To anyone who has not yet seen the series, Fullmetal Alchemist, I strongly suggest not reading this review; as a continuation of the series' plot, any discussions of the movie will inevitably contain major spoilers.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a masterpiece which set the new benchmark for any anime in the fantasy genre; for that reason, I had many expectations of FMA: Conqueror of Shamballa and many ideas about the directions the story would take. Given such numerous predictions, I still didn't bank on the movie being a shambolic disappointment. While the central plot is superficially interesting, the real pitfall is that, instead of tying up some relevant loose ends, the movie actually unravels some more.
I remember FMA partly for its creativity and energy; however, with Ed stuck in the real world, I can't help feeling that these elements have largely been lost. Sure, Conqueror of Shamballa's the Nazi-era setting looks very convincing, and all of the details point to painstaking research; furthermore, the themes of prejudice and scientific responsibility from the series carry over well into the movie. However, watching Ed solving most of his problems using conventional means and generally just walking around powerlessly just robs the movie of so much dynamism.
Unfortunately, the plot developments don't compensate for this drab setting; constructed entirely from the frayed ends of the series and rather disjointed historical elements, Conqueror of Shamballa barely manages to form a coherent story. Add to that the rather shallow explanation of events and the story ends up being only vaguely interesting. I'd argue that the American dub is slightly less confusing to watch; however, in being clearer, this version also makes some of the contrivances more obvious. The final nail in the coffin is simply this: Conqueror of Shamballa prefers to throw up new questions rather than answering old ones. The effect was such that, when the credits started rolling, I thought it was some kind of horrible joke. While the militant expectations of fans should never determine an artistic piece, the fact that they are dismissed point-blank ultimately diminishes the movie's impact.
Conqueror of Shamballa's animation was certainly at the top if its game when it was first released; even better, I can't see it ageing anytime soon due to the high quality of the visuals. The backgrounds are as detailed as I've ever seen them; each world has a distinct concept which sets a different tone depending on where the events are taking place. In fact, it was so effective that every time the story abandoned Al's vibrant universe and cut to Ed's depressed inter-war Germany, I couldn't help but lose interest.
In addition, everything seems masterfully tailored for the big screen; specifically the Homunculus fight towards the end is breathtaking, with its daring camera angles and breakneck pacing.
Surprisingly, the American dub is not bad at all - in fact, it's very good; I especially like Eckhart's performance, which is wonderfully devious. Ed's voice actor might actually be the weakest link in the chain; he tends to veer periodically from monotone quietness to excited shouting with no subtle medium in between. As for the Japanese voice actors, they are just as excellent as they were in the series, and they perform superbly with what is occasionally a cryptic script.
While the OP is acceptable, I feel it could have been far more exciting; it sounds more like the opening of a romantic drama than the start of a potentially mind-blowing, action-packed movie. The rest of the score is comprised of classical instrumentals from the series, which help create excellent nostalgic atmospheres.
All of the important characters from the series have a small role or simply make a cameo appearance; although strictly ceremonial, it's still fun to watch some of the old favourites reincarnated as WWII characters. As for Edward and Alphonse Elric, they make for strong enough leads; my only problem with them is that, abandoned to either side of the Gate, their personalities become pale shades of themselves:
For one, Ed without alchemy is like Bond without his custom-made gadgets; it's unfortunate, but his personality depends so much upon him being able to kick some arse. Sure, he remains clever and courageous even without his powers, but he also loses a lot of his heroic edge and gets a little miserable to watch sometimes. Similarly, Al has always been the one to take instruction from his brother; thus, watching him trying to resolve things by himself is just weird. Without Ed to interact with, he displays little to no humour, which is precisely the trait for which he was so memorable.
Notable new characters include Chairman Dietlinde Eckhart who naturally wants to conquer Shamballa for glory and power and every other reason Nazis typically do things. Relentlessly one-dimensional, her only entertainment value lies in playing the hammed-up villain with gusto. Finally, although completely passive and uninteresting to watch in her own right, Noah the gypsy girl plays a role which feeds effortlessly into the theme of prejudice.
Needless to say, this is a poor performance from the creators of FMA; instead of providing an entertaining conclusion worthy of the original series, Conqueror of Shamballa poses new questions and ultimately leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Still, the fact remains that Conqueror of Shamballa is the sequel to one of the most popular anime of all time; trying to fend people off would be nothing but a waste of my breath. I simply recommend that, in light of the terrible disappointment it brings, fans approach it with low expectations.
Spoilers for FMA and this film ensue:
There's a big division in the FMA fandom with this film. people i know that have seen it didn't have much nice to say about it. Most found it weak and not finale material. So naturally, I went in a little leery of what I would think of it. The whole alternate universe plot seemed interesting enough during the show, and the final episode had me flabbergasted since everything was still left wide open. The beginning of the film had me confused as hell before they actually started to reveal what was going on. Two Al's and all the characters being in Nazi Germany had me slightly off-put, and strangely intrigued at the same time. It was kind of a fresh direction to go for the series, I think. Granted ill say the new and unfamiliar characters were stock, however, everyone else shined. I especially loved Mustang's comeback. In all honesty the most annoying part was the whole fiasco surrounding the gypsy. They should have ditched all the new characters and had Envy be the big bad since he's pretty much my favorite villain. Other than those few critiques, I have to say, this was a very entertaining film. The music was perfect, the animation was gorgeous, and it was action packed. I actually liked seeing how Ed and Al acted apart from each other and the heartbreaking struggle they underwent to be together again, as well as the AU versions of other characters and cameos. This movie really didn't let its audience off easy killing two major hero characters (one onscreen) along with a villain...or was he? Also, the ending was equally as painful, if not more painful than the FMAB ending which is saying something. I really don't know if it was an amazing ending, or a bad one since it really threw my emotions in the blender. We all know I like depressing things that rattle my feelings so maybe that's why I was okay with the twist. I am happy to have finished the series feeling like things were wrapped up and I quite liked the film overall.
Story: Conqueror of Shamballa's plot does not come ANYWHERE near FMA's in creativity and coherency. The two worlds were not fully developed and neither was the rest of the plot. Being a huge fan of FMA, I was completely disappointed. There was little good about this movie. I did like the freakish fight with Gluttony but it made little sense. The ending was lackluster as well.
Animation: Beautiful animation. Scenes were fluid and reminiscent of FMA. Edward's world was a bit bland looking but that was what they were going for.
Sound: Like the animation, it was great. I can't say much for the voices because I watched it in English, which was pretty good (even with Al's cracking voice). Not as excellent as FMA but definitely good.
Characters: FMA characters stayed pretty much the same. Non-FMA characters were pretty generic. Little surprise with their actions of thought processes. As much as I love my FMA people, they can't make up for the lack in originality and quality of Shamballa's characters.
Overall: So-so movie experience. If you're a hardcore FMA lover, I would stay away from this because it does disappoint terribly. Even if you dying for an FMA fix, I would go to brotherhood or the manga. All else fails, re-watch FMA b/c that would be better than watching the movie.
A poorly done “parallel universe” movie.
This is hardly ever done properly and this movie is no exception.
The plot is all over the place. Easy to get lost and annoyed by the decisions made and the storylines clashing.
Decent action, but it didn’t make up for the annoying plot.
Overall a 3/10.
Watched this movie after finishing the 2003 series. It was ok. I think some parts of it were pretty stupid. I still don't like that Ed gets stuck there after the original show ended. I also didn't like that he stayed there in the end. I would've liked if he went back to his world. I didn't like its story, there were so many more original stories that could've happened. ANyways it was ok but not the best