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It amost works...still worth seeing
on November 3, 2006
(EDIT--Jan 2008: I've rewatched the entire series and watched this film again 2 or 3 times--and liked it far more on subsequential watchings--I would now give it a 4 star simply because I love the characters so much--but my complaints about its weakenesses still stand. I will say that I've watched it in both English and Japanese and I applaud both Romi Pak and Vic Mignogna for their outstanding performances as Edward. It's still muddled and could do with serious re-editing--but I've come to love it after seeing it again._)
Fullmetal Alchemist,in my opinion, is one of the most gripping, emotionally charged and memorable anime series of all time. It's not just good anime--it's good storytelling with characters you grow deeply concerned for. Even in the weaker 'filler' episodes are still worth watching. I rented the first three discs of the series and then purchased the imported box set with the movie--and believe me, I wouldn't invest that kind of cash if I didn't think FMA was a classic. The day after I finally viewed Episode 51 I sat down to watch the move, still stunned, shaken and moved by what I'd seen in the final episode...
...And I came away from the movie thinking how there was simply too much story, too many scenes that didn't propel the action forward. The subplot with the Rose-lookalike, Noah, as the psychic who figures out Edward's secret past could have been edited out completely and nobody would have missed it, as would have much of the Fritz Lang material (as a film buff I did appreciate the sly references to his wife, Thea Von Harbou, who was a dedicated follower of Hitler--their movie 'Metropolis' is the science fiction film Lang keeps refering to). All in all, the historical parts could have been pared back--most of us know enough about 20th century history that we don't need all the pointed references.
As for the Amestris characters--seeing Roy Mustang falling completely into his depression and self loathing (a key subplot in the series) only to rise to the occasion, recover his belief in himself and to take command once more provides some of the strongest scenes in the film. His brief reunion with Ed and Al suddenly shifts the movie into high gear--it develops a terrific Indiana Jones-type energy with sharp dialog and comedy/action timing that SHOULD have set the tone for the film. When Edward snaps, "Love the eyepatch. Pity it isn't over your mouth." I wanted to cheer. Classic "Taisa and the Shrimp" sparring that kicks both characters back on course. And of course, Armstrong steals every scene he poses in, sparkles and all.
Is this the end of FMA? Good question. There have been a few short OVA's out there, but nothing on the scope of the original series. The manga is still running strong.
The truth is, there was so much potential in this film--we know and love these characters, share their history--we want to know what happens next to Al and Ed as their journey continues. The fact that there was no GUARANTEE that the Gate was sealed could potentially leave the door open for more films...who knows? Studio Bones indicates that FMA anime is officially completed. If you watch the documentary with the disc you'll see that this original script was originally over 100 pages long and could have been made into a second series. I just wish the final hurrah had been better edited--it should have been a tighter, more exciting film. Still, it's definitely worth seeing.