Anime · Movies

Review: FullMetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that despite the completion of the series, the FullMetal Alchemist series refuses to go away. I went to see the second film this weekend during its limited run North American theaters. While the film can be enjoyed by hardcore and casual fans alike, I must warn that the movie is definitely not safe for the squeamish. This is red-hot blooded anime at its finest for most of its 110 minute run time. Before I get to my thoughts on this film, I want to share my experience of seeing the first film, Conqueror of Shamballa. It was a one-night, one time showing at a multiplex way out in Long Island. I got lost on the way to the multiplex, so I just barely made it on time (I had no GPS, and I am notoriously horrendous with directions). There were many cos-players there; all of them dressed as Edward Elric, and all of them were female. I was glomped on the concession line by one of the Edwards. And since the first movie picks up right after the cliff hanger ending of the last episode of the 1st TV series, it was imperative for me to get to my seat right away. Unlike other movies, there are no commercials or trailers before the start of the feature, so the start time for an anime film at a theater is the actual start time. For those keeping score, I give the first movie a B+; for wrapping up, and tying up the loose ends of the first series.

Sacred Star of Milos poster
FMA movie 2 poster

The second movie is a stand-alone adventure that takes place early on in the series, so only a cursory knowledge of the series is needed to enjoy the film. I suppose the point is to set the events of this film early enough in the chronology so that you don’t have to have watched both series, and/or the manga to understand it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that since there is no epilogue, we can assume that the Elric brothers will have forgotten the people of Milos by the time they reach the end of their epic journey. Milos is located on the western border of their home country of Amestris, an area untouched by the manga and television series. I’ll save you a plot synopsis, but needless to say, the Elric brothers learn yet another form of alchemy, and at least two other names for the Philosopher’s Stone. Thankfully, cameos are kept to a bare minimum. In fact, the film would have been better off if Roy Mustang, Liza Hawkeye, and Winry Rockbell had less airtime, since they add very little to this story. Mustang is known as a Chessmaster in general, and pulling Edward’s strings in particular, so I expected him to solve the mystery of Milos. I also expected the Flame Alchemist to provide some alchemy in a film that’s chock full of pyrotechnics. Alas, it is up to the Elrics to provide the brains and muscle for the good guys.

The movie runs out of gas at the final third of the movie. Thankfully, we don’t have a Kangaroo men moment. Instead, we have plot exposition that feel like glorified cut scenes from a video game. For the most part, the script does feel like an adaptation of a video game, but at least it plays out like a damn good video game. The 3D graphic layout of the city must have absorbed the rest of the animation budget, because the animation of the climatic battle devolves into intermittent pencil sketches. Ed and Al stay true to character, which means they remain overly sanctimonious, and immune to the corruptible allure of the Philosopher’s Stone. It also means that the success or failure of the movie lies solely upon the characters introduced for this story (i.e.: the Milotians). No spoilers, but one word of warning: the world of FullMetal Alchemist is, more or less, a crapsack world, so outside of the core five: (the Elrics, Mustang, Hawkeye, and Rockbell), don’t get too attached to any of the characters. Of course, it wouldn’t be FMA if there wasn’t a L’Arc-en-Ciel song, and they perform the end theme, “Good Luck My Way.”This is a film I recommend for the casual anime fan, but not because of its storytelling, or technical aspects. It is a popcorn, action flick than a symbolism-and-metaphor art-house film. My grade for this Journey to the West: B.

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