Attack on Titan: Part 2 (2015)
Nicholas Driscoll
February 24, 2016
Note: review may contain spoilers

Last year probably three movies evoked huge emotional responses from me. Mad Max: Fury Road  elated me to the point I gleefully bought the soundtrack directly afterwards. When Marnie Was There (2015) made me cry more than maybe any other movie I have ever seen, ever. And Attack on Titan (2015) just really, really annoyed me. I remember waking up in the middle of the night after seeing the movie, still thinking about the flaws of the film. It was a visceral and frightening movie at its heights, and a cross-eyed blithering mess at its lows. So I put off watching the sequel for quite some time. I didn’t want to shell out the money for a second crap-hits-the-fan (in the face) filmic experience. But sheer masochistic curiosity (as well as a searing need to see the last “kaiju” film made by Shinji Higuchi before he took the helm of Godzilla: Resurgence for 2016) compelled me back into that theater seat. I decided to just quash all my preconceptions of what an Attack on Titan film should be and just sit there and let the film wash over me like the sea, salt and splash and trash and all.

Incredibly, Attack on Titan: Part 2 is far, far worse than the first film. And… may grace be upon me, I loved it. This movie, at least in my estimation, is staggeringly awful, and for that very reason it sang a lullaby to my dumb-movie loving heart.

To discuss the plot of the second Attack on Titan movie at all, I kind of have to spoil the first movie’s plot… If you are okay with that, read on. So, just as a recap, it’s the future and what a lousy future it is. Naked giants with no gonads and a dietary proclivity for human flesh have taken over the whole world. The only pocket of human life is hiding out behind a big ugly wall, but then a particularly large Titan kicks in the front door (why do they have a huge front door?) and the ghoulish giants come pouring in to snack on hapless human beings. In the ensuing kerfuffle, main character and local hothead braggadocio Eren is separated from his cute-and-vacant girlfriend Mikasa, who he assumes was munched by a particularly ugly Titan. Yet Eren escapes, and some time later joins a military group to fight against the Titan menace. Said military group develops pretty cool steampunky vertical maneuvering equipment to use to attack the Titans Spider-Man-style. Suffice to say, adventures are had, people die, and in the end Eren mysteriously transforms into a “good” Titan and kicks all kinds of evil Titan hinder. And Mikasa is still alive but is now a cute-and-vacant heartless Titan killing machine who doesn’t care about Eren anymore.

Right, that’s the last movie. The second movie starts where the first film leaves off, after a lengthy “here’s what happened in the last movie” recap. In the second movie, Eren has been all tied up (in human form) and is being interrogated by a particularly nasty general to see if he is a threat against humankind. Suddenly the Armored Titan (an unusual Titan with no skin and patches of armor across its body) appears, splatters a few soldiers around the pavement, and yoinks Eren before hightailing it for the hills. Eren’s friends are concerned for Eren’s welfare in the care of the said Titan, and suddenly Mikasa cares about Eren again as well, and so they set off to rescue him, with further hopes to use a big old missile to seal the hole in the wall where the Titans came traipsing through in the first film. Lots of action and absurdity ensues, with the future of the human race hanging in the balance!

To be frank, Attack on Titan: Part 2 takes what the first one did well, drop-kicks that stuff out, and replaces it with just oodles of ludicrousness, dumb action, inconsistent heroes, and bat-poopy insanity. Easily the most effective part of the first movie was the freaky-scary Titans menacing people, and the brief, explosive fight between Titan-Eren and the normal Titans at the end. In the sequel, the Titans are basically no longer a threat—they just kind of show up occasionally to get clobbered by Eren. With the Titans out of the way, we are treated to a series of astoundingly dumb scenes that had my jaw bouncing off the floor every ten minutes or so. There were multiple times during the movie when I practically guffawed in the theater, or just whispered to myself, “this movie is awful,” while shaking my head. In other words, I LOVED it! Let me give a rundown of some of my favorite scenes (note that there will be TONS OF SPOILERS in the following list):

--Shikishima (the sneering super soldier who seduced Mikasa in the first film) has a chat with Eren over wine in a bizarre room wherein the floor changes from tile to sand between shots, and Shikishima and Eren’s clothing inexplicably changes as well. So far as I could tell, neither Shikishima nor Eren comment on any of this.

--A normal human soldier begins pulling an enormous stone tower over with just his muscles and some rope. In the middle of yanking on said ropes, dozens of soldiers shoot the soldier with machine guns. Getting hit by hundreds of rounds of hot lead does not slow down the soldier, however, and he pulls the tower down on the machine-gun toting soldiers, who don’t bother to move and thus get smushed by the rocks. THEN the soldier dies from all that blood loss, I guess. Man, I love that scene!

--The Armored Titan and Eren-Titan get into a big fight. During the fight, the dudes who turn into these Titans are basically riding in the nape of each neck and yelling at each other like Power Rangers in a fleshy control room. It’s fantastic! The conclusion of the fight, too, is delightfully over-the-top with a particularly memorable improvised weapon.

--Armin’s plan to close up the wall and prevent future Titans from entering the city is so hair-tearingly dumb as to almost make me fall out of my chair. So basically there’s a hole in the wall where Titans can waltz through, so Armin thinks it’s a good idea to grab a missile (technology he doesn’t understand) and blow it up over the hole in the wall so as to seal the hole with the rubble. I mean, is there some reason the Titans can’t just stroll on over the pile of rubble? Why would ANYONE think this plan would work?

--Eren, in the form of a Titan, is tasked with carrying the missile up the side of the wall and placing it on a ledge so that they can blow it up just right. Well, as he is climbing up the wall with one arm holding the missile (how does that work?), he falls asleep mid-climb. Yeah, he falls asleep while climbing the wall—Eren, our narcoleptic hero. But instead of, I don’t know, falling off the wall and blowing himself up upon impact with the ground, sleeping Eren-Titan continues to hold on to the ledge with one hand (he doesn’t even slip) and the missile with the other hand, giving Mikasa enough time to fly over onto the Titan’s neck, stab human-Eren in the shoulder through the Titan’s flesh in an attempt to wake him up, and declare her affection for him. None of this causes the Titan to fall nor to drop the missile. Another hilarious scene!

--HUGE MASSIVE SPOILERS! At the end of the film, Shikishima returns after apparently getting killed by Eren. He is naturally pretty ticked off about said near-death experience and immediately starts fighting our heroes, targeting especially Mikasa (because he was spurned?). This would have been a fantastic opportunity for a cool fight scene because Mikasa is supposed to be a total warrior princess, but no, she gets her bottom handed to her by Shikishima with almost no resistance. Then she says something to Shikishima (something like, “What about the walls around your heart?” or an equally lame phrase). This moves Shikishima SO MUCH that he decides to HELP the people who nearly killed him by SACRIFICING HIMSELF—he transforms into the Armored Titan, snatches the missile, and then climbs the wall and jumps with the missile into the Colossus Titan who is engaged in a battle with Eren, thus blowing up himself and the Colossus Titan, and also miraculously blasting the wall in such a way that the hole is perfectly filled with rubble. At this point, my eyes were rolling so fast that they entered into a spin cycle and I was able to do my laundry while I was still at the theater.

--The movie saves the best for last, folks. If you wait past the end credits, there is an extra scene back in the magical transforming room where Shikishima and Eren had that chat over wine. There we see a sinister juke box (!!!), which has been watching the unfolding events of the film, and the juke box comments about all that has happened in an evil, robotic voice! DUN DUN DUN! Oh my GOSH, Eren and company aren’t safe! The evil juke box is going to get them! Just hilarious!

END SPOILERS. To sum up, the story makes no sense and is laughably stupid, and for that reason (at least to me) was endlessly entertaining. When the movie ended there was a stunned silence in the theater. The Japanese audience with me didn’t seem to know what to say. I just wanted to laugh out loud, but I dutifully kept my mouth shut.

As for acting, I don’t have much to add to what I said in my review for the first movie—it’s uneven, but some of the actors at least seem to be having a good time—particularly Satomi Ishihara as Hans. Kiko Mizuhara as Mikasa is as boring as ever, and Hiroki Hasegawa as Shikishima continues to gleefully gnaw on the often grimy, gritty scenery. Nevertheless, overall, the assembly of actors exert an earnestness on screen that helps give an energy to the proceedings.

Special effects continues to be a mixed bag. The best part of the prequel—the normal Titans—are mostly absent here, to be replaced by longer sequences of the hero Titan form and the Armored Titan. I thought the hero Titan costume looked great in the previous film, but in this one, with more lingering shots in lighted up areas, it comes across as a bit worse. The Armored Titan, on the other hand, looked pretty bad from the first, at least in the face, where it came across to me as being fairly rubbery and unconvincing, though stills reveal that the detailing across it’s body is pretty impressive. The costumes seemed like somewhat higher budget Ultraman monster costumes. Still, it is a LOT of fun to see a modern suitmation film, and the fights are pretty kinetic and exciting. The Colossus Titan (which is actually a puppet, enhanced with CGI) still looks a bit plasticky, but I really like the look overall.

Music, as far as I remember, continues themes from the first film, but to be honest I don’t remember well. Brian Ashcraft hated the music except for the end credits theme. I think I was too overcome with a giggle-fit at the badness of the film to notice the music. 

For many fans, myself included, the first Attack on Titan was pretty disappointing. And most fans I think hated the second film even more. For me, I just can’t hate it. It’s a pretty short film with crazy action and ludicrous plotting that appealed to me. Kaiju fans will appreciate the costumes (and the fight between the good guy Titan and Armored Titan apparently is meant to be a shout-out to 1966’s The War of the Gargantuas), and there are aspects of the plot which can be interesting, but intelligent viewers have to work hard at suspending their disbelief given the exceedingly poor writing, and fans of the manga/anime will likely be aghast at the departures from canon. Still, gosh, I had a lot of fun with Attack on Titan: Part 2. Enjoy with brain decidedly switched off.

Disclaimer: I saw the movie in raw Japanese. As a result, I didn't understand everything in the film, though the gist was clear based on my understanding of Japanese, the source material, and the action on screen. Nevertheless, I may have misunderstood or completely missed some major plot points given my weaknesses in the language. Reader discretion advised.