A superior sequel but with the same lack of depth
A finer film than its predecessor, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar makes an intriguing second chapter in the trilogy. The story flows a lot better, with events and characters coming together more easily and efficiently than they did before. Plot continues to take priority over depth but when the more sombre scenes strike, they hit the right emotional chord. Overall, this is a fun and exciting watch, more so for new fans than old ones.
Adapted from the 64-episode anime, this instalment introduces the audience to Scar and his quest for revenge against all State Alchemists. The brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, must oppose him while also continuing to look into the existence of the mysterious homunculi. In the process, they meet several new characters including Ling Yao, the 12th crown prince of the eastern nation of Xing, as well as Mei Chang, a rival princess from the same country.
The film starts off a bit shaky with a seemingly random train hijacking scene. But what it does well, is introduce us to Prince Ling Yao and his two boydguards, Lan Fan and Fu. We also see that Envy is alive and kicking.
The rest of the film is a far more coherent work. Instead of jumping from event to event like in the first movie, this one stitches them together in a fluent manner. It’s easy for new audiences to follow the story, which is an engaging ride that draws them further into the world of alchemy.
Scar’s narrative, in particular, is handled well. It’s clear that he is the movie’s real protagonist and the slow reveal of his motives and history makes him a compelling character. Towards the end, we really see him come face to face with his blind revenge and begin to re-evaluate it. Although, Scar being played by a man in brownface makes the whole thing slightly off-putting.
Winry’s arc is also a well-executed one and her journey towards forgiveness is a mirror image of Scar’s. Tsubasa Honda’s portrayal of Winry was a little over the top in the previous film, but she does a fantastic job depicting Winry’s heartbreak in this one.
While the characters do have an interesting dynamic with one another, the plot is overpowering. Since this is an adaptation of a TV show, it’s natural that they have had to compress events and information. It’s commendable, the way they’ve changed timelines to fit a tight script with all the important milestones. But the result is that the depth of the story is still missing from the big screen. Without spending time with characters and learning to love them, the big questions about race, patriotism and family don’t land with as much impact as they otherwise would have.
It’s important to note that this movie and the final instalment are meant to be two parts of a whole. So, the loose ends left behind are done so for good reason. The ending, too, is a cliffhanger that is compelling enough to make people want to watch the next instalment.
The costumes and sets continue to be one of the highlights of the movie, with all the characters looking like they’ve dropped right out of the anime. Even Ed’s hair is far better than it was in the first movie. One exception would be Major Armstrong, whose physique and hair feel a little too cartoonish for a live-action.
The visual effects are a notch higher in quality as well. Although, the creators missed an opportunity with the different kinds of alchemy in the film. With the introduction of alkahestry or the ‘purification arts’ from Xing and with Scar’s personal brand of combined alchemy and alkahestry, a unique visualisation of each would have made for a more exciting watch. It would also help provide a better understanding for new audiences.
For long-time fans of Fullmetal Alchemist, this movie might prove to be a nice reminder of a beloved story as well as a chance to see live-action versions of one’s favourite characters. But otherwise, it’s really made for new audiences who can enjoy this captivating world and its characters without having to spend hours and hours on it.