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Attack on Titan: Part 2
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by Jay Seaver

"Not quite the giant fun of part 1, but not a terrible let-down, either."
3 stars

The two "Attack on Titan" live-action films, released just months apart in Japan weeks apart in the United States, total just under three hours between them, which makes me suspect that they really should have been a single epic-length feature. On the other hand, this weaker second installment may argue against that - after all, would you rather have two short movies, one pretty good and the other so-so, or one that starts out well but doesn't quite stick the landing? This second part isn't bad, but it's not the crazy fun that the first one was.

Of course, the first left a mess - the mission to recover the last of humanity's explosives and collapse the hole in the wall meant to keep man-eating Titans out of the citadel ended in disaster, with Armin (Kanata Hongo), Misaka (Kiko Mizuhara), Sasha (Nanami Sakuraba), Hange Zoe (Satomi Ishihara) and the rest only alive because being swallowed by a Titan didn't kill Eren (Haruma Miura) but instead created a new Titan that killed the rest before Eren could be cut out of its neck. Now, Director Kubal (Jun Kunimura) figures they should kill Eren to prevent this from happening again, but Eren is snatched up by another mutant Titan before it can be done. The survivors of that attack think there might be one last way to complete their mission, while Eren learns the secret history of the Titans.

They say to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it, and that is somewhat true here - while watching and writing about the first, I mused that the concentric circles of the city may denote a hierarchy, and screenwriters Tomohiro Machiyama & Yusuke Watanabe wind up spending a lot of time running with that idea. Unfortunately, the fallout from the first episode means that there are a heck of a lot more exciting things going on - who cares about a caste system when there are giant zombies to kill? That's stuff you use to create tension early on before the characters learn to come together! Relatedly, a prologue suggests hints at why Eren survived being swallowed whole while most would just be digested, but it still leaves a lot of what happens later unexplained and feels like a short-cut to making sure the audience hates the ruling class (they burn books, after all).

All that conspiracy material and implications that fellow humans might be an even more dangerous enemy means that the nature of the film's monster-mashing changes as well: Where I described the Titans of Part 1 as "kaiju zombies", the more intelligent but less obviously human-derived group here are more like something out of the bloodiest sentai action show ever created - think Ultraman with eye-gouges and squishy results as puny humans are swatted away, or maybe Evangelion with the pilots organically connected to giants that will eventually absorb them and have feral minds of their own that can only be overridden so long. Don't get me wrong - those are awesome things and it would be cool if the film had time to break away from the plot to play with those concepts, and the action is not bad, although the biggest fight exchanges a good chunk of the unease of the nearly-human design of the regular Titans for man-in-suit fisticuffs.

There is still a lot of fun to be had, because even this somewhat more conventional second half has time for genuine broad weirdness. Consider the scene where Eren wakes up in a slick white room nothing like the run-down world we've seen before with mid-twentieth-century pop on the soundtrack an a classic Wurlitzer jukebox seeming like the monolith from 2001. The leads to the return of Hiroki Hasegawa's Captain Shikishima, whose political exposition would be boring if Hasegawa wasn't playing him as a complete arrogant tool and apparently determined to create more sexual tension between Eren and Shikishima than the rest of the cast has combined. We also get a bigger dose of Satomi Ishihara, and her extreme enthusiasm for potentially dissecting a Titan or getting to play with newly-discovered things that go boom gives a lot of energy to the movie.

The main cast is solid and dependable enough - Hamura Miura, Kanata Hongo, Nanami Skuraba, and Kiko Mizuhara are good enough together that even though what was likely drawn-out and melodramatic material in the original manga is presented as fairly low-key here, it's pleasant to watch, and keeps the periods between the big Titan fights moving nicely enough. Characterization really isn't these films' strong point, and they get trapped between extremes - nobody really wants to see characters go through conventional drama when there are giant person-eating monsters out there, but the budget really doesn't allow for these movies to be two hours long and packed with giant person-eating monsters.

Even if "End of the World" can't quite match the crazy genius of the first movie, it's still a great deal of fun, and a post-credit scene implies that there might be a chance to expand the story further. I don't know that we really need more of this universe, especially since this film doesn't exactly falter wrapping up what the excellent first part left unfinished.

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originally posted: 10/25/15 16:43:23
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User Comments

10/31/15 mike miller good movie! 4 stars
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  20-Oct-2015 (NR)


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