‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ Fails to Live up to Hype

By Juan Vasquez

The promotional poster for the film. Courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Live action films based on anime have, more often than not, turned out to be awful. The American remakes of “Fist of the North Star,” “Dragon Ball: Evolution,” and “Ghost in the Shell” are all notoriously bad. The most recent addition to that list of shame is “Fullmetal Alchemist,” widely considered to be one of the most influential anime and manga series of all time. So naturally, as with the anime that came before it, studios had to go and ruin it with a live action film. 

Because this manga-to-movie fiasco seems to be one of Hollywood’s more vicious cycles, it is crucial to understand why this movie adaption, released in January 2018, was truly horrible. “Fullmetal Alchemist” the manga was released in “Monthly Shonen Gangan,” a Japanese manga anthology, in August of 2001 and ended its run in June of 2010. Since then it has released two anime adaptions: “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” 

This film attempts clumsily and hastily to stitch these three related but different pieces of media into one cohesive narrative. In the beginning, we see brothers Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse chasing down a man named Father Cornello (Kenjiro Ishimaru), because they believe he has a Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is a powerful magical item that provides its user with almost god-like alchemical powers. The director tries to condense the manga's 192-page first volume into a ten minute scene. However, it can never be done convincingly to create a narrative that makes sense. 

Most of the cast was terrible, save for Maes Hughes (Ryuta Sato) and Roy Mustang (Dean Fujioka). Both even look like the characters if you squint hard enough. The others just look like passable cosplayers. Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama) was the worst of these offenders. He’s supposed to look terrifying, not goofy. Another disappointment was that this was the fifth time the fan favorite Maes Hughes died on screen, with fans left heartbroken yet again.

The only plus in this film is the setting. The background of Volterra, Italy really made the setting seem so believable. Some effort was put into making this world seem authentic. Also, the CGI for Alphonse was so pristine, there were times I forgot I was looking at a CGI suit of armor.  So, the film is not all bad, just mostly bad.

This film is not recommended for even the most diehard of Fullmetal Alchemist fans, let alone someone new to the franchise. Its poor character design and poorer attempt to condense twenty-seven manga volumes into a two-hour abomination of a film ends up, not surprisingly, blowing up in viewers’ faces. As with almost all anime adaptations, this one has proven to be a dud.