Attack on Titan is the latest manga/anime property making a bid for box office glory as a major Hollywood blockbuster - and fans are understandably nervous. Hollywood's track record for adapting anime into movies is as infamous as it's video game movie fumbles - but in the case of anime it's arguably worse, as Hollywood can easily miss and/or misuse so many of the Japanese cultural cues and context that makes anime what it is. However, Attack on Titan is part of a new wave of manga/anime that has much wider global appeal, and could become a truly great blockbuster movie.
So: What does a Live-Action Attack on Titan movie need, in order to break Hollywood's dreaded anime movie curse? We have some ideas!
Approach Attack on Titan as a Horror Movie, first and foremost.
The biggest problem with a lot of Hollywood attempts at adapting anime is actually capturing the whole "anime" aspect of it all. The Japanese storytelling form is marked by staples that just jibe with Western filmmaking - but that problem has become less of one, as anime has inevitably been influenced by the more mainstream styles and themes of western genres like superheroes and horror. Nowadays, anime like My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan appeal to mass audiences all over the world - in part due to the blend of anime on other genres that are popular in geek culture.
Attack on Titan can greatly benefit from leaning into the more creature-feature horror aspect of the series. Sequences of Titan attacks on the populace living inside The Walls, or the series' main characters battling Titans for the first time, should carry the necessary horror/gore component to make general audiences take notice of a thrilling blockbuster horror film, long before they even become preoccupied with its anime roots. Of course, that seems to be the kind of plan Warner Bros. has in mind, as they tapped IT Chapters 1 & 2 director Andy Muschietti to direct Attack on Titan. With Hajime Isayama handling the deeper drama of the story, and Muschietti tackling the horror thrills spectacle, we may have the perfect creative elements needed to do Attack on Titan full justice.
3D Maneuvering Action Requires Cinematic Innovation.
The Matrix gave us the innovation of "bullet time, " which was the Wachowskis' means of conveying how action and fight mechanics worked in the virtual reality world of The Matrix. Attack on Titan has its own unique signature combat action format: the 3D Maneuvering gear worn by the Titan-killing warriors of the Survey Corps.
The 3D Maneuvering gear works in anime form because animation doesn't have to follow the logic of physics, bt that belief is a lot harder to suspend in live-action form. So, Andy Muschietti and his team certainly have a challenge in front of them: take an action concept never done in live-action before, and make it a blockbluster action attraction. We don't know how they should do it, we just know some innovative camerawork and/or harnesses are needed to pull this one off.
This Movie Lives or Dies by the Titans Design.
Let's just put this out here now: if Warner Bros. and Andy Muschietti don't get the look of both the standard Titans and the Specialty Titans (Colossal Titan, Armored Titan, etc...) right, then this Attack on Titan adaptation will be dead on arrival. The series distinguished itself from so many other anime via the look of its monstrous antagonists, making it a core element of the story in any form. That goes double for the often horrific transformation sequences, where human characters become Titans. Given the level of talent working on this film (Muschietti has had several creature design hits in his breakout film Mama and the IT movies), we're not too concerned about this Hollywood's Attack on Titan movie getting this aspect of series right.
Get the Race Issue Out of the Way, ASAP.
Nowadays, social media is rife with users who are hair-triggered when it comes to any kind of issue of political correctness or social justice. That means that an anime film being shaped by Hollywood will get slammed as a "white-washed" travesty, before the film ever hits theaters. Scarlett Johansson and Sony's Ghost in the Shell adaptation thought it was clever making a climatic "twist" out of Johansson's Major realizing she was originally an Asian woman, whose "ghost" was put into the "shell" of a white woman. However, many fans of the anime never stopped damning the film long enough to actually watch it and make that realization!
Attack on Titan is different beast than most anime, in that its world is very clearly comprised of mostly white characters, who are clearly identified as white (instead of just looking that way). In fact, the series makes a point that only one main character is half-Asian (protagonist Eren Yeager's adopted sister Mikasa), as the Asian race is thought to be all but extinct when the series begins. That's a fact that Warner Bros. shouldn't be afraid to put front and center when announcing the Attack on Titan cast - because if they don't, uninformed (and overly impassioned) tweeters are going to start slamming this film over white-washing that doesn't exist.
What else do you think we need for Warner Bros.' Attack on Titan movie to be done right? Let us know in the comments!
As for Attack on Titan, it was originally created by Hajime Isayama for Kodansha's Bessatsu Shonen Magazine in 2009. The series has since been collected into 23 volumes as of 2017, and it's set in a world where the last remnants of humanity live within a walled city in order to escape the danger of the Titans, a race of giants monsters that eats humans. The lead character, Eren Yeager, ends up joining the military with his two childhood friends Mikasa and Armin after the Titans break through the wall and attack his hometown.