ATTACK ON TITAN Live-Action Movie World Premiere in Hollywood
Shinji Higuchi Feature Film of Manga/Anime Phenomenon Thrills Fans
Author: Richard A. Pusateri
Source: FUNimation Entertainment, Anderson Group Public Relations
Official Site: shingeki-seyo.com (Japan)
Special Thanks to Scott Barretto, Whitney Peterson and Caitlin Owens
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details from a new movie.
Two weeks before Toho’s ATTACK ON TITAN (進撃の巨人, Shingeki no Kyojin, 2015) topped the Japanese box office in its opening weekend, the live-action feature film had its world premiere in Hollywood, CA. Hosted by the movie’s North American distributor, FUNimation Entertainment, the event began at 3:00pm on Tuesday, July 14 with a cast and crew press conference at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The festivities then moved to the Egyptian Theater for the red carpet walk at 6:00pm, followed by the 7:30pm screening of the film.
SciFi Japan’s Richard Pusateri attended the premiere. We are pleased to present his ATTACK ON TITAN report…
Shinji Higuchi has a rich, full background in Japanese sci fi and fantasy film. He was director of A GIANT WARRIOR DESCENDS ON TOKYO (巨神兵東京に現わる, Kyoshinhei Tokyo ni Genwaru, 2012), SINKING OF JAPAN (日本沈没, Nihon Chinbotsu, 2006) and LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN (ローレライ, Roorerai, 2005). In the 1990s, Mr. Higuchi came to fame in the tokusatsu community as Director of Special Effects in the three Gamera movies directed by Shusuke Kaneko.
Mr. Higuchi seemed friendly and pleasantly good-natured but also perhaps somewhat fatigued as he had just made an appearance at San Diego Comic Con the previous weekend.
During the afternoon press conference before the world premiere of ATTACK ON TITAN in Hollywood, actors Kiko Mizuhara (Mikasa Ackermann) and Haruma Miura (Eren Jaeger) repeatedly said, via translators, that they hoped their performances live up to the high standards set by the manga and anime versions of AOT. They felt a responsibility to not disappoint the fans of AOT. I should add that Ms. Mizuhara also spoke excellent English, being a native of Texas.
Mr. Higuchi backed up the actors’ claims that they did their own stunts, saying via his translator the production “did not use any stunt women (for Kiko Mizuhara) because there was no stuntwomen with the figure she has.” He added they “hired a stunt man, but Haruma Miura was better… more light, so we had to fire him.”
Mr. Higuchi felt that of the production team, he was the “first to recognize that the manga was well-done, extremely good, the most fan, (he was) the ‘fannest’ of them all… the pressure was to have it true to the original, to recreate as much as possible what was in the manga itself.”
“During development, the animation had already began, the anime series, so we had something to refer to, that was the movement that we had to recreate. But there were limits. I had to push with the actors, how much could a human being do? Actors had to use training to use the Omni Directional Mobility Gear, really hard.”
Referring to the technical specifics of the special effects, Mr. Higuchi said “Kaiju eiga, I’ve been involved in the whole concept, but (this) was merging what we used to do back in the days for tokusatsu kaiju eiga… to recreate it with the CG added on, it was a combination of the two.”
“We do not use full CG in this film, we blended state-of-the-art CG with tokusatsu, which is what Toho is so well known for ever since GODZILLA. The tokusatsu part is created by the actors wearing these puppets that were miniature and combined that with CG for a hybrid special effect.”
Director Higuchi said “CGI only works when the actors’ reactions are real; it won’t come alive unless the surrounding acting is true.” Mr. Higuchi told the actors to use their imaginations to dramatize scenes but also showed them mock-up visualizations on an iPad of what they were supposed to be reacting to. Ms. Mizuhara also said “during the shoot, the original GODZILLA was re-released [in Japan] and that helped my imagination in acting the part.”
Referring to violent depictions, Mr. Higuchi added “I do have two children of my own so I kept it in a good place where it’ll give everybody dreams but definitely not nightmares.”
Mr. Higuchi said he “worked in North Hollywood twenty-five years ago and it was actually extremely hard, a hard experience I had that makes me feel now that I’m back here again, I have come this far it makes me feel very accomplished… that I can be here today even more, it’s a great opportunity to be here. I’m looking forward to the audience’s reaction, the satisfaction of filmmaking is what the audience is going to give me here today. Now I do feel the pressure.”
The world premiere of ATTACK ON TITAN went off in true Hollywood ceremonies at the Egyptian Theater with cosplay, giant cosplayers!! The American fan base did not disappoint in celebrating the transition of AOT from manga and anime to live-action movie.
The Egyptian saw a steady stream of fans wearing various costumes and uniforms based on the long-running manga and anime stories that now culminate in a two-part live-action feature film. Hours before the movie ran, fans demonstrated sword skills, and played other games in the historic Egyptian courtyard. Various monsters and giants on stilts wandered among the uniformed soldiers and bloody victims.
While the early cosplay events were going on, a line of fans began to develop outside the courtyard on Hollywood Blvd. Around 5pm, the line of fans (who seemed to have been invited) entered to enjoy the activities. Soon another line of fans hopeful of being admitted without invitation began to form. They were told as many would be admitted as possible, as the line steadily grew. Eventually, the general press was admitted. Sometime before 6pm the masses were admitted and the courtyard became as crowded as I have ever seen it.
On a stage at the east side, the enthusiastic MC presided over trivia game and other contests. Four giant cosplayers on stilts, wandered the area posing and glowering at the crowd. A misshapen, mass of raw muscle monster mingled. I think the giants on stilts and muscle monster were based on manga or anime manifestations of the AOT characters. The muscle monster was apparently represented both as a giant on stilts and the shorter, differently misshapen Mingling Monster.
The tension of uncertainty and confusion of the waiting turned into joyful exuberance and the events unfolded for all to enjoy in the Egyptian courtyard. The participants brought situations to life from various manga and anime scenarios.
Then cries of delight arose from the vicinity of Hollywood Blvd as the talent arrived. Actors Haruma Miura and Kiko Mizuhara were greeted with shrieks while director Shinji Higuchi was warmly and respectfully welcomed. After spending considerable time autographing the posters provided by the hosts, the trio moved on down the red carpet to meet the press.
Overall, the atmosphere was permeated by happiness of the fans anticipating seeing a long awaited feature and pride displayed by the costumed participants. Anticipation grew as the hour of ATTACK ON TITAN’s premiere approached.
After the lively fan events and the red carpet ceremonies in the Egyptian Theater courtyard, fans filled all the theater’s seats, the movie began and the anticipation ended. AOT was quite well-received by the audience as they applauded, laughed and cheered most of the way through. I think they laughed at the right parts, but as an outside observer, I did not “get” many of the apparently inside jokes and references. I know very little about the film’s manga or anime antecedents, so I am unaware of changes to characters, the story, the monsters’ design or even the nomenclature of the weapon system.
Shinji Higuchi certainly created another world in ATTACK ON TITAN, setting Steampunk technology in medieval times. If we place the movie in the stated point in history of one hundred years after the appearance of the Titans, then the movie takes place in the future, right? But the hardware is clearly early industrial revolution set in an agrarian, feudal-looking environment.
A graphic illustrated introduction resembling manga informs us that the world-as-they-knew-it ended when a race of man-eating giants nearly destroyed all society and the survivors lived on behind a series of tall concentric walls. The life of the surviving residents seemed pleasant enough, with the population carrying on daily work and commerce within the walls in breezy fashion for generations after the first, nearly forgotten catastrophe.
Then it all suddenly comes to an abrupt end with the new assault of the giant man-eating titans.
The first Titan we see is a huge, seen only hazily, muscular apparition that looks like a leader. This first god-like figure, briefly seen amid smoke and dust, damages the protective walls. Then, the rest of the smaller humanoid Titans enter through the breeched wall while the survivors scramble back to relative safety behind an inner wall.
Another jump in time and, years later, a retro/futuristic military organization has been set up using special weapons and tactics system; the Omni Directional Mobility Gear… and swords. While the man-eating giants are otherwise immortal, they can be evaporated by attacking their weak spots.
I am not familiar with the manga or anime versions of the AOT saga, so I cannot judge how different this live action feature departs from earlier visions.
While Mr. Higuchi claimed the violent scenes would not cause nightmares, they were disturbing enough to possibly linger as some viewers tried to drift off to sleep that night. The creepiness comes in when the basically non-menacing appearance of the monsters. These monsters seem like simple, goofy children… giant, damaged children that eat people. They just happily grab people and eat them the way children might eat candy if it was being drawn away from them. The Titans seem to lumber on focused on their victims in a non-personal way, sort of like children gazing at the candy before they devour it.
The creepiness factor grows from the monsters almost seem amiable or beaming a bemused, contented satisfaction. Even as they are dispatched by the attacks on their vulnerable spots by the Omni Directional Mobility Gear they do not display fear or pain, just a blissed out attitude as they expire.
The titans all seemed unique with various shapes and sizes reminiscent of yokai monsters. Fans of the manga and anime might recognize specific characters or some the monsters’ designs might all be new.
After the introductory assault on the walled city, the story goes through training sequences where the characters also learn about themselves and each other. Soon we are off on a sequence of episodes that reveal more about the characters and we see their development. The action proceeds briskly and sequences featuring the deployment of the Omni Directional Mobility Gear are exciting. Some of the giants are dispatched by the Omni Directional Mobility Gear. And then more giants are dispatched by the Omni Directional Mobility Gear. And so on…
As is the case in other movies derived from a series of manga books, the action is episodic. AOT is sort of like a movie made up of episodes of an old Republic 12-part serial adventure.
I have to say, as a casual viewer, AOT is ultimately unsatisfying because this is obviously part one, clearly an episode and nothing is resolved, including the identity of a key mysterious character.
At least the explanation of how people that we see being eaten soon mysteriously reappear none the worse is revealed. Nothing much else is resolved because, as we all know, part two is coming later this year so you just have to wait.
For more information on the ATTACK ON TITAN movies, please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- FUNimation Announces Distribution of ATTACK ON TITAN Live Action Movies Throughout the Americas
- ATTACK ON TITAN Live-Action Movie Photos from FUNimation