Director: Shinji Higuchi
Writer: Yusuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama
Based on Manga by Hajime Isayama
Cast: Haruma Miura, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kiko Mizuhara, Kanata Hongo, Takahiro Miura, Nanami Sakuraba, Satoru Matsuo, Shu Watanabe, Ayame Misaki, Rina Takeda
Running Time: 90 min.
By Paul Bramhall
The second installment of Shinji Higuchi’s adaptation of the Attack on Titan manga reached Japanese cinema screens just a month after the first one came to the end of its run, aiming to pack a swift one-two punch of Titan mayhem. In my review for Part 1, I expressed the opinion that, by unashamedly stripping a multi-layered tale down to a pulpy adventure of humans trying to survive against bloodthirsty oversized zombies, the end result was surprisingly entertaining. By avoiding the typical issues that plague modern mainstream Japanese cinema, and simply concentrating on how much blood and terror could be splattered across the screen, for those unfamiliar with the manga at least, a good time could be had.
Attack on Titan: Part 2 clocks in at a compact 90 minutes, and so I was looking forward to returning to the grim world of the slow moving, permanently grinning Titans. I mention the 90 minute runtime, because from the word go we’re given an overly long recap of Part 1 which runs for over 5 minutes, making a short movie even shorter. I find it highly unlikely that anyone watching Part 2 will have left it so long that they’ll have forgotten everything that happened in Part 1 (which really, was just Titans eating people), so this recap seemed like a needless way to kick things off.
Sadly things don’t get any better, as once we finally settle into proceedings, it turns out that the first 20 minutes of the movie are spent discussing and arguing about the events which close out Part 1. As a note to this review, I’ll write it from the perspective of assuming the reader may not have seen Part 1 yet, so I’ll avoid mentioning any specific spoilers from the first installment (and if you fall into this category, also ensure you stay away from reading the IMDB cast list for Part 2, which unintentionally spoils some major plot points). What I gradually came to realize, with a sense of horror that was very different from what I was hoping for, is that Part 2 was turning out to be everything I was dreading Part 1 was going to be.
The cliffhanger revelation that Part 1 closed with quickly becomes a millstone around the neck of Part 2, as a grand total of half the movie is spent discussing it, with a mix of characters yelling and screaming at each other in a vastly irritating manner. Indeed the only appearance by any Titans in the first half is either through flashbacks to Part 1, or sightings of them in the distance, with the exception of a brief appearance by a new mega-Titan in one of the initial scenes. For a production which setup the expectation of providing plenty of Titan action from the first installment, 45 minutes becomes an almost terminal amount of time to wait for something interesting to happen.
When I say interesting, it’s unfortunate that the Titan’s really are the most interesting thing about Part 2. The characters are still the same from Part 1, although unforgivably Rina Takeda doesn’t return, however the pace and tone of the first installment really didn’t give us time to worry about caring or building a connection with the cast. Part 2 gives us too much time with them, and none of the performances are particularly noteworthy. Haruma Miura and Kanata Hongo return as the central pair of Eren and Armin, and both are ladened with considerably more dialogue heavy scenes than before. Sadly they only seem to have only 2 acting ranges – talk in a low tone for serious scenes, and yell at the top of your voice for scenes that need to emphasize drama.
Nobody else fares any better, with Kiko Mizuhara, playing a character that seemed so important in Part 1, all but sidelined for many of the crucial events that take place, and Satomi Ishihara’s quirky character of Part 1 here registering as a one note annoyance. Much of the blame can be put on the script, which appears to want to shoehorn in the underlying themes of the manga such as militarism and a distrust of the government, however the end result is that it all comes across very forced. Throwing such a talky opening 45 minutes at the audience was never going to work considering what’s come before, and it begs the question of why Higuchi didn’t attempt to spread out the more dialogue heavy segments across both parts.
Thankfully though, after a long wait we are finally given some Titan action, which comes in a three way battle between a trio of the mega Titans. I confess that it left me disappointed when, apart from a couple who are treated as collateral damage in the three way throwdown, the grey skinned sexless Titan’s that provided so much of the horror element in Part 1 are completely missing from Part 2. The origin of them is briefly explained away in an almost throwaway scene at the beginning of the movie, after which for whatever reason they seem to be considered as not worth focusing on anymore, so it becomes all about the mega Titans instead.
It’s ironic then, that the mega Titans are barely given any explanation whatsoever. We get a rudimentary understanding of what and who they are, however there are numerous head scratching aspects of their existence that are never answered. The biggest one being of why the huge skinless Titan, the image of which essentially defines the series, is about 5 times bigger than the other couple of mega Titans. In Part 1 it didn’t really matter, it moved along so briskly that such plot holes could be forgivingly overlooked, but here, if you’re going to spend 45 minutes talking, at least take a couple of them to explain why the most important part of the movie is the way it is.
On the technical side of things, the mega Titans do look great. Their skinless bodies, usually smoking from being so hot, successfully creating what’s certainly one of the most memorable creatures to grace screens in recent memory. There’s something quite primeval about their humanoid nature, which really makes them come across as much more terrifying than a fictional monster, and it’s a credit to Higuchi and his team that they’ve been able to conjure up such convincing onscreen creations.
Like the first half of the movie, the finale eventually also begins to feel needlessly protracted, especially with the element introduced of one Titan being a friend to the humans, effectively removing any sense of danger. When proceedings come to their explosive close, there’s a real lack of clarity on what’s actually been achieved. The smaller humanoid Titans are presumably still roaming around eating anyone in their path, which has always been the biggest danger, however this minor detail seems to have been forgotten in the closing scenes. Needless to say life was much simpler when it was just a case of humans versus oversized zombies.
Attack on Titan: Part 2 ultimately feels like an unnecessary filler to Part 1. Having watched both within a relatively short time period, it’s a struggle to see why they didn’t just make a single 3 hour movie, in which events could have progressed much more naturally than splitting them into two parts. Of course, by doing that they also would have made half the profit. The opening title of Attack on Titan: Part 2 doesn’t even appear on screen until the 20 minute mark, and looking back now, I think I would have been equally pleased if it had been the closing credits.
Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 4/10