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Hurried story-telling and seams-exposed CG mean the second part of Shinji Higuchi’s (Japan Sinks, Godzilla Reboot 2016) Attack on Titan is a gore fest without the visual impact of its predecessor. Drama wise, as much as characters were clichéd in Part 1, they’re now confusing.
End of the World reaped U.S. $2.7 million in Japan on opening week — not quite its predecessor’s U.S. $5.1 million, but enough to land it in first place on the chart. It wouldn’t be surprising if End of the World sees a similar drop in ticket sales in the U.S. With the curiosity over the franchise’s big-screen performance gone, audiences who didn’t like Part 1 are unlikely to want to see Part 2.
One of the sequel’s major flaws is ditching the naked humanoids. They were the best thing about Part 1, with their imaginatively ordinary faces that made their cannibalism all the more grotesque. Irony and the uncanny was what prevented Part 1 from being just another CG-fueled monster movie. In the sequel, Higuchi narrows the fight scenes to one-on-one battles between colossal Titans, and between colossal Titans and humans. There are no mass massacre scenes — for which the naked giants created by modeling director Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) would have come in handy. Higuchi and the writers gave them a cameo appearance, so they could quickly finish telling the story, it seems. Getting rid of something visually riveting has another disadvantage — the attention now falls on CG visual effects that simply do not stand up to scrutiny.
The film opens with a lengthy recap of the first installment. A considerate move, because if you haven’t watched Part 1, you probably wouldn’t want to after this one. Then a heavily-narrated flashback to throw light on why Eren (Haruma Miura) transformed into a Titan, followed by more wordy revelations and more flashbacks. Kubal (Jun Kunimura, Kill Bill) lectures the youngsters on why the Titans are a necessary evil; Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) gives Eren a low-down on the government to try to convert him. As with the battle scenes, there’s a feeling the writers were in a rush to tie up the loose ends. That said, there were a few they never picked up, including a glaring disclosure by Souda (Pierre Taki, Frozen, The Devil’s Path) that was left unexplained.
The most engaging character in the film is Armin, previously the expositional best friend. Equal parts righteous, brainy and sweetly vulnerable, he is an unassuming hero, and Kanata Hongo’s (Moon Child) performance does him credit. Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara, Norwegian Wood), who showed the illusion of promise in the last movie (because she was gone for much of it), is a let-down. For much of the film, she alternates between sullenness and wishy-washiness, just as Eren does between fury and torture. And one can’t help but feel the writing is more to blame than the acting.
Slightly of interest is Shikishima, a walking cliché so big he’s cult. A character created for the movie, he resembles an eccentric side-kick in Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer) comedies, the way he appears out of nowhere, striking a (dated) pose with all manners of kitsch — cape streaming, flicking hair-sprayed locks, or holding a champagne bottle like a missile. He tickles, but the lack of irony in the portrayal makes you waver.
The editing is conservative with a lot of simple back and forth between major lines of development. Too many of these ‘and in the meantime’ moments undermines the tension. This is most evident in the final scene, where you can feel the film slipping and sliding as it struggles uphill to the supposed climax.
End of the World can be read as a run-of-the-mill coming of age story where young ones learn that the path to truth and freedom lies neither in timid complacency nor in ruthless rebellion. At the end of the film, Armin utters ‘Now it begins.’ Will there be a Part 3? Hope not.
Production company: TOHO Pictures
Cast: Haruma Miura, Kiko Mizuhara, Kanata Hong?, Hiroki Hasegawa, Satomi Ishihara, Takahiro Miura, Pierre Taki, Jun Kunimura, Nanami Sakuraba, Rina Takeda, Shu Watanabe, Ayame Misaki, Satoru Matsuo
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Screenwriter: Y?suke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama
Producer: Sato Yoshihiro
Executive producer: Akihiro Yamauchi
Director of photography: Shoji Ehara
Production designer: Yohei Taneda
Costume designer: Shinichi Miter
Editor: Yusuke Ishida
Music: Shiro Sagisu
World sales: TOHO Pictures
No rating; 94 minutes
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