So, here’s the deal. The movie is basically like watching a two-hour-long live-action version of the original anime series, it really is. The problem is those parts where the movie is not like the original beloved cartoon, and some of them are formidable.
Before we say what’s not so great about the film, let’s talk about what really is awesomesauce, where ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ shines like a philosopher’s stone among the rubble.
Despite magic being used very often in the movie, it is called ‘Fullmtal Alchemist’ after all, the CGI used to show the magical effects is sparing and only to enhance the scene, rather than take the whole thing over. Lust and her claws, Mustang and his conflagration blazes, even Ed and Al and their clap-stone-mosaic-explosion alchemy, it’s all to my eyes actually believable-looking. The one instance where loving CGI enhancement falters a little teensy bit is the reveal of the Tucker chimera, but that’s a major spoiler I won’t go into.
The main storyline is exactly the same as the original show, as I said, and this can only be a good thing. In this world of alchemy as commonplace, brothers Ed (Ryosuke Yamada) and Al (Atomu Mizuishi) Elric, after losing their mother, decide to take fate into literally their own hands and bring her back to life with magic.
Sadly the Law of Equivalent Exchange quite literally costs Ed and arm and a leg, and Al his entire body, to be replaced by a suit of armor Ed managed to scavenge at the last second. This act cements both Elric brothers as alchemical anomalies, and some time later they are recruited by Colonel Roy Mustang (Dean Fujioka) into the army as State Alchemists. Here is where the movie begins, with Ed and Al going off in search of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which could in theory get Al his entire body back.
The introductory story of the bogus Father Cornello (Kenjiro Ishimaru), the utter tragedy of what happens to Major Maes Hughes (Ryuta Sato) and his family, the outrageous blasphemy of Shou Tucker (Yo Oizumi), the evil Major General Hakuro (Fumiyo Kohinata), even the introduction of misbegotten Dr. Tim Marcoh (Jun Kunimura), all these important characters are played to their fullest in the live action movie, though with time management issues, it’s hard to give evry last character the emotional reaction they deserve. Especially Major Hughes, but then what happens to him is still considered to be one of the worst betrayals in long-running anime history.
Taking also into account everyone’s favorite automail mechanic Winry Rockwell (Tsubasa Honda), Colonel Mustang’s one-liners and his best aide Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye (Misako Renbutsu), the Elric brothers don’t lack for friends to combat the many enemies beginning to pile up. The Fuhrer King Bradley and his family are mentioned, but not in this beginning film, which can lead us to the hopeful assumption that there will be a live action sequel.
The homunculi are of course introduced in the film, the major ones being the manipulative Lust (Yasuko Matsuyuki), the face-changing Envy (Kanata Hongo), and of course the bottomless pit of Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama). The extreme cost of making Philosopher’s Stones and Homunculi at all are way too high for the now-moral-minded Elric brothers, and indeed, as the cases the State Alchemists are investigating begin to coalesce, their collective mistaken past may be the one thing that leads the Elric brothers and their allies to saving everyone!
And now for the unmentioned elephant in the room, or live action movie. Much as I enjoyed this new live action movie and all the actors who threw themselves into these much-beloved roles, there is one thing that stands out – the voices. Specifically, the voices of both Ed and Al Elric.
In the anime, which really you probably should’ve seen before watching the live action movie, the Elric brothers are much younger and their voices clearly demonstrate this. Al is at least a few years younger than his brother and it was always so incongruous to hear a youngling voice come out of that empty suit of armor. But both Ed and Al in the film have the voices of teenagers, and seriously, it’s hard to get over.
The costuming is excellent and made with a keen, clear eye to the anime, right down to the summery yellow dress Winry wears and the State Alchemist uniforms of the military. As stated before, it may help to foster fan relations if you see at least an episode or two of the anime before watching the live action film, but all in all, the live action movie is a 2-hour romp through the world of the Elric brothers, made by and for fans that have loved ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ for decades!
Join the hunt for Philosopher’s Stones in ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ the movie, on Netflix now!