A couple of years ago, my brother showed me an anime that revolves around two brothers Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric trying to use alchemy to get their mother by using an alchemical ritual only to end up with disastrous results. Alphonse loses his body and has his soul transferred to a suit of armor while Edward loses his leg and arm. A few years later, Edward becomes a State Alchemist working for the government to find him and Alphonse find the Philosopher's Stone, an artifact that would help them regain their bodies while performing human transmutation without a circle while discovering the truths about their world governed by the law of Equivalent Exchange, the stone itself, alchemy, their family, and evil forces using alchemy for sinister purposes. That anime was Fullmetal Alchemist.
When I watched the 2003 anime and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood with my brother, I was surprised at how beautifully written the story was and how compelling the characters and their motivations where. Their situations make you relate to them during their adventures, but not only that. It deals with deeper themes including the true meaning of family, and the difference between life and death. Nonetheless, I loved both of those shows and are now my favorites of all time. So, when a live-action film adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist was being made, I was really excited, hoping it wouldn't end being like Death Note (a USA live-action adaptation back in 2017 which disrespected the source material fans loved). Then, when it arrived on Netflix, my brother and I watched it... And sadly, it ended up being a disappointment. It's not as poor or terrible as Death Note, Dragonball Evolution, and The Last Airbender, but it lacked something that made both the manga and anime much more complex.
Let's start with the problems. Those who read the manga and watched the anime might be disappointed. I'm not going to spoil the story, but I will say this... the movie didn't include key characters that contributed to the story including Scar, Armstrong, Izumi, and Fuhrer Bradley. If the producers of the film ever make a sequel, they better bring them together. Not to mention the special effects on the Mannequin soldiers are really poor along with the other effects including the Homunculus. Also, the story fell apart. It had a decent start with an accurate depiction of the younger Edward and Alphonse using alchemy to try and bring their mother back, but the rest of the film suffers from some of the biggest problems. The writing is really weak because it had bits of the manga and place them out of order in a two hour and fourteen minute length, which results in uneven pacing that drags too long and because of that, the character development ends up lacking in comparison.
That being said, there are some good things that saved the film. The actors did a fine job capturing the personalities of Edward, Alphonse, Winry, Colonel Mustang, and the bad guys Lust, Gluttony, and Envy. The other actors who portrayed General Hakuro, Shou Tucker, and Hughes also did a fine job. The directing is actually really good. It captures the look and feel of the anime perfectly. Also, the music score is good. It's atmospheric, it has a great use of drama and action, and ends up being really powerful. And most importantly, some of the effects, including the transmutation sequences and Alphonse's metal armor, is nicely detailed and looks good in movie form. Oh, and the costumes are great and are accurate to the animemanga counterparts. Kudos to the producers for being at least some effort.
Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist ends up being a huge disappointment. It has good intentions and is faithful to the animemanga, but due to the weak writing and lack of character development, the movie just comes up short. My advice, if you want to see a live-action movie based on your favorite mangaanime, this film is only watchable. However, you might want to revisit the 2003 anime and Brotherhood again and remember the complexity they had.
Review by Gavin Cresswell (gavin-thelordofthefu-48-460297) from the Internet Movie Database.