Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: live-action Attack on Titan — a supersized zombie flick

One of the most perversely original fantasy movies in recent memory, this adaptation of a Japanese manga series is a schizophrenic mix of genres

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 August, 2015, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 August, 2015, 8:16pm

It opens to deceptively peaceful scenes at a crowded market and then up a slanted meadow, where three young friends — Eren (Haruma Miura), Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) and Armin (Kanata Hongo) — ponder what lies beyond the sky-high concrete wall surrounding the finite territory they call home.

For the past 100 years, the remaining humans in this post-apocalyptic world have been living in voluntary captivity to shelter themselves from "Titans" — creepy-looking giants with neither reproductive systems nor a need for food, but which keep devouring humans nonetheless.

This existentialist meditation on free will and murderous impulses may be worthy of Kafka or Camus, but Attack on Titan — the first in the two-part live-action adaptation of Hajime Isayama's manga series — is one of the most perversely original fantasy movies in recent memory.

Once the outer wall has been breached and the Titans begin their genocide, this genre-mixing spectacle by Shinji Higuchi — who's slated to co-direct a 2016 reboot of the definitive monster film Godzilla — becomes relentlessly bleak and gory, like a zombie flick operating on the grandiose scale of a disaster film.

Though the weapon suits worn by humans look tacky and their military motto about honouring the dead sounds strangely imperialist, the film's schizophrenic mix of genres does cohere in a most intriguing manner. The characterisation, while criminally abbreviated, is also vivid enough when it lasts.

Attack on Titan opens on August 13