I’m going to start by telling you why I’m not reviewing “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. I absolutely loved it, as I said previously, so why not?
Honestly…I can’t. It’s impossible for me to review.
I love it too much.
There are certain books, movies, and shows that I love so much, was so swept up in when I first experienced them, that I quite simply cannot give an objective review. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is one of those shows. How useful is a review that goes “You should watch this show because every aspect of it is pretty much perfect?” I loved all of it…every last second, down to the final frame of the final episode. Every plot twist, every character, I loved. The dialogue. The animation. The dub cast. I loved it all!
So I occasionally will see people nitpicking it with what are probably legitimate criticisms…any my response is to just kind of shrug. There are, I am sure, legitimate critiques of the show that I can’t be objective enough to judge because I was too caught up in the story to NOTICE, and that if I rewatch it I am STILL too caught up to notice. I should know – I just rewatched it with someone else. The show is that good.
So that’s why this isn’t a review of FMAB but instead of the live action movie, which dropped onto Netflix Monday.
THIS I can review. My thoughts:
It…actually wasn’t bad?
The Fullmetal Alchemist movie did quite a lot of things RIGHT.
The direction was expertly executed, worlds above the disastrous live action “Death Note”. Even when I didn’t necessarily like where or when they changed something, you could always tell WHY they made the decision they did. There was no change for the sake of change. The story wasn’t half-assed and lazy, and some of the changes were legitimately smart ideas.
Winry was in the movie more than Al. I understand why they did it – Winry can’t be absent for long sections or she won’t work as a love interest for Ed – but it didn’t work that well. She really didn’t need to be there most of the time and you don’t get to know Al nearly well enough considering that he’s supposedly one of the protagonists. Several times watching I said to myself “Okay, but what is she DOING here?”
Winry’s character is an anchor. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. In “Brotherhood” it was a good thing. She was a rock the Elrics could go back to when they needed a break or a reason to remind them why they needed to survive. She was the normalcy they wanted to return to and a physical symbol of the regular joes they were fighting for.
But she doesn’t work as a part of the main adventure. She simply isn’t competent enough. Oh, she’s a competent MECHANIC, good at what she does, but she is not meant to be repeatedly stuck into dangerous situations with experienced fighters. Occasionally Winry can get mixed up in things – “Brotherhood” had an excellent story arc take place in the second half of the series where she played a central role – but if you overuse her she turns into dead weight. And the movie made her dead weight. It thankfully never got really annoying, but it was sometimes puzzling to see her in the background of scenes – and sure enough, at more than one point she plays the damsel in distress.
The casting was generally pretty good. It was weird seeing Japanese actors playing clearly European characters, but I suppose it must be difficult to find white actors who speak Japanese, so whatever. Nobody was offensively bad in it, and the effects used to create Al’s armor were pretty great.
The movie made a choice to spend a lot more time developing Captain Hughes (Yes, Captain!) than Colonel Mustang. It was an interesting choice, which paid big dividends mid-film when Hughes gets his big scene (people who have seen any iteration of “Fullmetal Alchemist” know what I am referring to). This was the most effective emotional beat of the film.
Unfortunately this meant a lot of what we saw with Mustang fell flat. Mustang was not well-developed at all. Scenes when Mustang, Hawkeye, and the Elric brothers are together fighting Lust don’t have nearly as much punch to them as their anime counterparts. This was always going to be the big problem in the movie – the show had 64 episodes to make us fall in love with its massive cast of characters, after all – but a problem it is and I’d be remiss in not pointing it out.
And that’s the biggest problem in the film overall. Fans of the anime know that Colonel Mustang is central to the story. He is probably the most important non-Elric brother character in the entire show. And in the movie we barely know him. We have no time to be shocked or horrified about what he does or what happens to him because we never really understood him in the first place. I wouldn’t say his scenes fell flat – they were interesting and the twists involving his character were solidly executed – but they didn’t have the emotional resonance necessary to take them to the next level. It was hard for me to care about his character.
And his relationship with Hawkeye is minimized to near-nonexistence, which means the main reason why Hawkeye is so beloved is now gone as well – a disappointment.
Overall I have little great or terrible to say about “Fullmetal Alchemist”. I’d have liked to see more action scenes, but the ones that were there were solid. The storytelling was probably as good as it could reasonably get considering how much time they had to work with, though more Mustang would have been nice. The special effects were nothing special but were more than good enough to carry their weight. And the characters acted like the characters were supposed to act – after “Death Note” this was refreshing to see. The actor who played Hughes put on the best performance of the show.
Certain moments did work really, really well – the scene where Mustang burns Ross, the final showdown between Mustang, Ed, Lust, and Envy, Hughes’ big scene…all quite good. And Ed’s last scene in the doorway of truth was effective.
I think the film is worth a watch for fans of the franchise, and it certainly is good enough to merit a sequel. I look forward to seeing how they’re going to continue the story.
(Worth noting: The soundtrack was TERRIBLE. Hopefully they fix that in the sequels.)
Even so – recommended.