The Fullmetal Alchemist movies continue to be visually pretty but as void as the inside of Gluttony.
“Who the hell took my brother’s arm?”
There’s only one thing I really remember about 2017’s live action adaptation of beloved manga and anime Fullmetal Alchemist: it’s that I really didn’t like it. It was a hollow shell of its source material, recognisable only thanks to some careful costuming and a rushed, if mostly straightforward retelling of some story elements. I had assumed that this was one and done, but it appears that the film’s popularity on Netflix and baffling inclusion on many “best anime adaptation” lists guaranteed a sequel would eventually come out.
The terribly-titled Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar is the result of that seeming inevitability. While the original source didn’t really divide itself into arcs, the two main plots that are covered here are the Ishvalan warrior Scar (Arata Mackenyu)’s attack on state alchemists as retaliation for Central’s part in the Ishvalan War of Extermination, as well as his clashes with protagonists Edward and Alphonse (Ryosuke Yamada and Atom Mizuishi) and the introduction of Ling Yao (Keisuke Watanabe), May (Ron Monroe) and their search for immortality.
Once again, there’s a lot going here and the film doesn’t have nearly the amount of running time it needs to get it all across with any weight. Had it chosen to focus solely on the Scar stuff, with a lot of time dedicated to the tragedies of the war, then Revenge might have actually stood a chance at being a halfway decent movie. I can accept some silly costuming, wigs and over the top anime acting if it’s in service of something great. But Revenge’s need to go into FMA’s greater story involving the homunculi, Lin, the Fuhrer and everything else means we’re too busy watching all that go down that the famously heart-wrenching scene in the anime where Winry discovers Scar killed her parents is barely given more than a minute to wrap up. Considering how much of a constant threat Scar was, and how much time his development and arc needed to resolve in a satisfying way, a two hour movie that shares its runtime with a whole lot of other crap isn’t going to cut it.
That said, it does feel a little better than the first film, now that a lot of introductions are done away with, but it’s not enough to elevate this live-action series over just watching the original show(s). There’s still lots of exposition, this time whenever we get flashbacks to the war, so it’s not like the story gets to progress naturally. Also in its favour are the actors, who are all doing at the vest least a decent job. Mackenyu’s Scar is surprisingly nuanced (if bafflingly young considering how long ago the war happened), and Kanata Hongo’s Envy actually manages to showcase a touch more complexity in his scenes. It’s also good to see Edward and Alfonse interact more here, though the brotherly connection – arguably Fullmetal Alchemist’s strongest suit – is still lacking a touch.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that I’m getting just a touch tired of seeing live action anime adaptations do the same thing: they don’t actually adapt, they just copy scenes from the show or the manga, with no regard for how that affects the overall pacing. Revenge would have worked so much better if the filmmakers had eschewed this and restructured the story to better fit: for example, giving us extended scenes of the war, maybe as a prologue, would help to establish it as a real event and would set the tone for the movie going forward. A rushed scene-for-scene remake is never the right way to adapt these stories. For all its many, many flaws I appreciated The Disastrous Life of Saiki K’s attempts to make the show’s short form stories fit into a larger film-length narrative.
But that’s the problem with something so intricately plotted as Fullmetal Alchemist. The homunculus stuff is so integrated into the larger narrative that erasing it would have done it no good, either. There really isn’t a way to make these movies work within the time and technological restraints of live action cinema. It’s almost like maybe we should just stop trying to make this a thing. Wait, there’s ALREADY a third one??
Verdict: Revenge of Scar is a smidgen better than its predecessor. At this pace, by the time they’ve covered the entire series they might have released one serviceable film.
Overall entertainment: 4/10
Action quality: 5/10
Armstrong: Oh buddy. What did they do to you?
Mei: Hell of a growth spurt the character received, huh
Destroyed arms: Like a billion
Kimblee: Oh hey, he’s here too I guess.
Force ghost parents: Well, that was weird
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar (2022)
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Writers: Hiromu Arakawa(manga,)Fumihiko Sori, Takeshi Miyamoto
Ryosuke Yamada – Edward Elric
Atom Mizuishi – Alphonse Elric
Tsubasa Honda – Winry Rockbell
Dean Fujioka – Roy Mustang
Misako Renbutsu – Riza Hawkeye
Kanata Hongo – Envy
Uchino Seiyou – Hohenheim/Father
Yuina Kuroshima – Lan Fan
Keisuke Watanabe – Ling Yao
Kokoro Terada – Selim Bradley
Shinji Uchiyama – Gluttony
Ron Monroe – May Chang