Film Review: Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conquerer of Shamballa
Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo
Fullmetal Alchemist was a massive hit when it first aired back in 2003, and when the first series ended it had an Evangelion moment in the sense that there were unresolved plot threads and unanswered questions (thankfully, it wasn’t contrived philosophical nonsense with a minimal budget). So, what better way to solve that issue than with a movie! Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa starts in 1923 Munich, where Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, is shown researching rocketry with a young man who looks like his brother in the hopes of returning to his own world rather than staying in ours. Things take a turn for the worst when he rescues a Romani woman who begins having visions of his homeworld and is then attacked by the Thule Society, which are basically Nazi occultists for the purposes of the film, who want to gain access to the mythical utopia of Shamballa by using a dragon. And things just escalate from there.
“No questions beyond this point, by order of the Logic Bobbies.”
Visually, the film looks like the original series it’s concluding in terms of style, rather than using the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood style that people might now be more familiar with, but with a bigger budget since this is a theatrical release as opposed to a TV series. Admittedly, the bits of CGI that are used haven’t exactly aged all that well, but that’s to be expected since it clashes so drastically against the traditional animation. Beyond saying it’s just a nicer version of the show, there’s very little to say other than it’s decent. In execution, the action scenes are the most impressive, even with the CGI, so it’s not entirely bad.
The film sounds fine as well. The audio cues and select tracks from the previous series mesh nicely with the new tracks, the voice work is decent, and the film never sounds too silent or loud. However, it’s nothing special either. There’s no really noteworthy track, no strange quirk in the audio, nothing really bad or good. It’s just average and, in the end, forgettable.
Kind of like Fullmetal Aeris here.
The story, however, is incredibly hit or miss: you’ll either love it because of how
it answers the lingering questions from the original series, and how it grounds familiar
characters into our world, or you’ll hate how it ends up asking new questions that
aren’t answered, and how ludicrous the plot becomes. It is decent as far as historical
fiction goes, where there is this side story going on during actual historical events,
but seeing our world’s counterparts to the characters from the show being in radically
different positions and settings can be a bit off-
Pictured: Fans’ likely reactions, either to this movie or to this review.
The same voice cast from the series reprises their roles, so instead of saying how great Vic Mignogna, Chris Sabat, Travis Willingham, and Aaron Dismuke are at playing their respective characters, I’ll instead focus on characters specific to the film. Noah, the young Romani clairvoyant, is played by Leah Clark (Bamboo Blade, Borderlands 2) and does a decent enough job playing a young woman who is proud of her heritage but, justifiably, hates being discriminated against and presumed to be a parasite to society. Alphonse Heiderich, a rocket scientist and our world’s counterpart to Edward’s brother Alphonse Elric, is played by Jason Liebrecht (Black Cat, Get Backers) and is a bit better since he possesses the same sort of gentleness that Al does, but also knows that his time is limited due to a lung disease and works hard so that his life has meaning, so there’s also a bit of desperation to his actions as he is willing to build rockets for the Thule Society. The primary antagonist of the film is Dietlinde Eckhart, played by Kelly Manison (Excel Saga, Slayers), and she is certainly the more phenomenal performance since she craves power not to support the Nazis, but to overthrow Hitler and be in charge herself, a process that ultimately drives her to madness.
The film is a mixed bag. It’s not exactly worth seeing if you enjoyed Brotherhood more or even if you enjoyed the ending of the first Fullmetal Alchemist series in spite of the unresolved issues. However, it’s not a bad film either since there are some decent action scenes and it does give that ultimate finality that the series didn’t. To go back to the Evangelion parallel, it’s just like End of Evangelion in that regard; it exists because the show’s ending was confusing, and the film is decent enough. If you’re a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist, your mileage will vary on whether or not you should watch this film, and will depend on whether or not you enjoy historical fiction involving Nazis in the 1920s. If you’re curious about the series, I’m one of the few who will say check out the first series before Brotherhood simply to understand the differences later. Or you might be better off reading the manga, which is localized and distributed by Viz Media in North America. If nothing else, there are worst ways to waste 105 minutes.
Atmosphere & Experience: 6
Director: Seiji Mizushima
Producer: Seiji Takeda
Release Date (U.S.): Aug 25, 2006
Release Date (U.K.): Nov 11, 2006
Release Date (JP): Jul 23, 2005
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