**SPOILERS for Netflix Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2003 and 2009 FMA series**
I don’t know that I’ve been this disappointed about an adaptation of an anime and/or cartoon since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender.
You would think after that disaster of a movie, people would try to avoid taking an entire season (and in the case of Netflix’s Fullmetal Alchemist—a whole series) and cramming it into a two-hour movie.
But apparently this wasn’t the case. Needless to say, 2017 was not a good year for anime as far as adaptations into movies goes.
Both the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) and 2009 Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (FMAB) were incredibly well received in their day and maintain high scores of 8.6 and 9.1 on IMDB respectively.
The 2017 live-action Fullmetal Alchemist movie has a rating of 5.7 on IMDB and only premiered a couple of weeks ago. Upon watching the movie, it’s not hard to see why.
If there is one thing I didn’t mind was the movie’s character designs.
With more than a few members of the FMA cast having blond hair and blue eyes, this movie ran the risk of looking like a glorified cosplay production. The fact that only Edward Elric, the main character, had blond hair not only helped to distinguish him in a scene, but the blond hair and red coat are two of his most defining characteristics.
That’s about where my praise for the movie ends.
I realize a movie is not always going to follow its source material, and in some cases, that might not necessarily be a bad thing (e.g. Lord of the Rings). However, even as a standalone movie, it still doesn’t hold up. Creative freedom is all well and good, but in this case, almost everything from the locations to lighting to the direction the story took just made so little sense.
The FMA movie was some kind of weird mix of both the 2003 and 2009 shows by mashing together random scenes from both series that have no context when put together.
The movie starts in the same city as episode 1 of the 2003 FMA series, Liore.
The similarities to the original end there. The movie opens after the title card with Ed pursuing Father Cornello in the streets of Liore as Cornello appears to be in possession of a Philosopher’s Stone, which looks like a Dayquil in the movie.
In the 2009 anime, a similar fight occurs between Ed, Alphonse, and Ling Yao’s retainers in the middle of Rush Valley. The main difference here is that when this massive fight is happening, the town’s residents take notice. The movie’s citizens don’t even notice anything is wrong until Cornello runs into the middle of the town square, grabs a random girl, and holds a knife to her throat.
Anyone who has seen either the 2003 or 2009 anime should have also face palmed at this.
The whole point of Cornello’s character is that he is the first instance of a person in a position of power via the citizens’ faith in him and some kind of special ability but who is abusing said power. Cornello doesn’t want the citizens of Liore to know he is a fake. In the 2003 and 2009 anime, this is the reason why he battles Ed and Al in a dark, secluded room in the church with the only witnesses to the fight being two of his faithful followers.
This one opening scene is just the first in a series that are incredible only because of how incredibly poorly they were handled.
Except for Edward Elric and Maes Hughes, all the other characters feel like they’re just sort of there. The movie took no time to flesh out their characters, give them interesting relationships, or give them any kind of purpose within the movie’s narrative.
Alphonse, the other main character in the FMA series, is basically a side character, barely has any lines, and never actually does anything in the movie, Roy Mustang could not have been further from his anime counterpart in just about every way, Riza Hawkeye never displays her incredible skills as a marksman or complicated past with Mustang, and Winry and Maria Ross are there because… they needed more female characters in the movie or something?
The characters are boring and their reactions confusing, the pacing is slow and awkward as hell, and several scenes don’t make much sense since they are not properly explained for the audience.
It’s especially when you start comparing scenes like the Elrics vs. Father Cornello, Mustang’s quest for vengeance against Hughes’ murderer, and everything about Ed and Al’s relationship that the movie falls short.
Overall, the movie felt like a huge waste of time, and considering the hype when the live-action movie was first announced, it’s rather sad that this is the end result.
Rather that watch Netflix’s live-action Fullmetal Alchemist, why not just watch either the anime versions of the original Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) or Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009)? Both are available on Netflix and are far superior to this embarrassment of a movie.