’t really be that surprising as it has been proven that we do now have the technology to be able to pull these things off. Unfortunately, most live action adaptations haven’t really done that well, with the exception of the live action adaptation of “Rurouni Kenshin”. Because of this, many, such as myself, hoped that “Fullmetal Alchemist” would also be an exception to the rule, especially as the trailers did look a little bit promising. Unfortunately, although there are some things to like about the movie, its uneven pace made the movie feel too long, and the little twists and turns in it didn’t seamlessly come together as one coherent story. Based on this, one can only hope that all these flaws can be fixed in the sequel, if there is one, and hopefully, add more of the characters that fans of the manga and anime have come to love.

The live action adaptation of “Fullmetal Alchemist” was based on the Hiromu Arakawa manga of the same name, which spawned two anime shows, “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. This live action adaptation was directed by Sori Fumihiko with a screenplay by Sori and Miyamoto Takeshi.

FMA Cast Hagaren Tumblr
The Cast of Fullmetal Alchemist Image Source: Official Hagaren Tumblr

The film starred Hey Say Jump!’s Yamada Ryosuke as Edward “Ed” Elric, the titular Fullmetal Alchemist; Mizuishhi Atomu as the voice of Alphonse “Al” Elric; Honda Tsubasa as Winry Rockbell, a female mechanic and the Elric’s childhood friend; Dean Fujioka as Roy Mustang; Hongo Kanata as Envy; Matsuyuki Yasuko as Lust; Uchiyama Shinji as Gluttony; Sato Ryuta as Maes Hughes; Renbutsu Misako as Riza Hawkeye; and Kohinata Fumiyo as General Hakuro.

“Fullmetal Alchemist” is set in a world where alchemy is more akin to science than magic, and follows the “Law of Equivalent Exchange”, which means that in order to do alchemy, “something of equal value must be lost”.

The story follows the two Elric brothers who once tried to attempt what is forbidden in alchemy, to resurrect a human being, after their mother died, leaving them as orphans. Because of this, Ed lost his leg, and lost his arm in order to be able to bind Al’s soul to a suit of armor that they had in the house. Because of this, Ed became a State Alchemist so that he could also pursue his own agenda of looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, which allows the user to “transmute” or do alchemy without having to follow the “Law of Equivalent Exchange”, and would allow them to turn back to normal. However, along the way, they discover foes that are beyond their comprehension, and stumble upon government secret that force the brothers to make a very difficult decision.

The basic premise and story line of the film reads like the basic premise of the source material, and the first parts of its actual story, and they did use the source material heavily for some of the twists and turns of the story. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to seamlessly weave all of this into a very coherent plot, which made the film seem very long (and this is coming from someone who is more than willing to sit down for four hours to watch the extended version of “The Two Towers”), and makes everything a little bit jarring. So instead of one coherent film, it felt as if I was watching episodes in the anime itself. Aside from this, there was a lot of exposition dumps, which made it seem that the film was more “tell” instead of “show”.

Sori tried to minimize the confusion of the film by trying to streamline the story and the characters as well. Having a huge cast of secondary characters can sometimes be detrimental to a film, but I do believe that it could have been pulled off, so that fans could have, at the least, seen glimpses of Armstrong, Havoc, and Fuery.

When I first watched the trailer, I thought that the cast wasn’t that bad. Yamada did alright as Ed, despite the ill fitting wig that they put on his head. However, I do  feel that his character was played too safe, as he wasn’t as explosive as the Ed in the manga and anime, and lacked that roguish charm that Ed has. Fujioka looked the part as Mustang, but I felt that there was just something lacking in his performance. I loved Sato as Hughes, and I didn’t have a problem at all with his portrayal of this beloved character. I also really loved  Mizuishi’s voice acting as Al, as I was able to feel every bit of emotion that he poured into his performance. The Homuncili were just alright, and I am beginning to worry that Hongo is getting typecast nowadays a lot as a villain, not that I’m complaining. My biggest complaint in the cast has to be Honda’s Winry. I felt that she was overacting most of the time, and I was a bit annoyed that she came off as too cute, too girly, and ended up just being the typical sidekick to the brothers.

Alphonse
Mizuishi Atomu as Alphonse “Al” Elric Image Source: Official Hagaren Tumblr

I did like that they were able to get the color palette and setting right, and I was also impressed by the CGI that they had here. In particular, Al’s suit of armor was pretty impressive.

I also liked the fact that they did set things up for a sequel, and despite all my gripes, I do hope that they’ll be able to include other characters like Scar, the Elric brothers’ sensei, Armstrong, King Bradley, Greed, Mei and Prince Lin to the mix, and I do hope that they fix some of the glaring issues that were present in this particular film.

Now, you know the drill, there will be spoilers beyond this point!

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As I mentioned earlier, one of my biggest gripes about the film was the fact that all the little twists and turns ended up making the story less coherent, and it didn’t really lend enough to the build up of the climax. In fact, these particular plot points felt like little episodes in itself, although I do understand the significance of those scenes and what they wanted to put across.

Whereas Winry and Ed’s search for Dr. Marcoh was truly relevant to the main plot regarding government secrets and the Philosopher’s Stone; the Shou Tucker part was meant to have Al question his own existence and it also showed how different the Elrics are from alchemists like him. Although the Tucker bit was important, I feel like it could have been woven in more seamlessly into the story. However, the CGI on the chimera of Nina and Alexander was really well done.

Winry and Al
Honda Tsubasa as Winry Rockbell and Mizuishi Atomu as Alphonse “Al” Elric Image Source: Official Hagaren Tumblr

Also, as mentioned earlier, I felt like more could have been done with Winry’s character, as they made her too girly, even when she is getting mad at Ed for breaking her automail. Winry in the anime and manga wasn’t that girly, and honestly threw huge fits when she saw that her automail was broken.

Aside from the alchemy CGI, which was impressive but can be improved upon more in the future, I loved that they were able to nail the Gate of Truth scenes down pat. That was pretty impressive.

With Ed, aside from the fact that I wanted him to be more explosive and I wanted to truly see the pain and anger in his eyes when he tries to control himself or when he becomes emotional, I felt like there were some scenes that really didn’t allow him to do much. Ed is a very dynamic character, so I didn’t like the fact that there were scenes in which he was just pretty much static.

Roy Mustang
Dean Fujioka as Roy Mustang Image Source: Official Hagaren Tumblr

With Fujioka, although he does look the part, I wanted to see the rougeish charm he has as well. I also wish that there had been more chemistry between him and Hawkeye. We also don’t see the history that these two have with each other in the way they interact with each other, which is a shame.

I do like the fact that Envy surviving at the end and the fact that what Hughes uncovered was left unsaid, as it helps set things up for a sequel. However, I do wish that instead of that, we could have gotten a glimpse of King Bradley and Scar instead in the post credits scene.

For that, I’d have Envy turning up badly burnt, and reporting General Hakuro’s failure to King Bradley, while referencing the fact that he’s the Fuhrer as well as his Homunculus name of Wrath. And since the Ishvalan war had also been mentioned, there could have been a second scene in which Scar appears, murdering a State Alchemist, or just like in the source material, giving mercy to the chimera of Nina and Alexander by killing it.

If they do greenlight a sequel, I hope that they would be able to seamlessly incorporate important characters and plot points without things being too much of an exposition dump, and with everything building up seamlessly together to the climax of the film. In fact, if they do things better, I’d be open for a third film, as the source material is too expansive to streamline in just two movies.

The second film can be more about digging into the whole Ishvalan war, which would allow Scar to appear, and so that the whole military plot point can come more to the surface. Aside from this, we could also have Ed and Al travelling to meet up with their sensei after a devastating fight with Scar, so that they could train harder to face him at the end of the movie. Also, I would like for Lin, Greed and Mei to have an appearance as well.

If they do that, then they’d be able to maybe have the third film concentrate more on them all teaming up with each other to go against the Homunculus known as Father, where we will have the true final showdown, and we’d have Ed and Al’s father, Hohenheim, appear as well.

“Fullmetal Alchemist” does have a lot of potential to be an epic set of live action adaptation films. However, although the CGI and setting of the film is pretty, the story and the relationships between the characters wasn’t tight enough, leaving you with the hollow feeling that it could have been so much more.

Have you seen the live action adaptation of “Fullmetal Alchemist”? What did you think of it? What did you like and what didn’t you like? What do you think of my proposed plots for the potential sequel films? Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Image Source: Official Hagaren Tumblr

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