On that day, SNK fans received a grim reminder…
Alright, if you’re here then you’re one of us—you know the source material, you’re curious to find out what they changed and why it doesn’t work. SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously.
Buckle down guys, because it ain’t pretty. Let’s start with the characters:
- None of the main characters have surnames. Eren isn’t Eren Jaeger, he’s just Eren. Same with Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Jean, Hange. It’s likely that the filmmakers thought the names were too complicated and Western for the films’ adjusted Japanese setting, but even so, not cool.
- Eren has no parents. From the get go, they’ve been dead “since before he could remember”.
- Armin’s motivation to see the outside world is given to Eren, who has a long monologue about this life not being enough for him and wanting to see the sea, just before the first attack begins.
- This leaves Armin with nothing really, apart from being a Generic Sidekick. His main trait of being self-reliant and determined is taken away too, and his superior intelligence is transferred from strategy and academics to engineering small time-keeping devices, which in the end don’t even work. Another example of the wasted potential of a very skilled young actor, Kanata Hongo, who has been in the business for at least a decade.
- Mikasa starts off as a carefree and shy sidekick, and an obvious love interest to Eren. She takes the role of Eren’s mother as The One Who Gets Eaten, which makes Eren lose his shit and join the army while torturing himself with guilt because he left her out there to die while he got shelter.
- She later on resurfaces as a Cool Badass Chick who inexplicably survived being eaten by a Titan, and is now super adept at killing them because she hates them fiercely. She doesn’t seem to care about Eren or Armin at all, refusing to even talk to them for absolute ages.
- The roles of Colossal Titan and Armoured Titan are passed on to newly created characters, which completely changes the context and reasons for the attacks. All the Abnormal Titans, including the Shifters who infiltrate the Survey Corps, simply do not exist in the context of the films.
- Levi’s been replaced with a flashy Cool Guy (Shikishima, one of very few people in the film with a surname), a Titan-slaying prodigy who enjoys showing off. He is implied to be Mikasa’s lover, and also possibly Eren’s older brother—the latter is never really resolved but an older brother is mentioned twice in Part 2, once in the context of Eren’s father experimenting on his children. This guy turns out to be the Armoured Titan, and ultimately a villain. (More on that in a sec.)
- There is, of course, no Erwin either.
- Sasha is implied to be a love interest for Armin, though she also seems to admire Mikasa quite a lot.
- The guy originally meant to save Eren’s life as a kid is now fused with his father’s friend. He’s still in the Garrison, but he goes out with the expedition, and somehow he knows all about Titans and Eren, and no one even blinks an eye at any of this.
Next, the background:
- The different orders of the army are never mentioned by name, though we do see individuals with the insignia on their jackets. Still, their roles are never differentiated, and it feels like the symbols are just there to retain whatever flimsy connection these films have with the source material.
- Initially conceived as genetic experiments, Titans were created by scientists who sought to pursue alternative methods of warfare. Then something “went terribly wrong”, and Titans began appearing all over the world, in random and uncontrollable bursts. In trying to destroy them with conventional weapons, humanity destroyed itself. All research and innovation is banned as the source of all conflict, and a new regime rose to power which keeps all citizens firmly under governmental control, including things like residence, marriage, and childbirth rates.
- The attack on “Monzen”, Eren’s hometown on the edge of the “Outer Wall” (at this point they can’t even be bothered to keep the original names) is a deliberate attack organised by the government to keep the civilians within the regime’s control.
- The Survey Corps does not, strictly speaking, exist. The attack on Monzen was meant to kill those few who planned to venture outside the wall in search of lands outside the government’s strict controls, but they resurface in Part 2 as rebels who plan to dismantle the status quo with sheer firepower—and Titans. The rebels even wear different colour “wings of freedom” – sporting red and white instead of blue and white. (Subtle.)
- Shikishima’s plan is to allow the Titans to enter the Inner Wall and devour the Elite–though it doesn’t seem to occur to him that they’ll also devour everyone else. He explains it all to Eren using a montage of news footage played on an Apple TV, in a room full of “relics” (like an ominous jukebox) which the government has kept as a reminder of the dangers of technology. Go figure.
It should be noted here that none of these changes seem to make any improvement on the original story. They may have been intended as a simplification of what is quite a detailed and perhaps convoluted sum of storylines, but the effect is in fact the exact opposite, with the added bonus of getting exactly none of the characters right. Good job, team. Think I’ll go re-watch the show now…
Got any ideas for a drinking game? Thoughts on the new adaptation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments – but leave a spoiler warning if you are discussing events included in the second page of the review. Thanks!