This is what happens when live action creators take its source material at face value: Shingeki no Kyojin ended up as a typical kaiju (giant monster) movie, focusing more on the “horror” part instead of the potent story and characters’ complexities.
It has been reported that the movie would be deviating from the original story but I didn’t expect that it would completely change the nature and motivation of the characters.
I’ve known ever since the casting news came out that Miura Haruma would be the perfect Eren Jaeger. True to his manga personality, Eren believed that they shouldn’t be living as complacent “livestock” inside the walls. But more than that, his will to avenge his mother who was killed by a smiling Titan fueled his strong determination to protect mankind. Eren’s live action character changed from that brave,impulsive but passionate young warrior to a love struck slacker. It’s really sad because I’ve seen Haruma’s previous characters and most of them, angsty and dramatic. He tends to get a bit theatrical but under the right direction, he’s a decent actor. He could be a swoon worthy shoujo heartthrob as well as a spunky shounen hero but Shingeki no Kyojin’s script didn’t give him much to work with. When Shikishima asked where his parents were, he lethargically replied,”They died. I don’t remember.” When asked why he wants to kill the Titans, he replied, “Because I hate them.” Seriously?!! That could’ve been a powerful scene had the writer tried to exert some effort in fleshing out this character. Eren’s backstory should have been more heart-rending. These flashback moments are essential in making the audience root for him despite being the idler that the movie made him out to be. People who aren’t familiar with Eren’s character might think Haruma was overacting with all the angry outbursts but that’s exactly how he is supposed to be. He has deep compassion for humanity but has low tolerance for the bullsh*t around him, and yes he actually shouts a lot. He’s like a bomb that’s always ready to explode. That is why it is extremely important for him to have Mikasa and Armin by his side to keep his cool and his morality in check.
Kanata Hongo plays Armin Arlert. His knowledge of the existence of the ocean inspired Eren to pursue his dream for a life outside the walls. Their childhood includes constant battles against bullies together, and now as grown ups with constant battles against Titans, enough to trust each other with their lives.
Eren’s the tough and hot-tempered one who defends Armin, while Armin has the strategic mind whose quick thinking also saved their lives so many times. The live action movie showed a lack of dynamics between the two and simply skipped to the ultimate bromance scene where Eren got eaten by a Titan upon saving Armin. It was a moment of pure friendship and sacrifice but the movie wasn’t able to build it up on a more emotional level because they absolutely showed nothing about how close they really are.
And then there’s Mikasa. The writer could take away the whole “siblings” treatment, because I get it, people want some romance but there was too much clichéd, young adult melodrama going on. They don’t need to take away the very thing that defined Mikasa: her relationship with Eren. She was Eren’s loyal protector. She didn’t even care about fighting, all she wanted was to live a peaceful life together. She wouldn’t have signed up in the military if it weren’t for him. Her fighting skills were even more developed because of the desire to protect him at all costs. Eren was basically her everything. She rarely shows emotions but when she does, it’s all for and because of Eren. Whoever harms Eren would incur her wrath and even the strongest soldier, Levi, was no exception. Non-SnK fans don’t even know the story behind Mikasa’s most valued scarf, the one that Eren gave her during the darkest moment in her life, a metaphor of their inseparable bond.
In the live action, Mikasa was introduced as a timid girl who returned as the badass Titan-killin’ Goddess. Given that they wanted Mikasa to be more relatable, the problem is, we didn’t get to see how she evolved, what motivation she had and for what reason did she come back looking all bitter, treating Eren as if it’s his fault that the “world is cruel”. Ugh, that scene with the piano and the chandelier and the freakin’ apple is just too cringeworthy. And the Titans have better facial expressions than Kiko Mizuhara.
As for the other canon characters, the movie succeeded in making me dislike Jean.
Jean and Eren have always had conflicting view points. They have a fierce rivalry which also resorts to violence but eventually but Jean respects Eren for his fortitude and even inspired him to let go of his own selfishness.
In the live action movie, they would just mock each other and exchange punches for no reason.
“You left your girlfriend to die.”, teased Jean.
“You’re scared of Titans.”, retorted Eren.
When Jean was asked why he hated Eren so much, he simply answered, “Because of his face.” O_O
There was nothing in this lazy script that would make us feel how desperately Eren wanted to save humanity. He was just being constantly worried about his love life. There was also nothing that would make us empathize with Jean’s internal conflict.
I also like Sasha because more than just being the Potato Girl, she has sharp intuitions and strong hunting skills, hence the archery. The lack of character introduction in the dense screenplay makes it seem like it was stupid that she has a bow and arrow. It wasn’t just a homage to the Hunger Games. Sasha may not look like it but she’s one of the strongest in her squad.
As Hans (Hange Zoe), charming Satomi Ishihara made the audience laugh, albeit, for a few seconds. BUT! Considering she’s a Survey Corps veteran and a squad leader, messing up the 3D Maneuver Gear in front of the novice soldiers was just all kinds of wrong.
For the non-canons, I am slightly irritated with Shikishima’s forced attempt on looking “cool”. I didn’t appreciate the way he was directing Eren how to fly, looking all narcissistic but just basically standing there as Eren lost his leg, and he commented, “Oh well, sometimes we’re unlucky.” I refuse to accept your pseudo-Levi-shness. He looks somewhat OK in the promo posters but in the movie, he’s a total jerkface.
But the biggest WTF moment goes to Hiana. It’s unfortunate that her scene, the funniest thing in the movie, isn’t even meant to be funny: b00b grab and Eren getting c*ckblocked by a Titan. Ⓦⓗⓐⓣ(☉൧ ಠ ꐦ) This cheap and unnecessary scene made the whole film look like a parody.
I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people saying we should not compare this movie with the manga/anime. Get real. No one expects any movie to be completely the same with the source material but since it is a live action adaptation, comparison is inevitable. If they don’t want to be compared, they shouldn’t have adapted Shingeki no Kyojin at all. They have written an entirely different story anyway. They had it coming when they decided to go for an obvious audience draw. Shingeki no Kyojin has a big fanbase that guarantees this film to be a box office hit. The manga/anime earned its huge following so it’s totally unfair if the live action doesn’t even give its loyal fans at least half of the satisfaction they got from the original. Besides, even as I watched this movie as a stand alone, disregarding all knowledge about SnK, it still comes off as a mediocre horror since the focus on the Titans and the rest of the CG stuff undermined the development of the central human characters.
Original Eren’s deep loathing stemmed from traumatic experiences and his fury plays a huge factor in his Titan transformation. What exactly would live action Eren’s motivations be? Please tell me it’s more than just, “My girlfriend died, I couldn’t save her, oops she came back but she’s giving me the cold shoulder.”
And the rest of these so-called soldiers should at least learn how to use their 3D Maneuver Gears. How did they manage to pass the training without even knowing the basics? I wonder.
HUMANITY FIGHTS BACK? I really hope that the sequel would find its direction towards the greatness of humanity. Because so far, with all the jealousy,whining and childish bickering, the movie only highlighted the worst.
On a technical aspect, the film color appears dreary and suffers from an utterly bad screenplay plus abrupt shift of melo-horror and vice versa. But there is still hope. Though Shingeki no Kyojin Part 1 is underwhelming, I don’t think it is as terrible as most critics say. There’s Dragon Ball Evolution and The Last Airbender live action. Those two are pretty hard to beat.