Two movies based on the original FMA series and the Brotherhood series take different directions on their stories as much as their series did. The end result is a lot of confusion, some good entertainment and as many questions as there are answers.
What They Say :
Conqueror of Shamballa;
Munich, Germany, 1923. Two years have passed since Edward Elric was dragged from his own world to ours, leaving behind his country, his friends and his younger brother, Alphonse. Stripped of his alchemical powers, he has been all this time researching rocketry together with Alphonse Heiderich, a young man who resembles his own brother, hoping to one day find a way back home. His efforts so far had proven fruitless, but after lending a hand to a troubled gipsy girl, Edward is thrown in a series of events that can wreak havoc in both worlds. Meanwhile, at his own world, Alphonse Elric ventures deeper into the mysteries of alchemy in search for a way to reunite with his older brother.
Star Of Milos;
After a mysterious prisoner with only a few weeks left on his sentence breaks out of prison in Central City, the Elric brothers attempt to track him down. The search leads them to Table City in the southwestern country of Creta, where Alphonse rescues a young alchemist named Julia from the very man they are trying to capture. In the thick of the fight, they literally tumble into Julia’s home turf, the slums of Milos Valley, and are embroiled in the grassroots rebellion of her people.
The Review :
I watched the releases in a different format and language. Conqueror of Shamballa I watched in Japanese on DVD, whilst Star Of Milos I watched on Blu-Ray in English. The best thing with these movie releases is that you get a 5.1 Dolby Surround/True HD release in both languages, which on either format makes the experience a lot stronger – the voices are in sync with the subtitles on the Japanese track, and the visuals are stunning (some may argue about the change of animation style in both movies but for me, it works) with no problems regarding transition, marking or slowdown. Overall, both visually and audio-wise, the movies are a great release.
For the Shamballa release, we have a set up on a blue background with three circles, the middle circle showing clips from the movie whilst the left and right have different versions of Ed, whilst below we get the selections of play movie, set up, scenes and extras. The scenes like most movie releases and unlike most series releases do have scene selection and it is very smooth and accessible (when you select it doesn’t cut it transacts into which selection you’ve made unless you just pick to play the movie).
For the Milos release, we have a full screen effect of clips of the movie played with the menu in black below and harder to see. In fact, you never see the title of the movie until the clip finishes, and then it reloads. Like most Blu-Ray releases though, the menu is very accessible with play, scene selection (again, can choose the scenes), audio and extras, with a popup menu appearing immediately for selection. Both are smooth menus whichever release you watch.
We have some good extras on both movie releases. For Shamballa, we first have a behind the scenes extra where we get a talk with director Mizushima Seji as we get an initial guided tour of the office and studio where the original (2003) Full Metal Alchemist series was made, how the script writing process went down, words from the actors, artists, we get to see people working including Romi Park (seiyuu for Ed), how the story works with the historical aspects, fun look at the storyboards, looking at the drawings, CG Animation, editing the illustrations, colouring, finishing work, about L’Arc-En-Ciel getting involved, the music recording done by Moscow Orchestra…it lasts about 40 minutes and is quite an in-depth look at the making of the movie.
We get some trailers for the US release, a more in-depth one with the Japanese Theatrical Release, and the Japanese TV Trailers. We also get some production art which is a 1.15 video of line, colour art of characters and location designs, and an image gallery, a1:37 video of shots from the movie with music.
We also get an entire disc full of extras, which is basically commentaries. We get a talk session in the form of a sit down interview with Romi Park(Ed) acting as the interviewer with Mizhushima, Rie Kugimiya(Al) and Toru Okawa(Roy). Entitled ‘Farewells and Reunions’ we get a lot of talk about the movie, reuniting the cast (this was back in 2005 when Brotherhood hadn’t been green lighted yet) ,general talk about their work in one-on-one interviews with Mizushima and each of the seiyuu which at times turns more into a general chat with the 4 of them together, the pace of the film, their thoughts of the characters evolution – it’s particularly fun between Romi and Rie with some final comments of the movie, where there is emotion when they think it is the last time they will work together on FMA (with this and the dub commentary, it’s interesting to watch now that Brotherhood and the Brotherhood Movie came out…)
Then we get 3 commentaries about the movie, so basically it was watching the movie three times with different commentaries. We first get one with the Japanese director and staff, so along with Mizushima, we get Yohei Miyahara (technical director, supervising 3D/photography) and Oyabu Yoshihiro (production desk). As you probably figured, this is actually talking more of the production/creation side talking about the departments used, a lot is discussed ranging from cels per scene, takes done, some banter and stories told, process of the music, suggestions of the performance regarding the new characters (Noah), location hunting, the art, storyboards, special effects, how Ed develops in the movie and how he is much darker to start with because of the situation, discussing the key animators, specific information on little touches with art, or with direction (the flowers scene), discussing specific scenes (the dream sequence)- research regarding the time period, problems during the making and revisions which had to be made. It’s one of the most informative commentaries as it does focus on the movie specifically.
The second commentary is more general, as it focuses on the Japanese director and come of the cast, Rie Kugimiya(Al), Megumi Toyoguchi(Winry) and Romi Park(Ed), this links in m
ore with the movie and series, as they discuss how the actors were feeling returning to the studio and the new ones involved, and they seem to just watch the movie, enjoying funny moments, looking at the differences of the character and their alternate in the new world (Hughes/Bradley) There is a lot of banter between Park and Kugimiya (they even do some short jokes) and they do discuss what makes them smile, emotional and sad – this one is a bit more loose and whilst there were fun moments in the first one, that one had more information whilst this seemed more a gathering between friends.
The third commentary is quite different – it involves the US ADR Directors and Actors, where we get a mix of Mike McFarland and Colleen Clinkenbeard (the directors and voices of Havoc and Riza/Rose respectively) talking with as many of the actors from the FMA series for a short chat, discussing their character, experience and the show and a few stories told. These are all quite similar but more focus on the original TV series rather than the movie which seems a bit offputting for most of it, but they do bring in a lot of the cast, so in order we have short interviews with Caitlin Glass(Winry), Aaron Dismuke(original Al), Chris Cason(Gluttony), Chris Patton(Greed), Chuck Hubert(Shou Tucker), Gerard Heches(ADR Writer), Leah Clark(Noah), Laura Bailey(Lust), Luci Christian(Siren/Wrath), Lydia Mackay(Trisha/Sloth), Gwendolyn Lau(Sheska), Monica Rial(Lyra/Dante), Scott McNeil(Hohenheim), Sonny Strait(Hughes), Troy Baker(Lt. Colonel Frank Archer), Wendy Powell(Envy) and Vic Migogna(Ed). Quite a number of the cast isn’t even in the movie so it’s mostly a focus on the TV series (with the exception of Leah and Troy’s parts) but it is a rather large interview for fans of FMA as they all get their segment in, and they repeat this for the Milos movie in a similar way, so whilst it’s not really a movie peace, fans of the original series will love it.
Star Of Milos also has a Making Of segment, which is done a bit differently. We have Romi Park(Ed) and Rie Kugimiya(Al) introducing it in character, as we get interviews with the producers (Ryo Oyama, Masahiko Minami, Nobuyuki Kurushige), as they talk about things like satisfying the fanbase, how they used the setting, character design, some recordings, as Park and Kugimiya discuss returning to the studio. They even show a part where they discuss the earthquake and how it affected them yet will still make the movie. We get lots of nice segments like filming at the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and how they were looking for a European style of music but still give it a Japanese twist, we get looking at the sound effects dubbing and what the series meant to the actors and producers.
We also get an entire dub commentary of the movie which is done much differently to other commentaries. We get Mike McFarland, the director throughout but he interviews one VA at a time for a certain period of time, each discussing their thoughts about the movie and/or Brotherhood. So first of, we get some time with Maxie Whitehead (Al) who talks about school, how FMA in a way has changed her life and is one of the few who does discuss the movie a bit. Next we get Colleen Clinkerbeard (director, Riza, Rose) who explains about the 1st season casting and tells a funny con story involving a powdered doughnut (don’t ask). It’s here you can see that it’s mostly an FMA commentary as bar a couple of the Vas, most of them weren’t in the movie much so couldn’t discuss it at length. Next we get Chris Sabat (Louis Armstrong) who explains how he was actually working on the game before the anime, and had to do the voices from minute one because of the Japanese presence at E3, discusses his love for the comedy sketches with Armstrong and his enjoyment of cosplayers, then we get some time with Caitlin Glass(Winry) who discusses her original audition and the fact she got married and moved to Spain for a while so the troubles they had to get through to get her parts done for the end of Brotherhood, then some time with Travis Willingham(Roy) who after a manly hug with Mike explains this was one of his first roles and his definitive role and how he was a fan of anime beforehand (particularly DBZ), then we actually get a different segment with the movie as someone not involved with the series speaks – we get Matthew Mercer(Melvin) who for UK con fans is very well known as being one of the guests at Ayacon and a well known fan of anything geeky himself so this was obviously a pleasure to listen to Matt doing a commentary – he admits not seeing FMA originally so he had to work to get involved, how he enjoyed playing such a dark character, and it turns into a bit of a fun bit where the two just geek out for a bit but do discuss the movie. Finally, we get Vic Mignogna(Ed) who basically tells a lot of heartwarming thoughts and feelings about the FMA fandom and he gives thanks to everyone watching, how he identifies with Ed, his Star Trek fanboyism and how he compares it to FMA, and a touching con story involving an amputee who watched FMA. Overall, it’s definitely worth watching as you get a lot of different views and stories from a varied cast of actors.
We get a US Trailer for the movie, and some trailers for other Blu-Ray releases (Madoka and the 1st Eden Of The East Movie). We get some theatrical trailers and TV Spots as well.
Lastly, we get a Web Promo, which appears to be an internet animation which discusses the movie in a comic way – we first get an Ed/Al interview which range from Al being kind to Ed getting short joked as usual, Al explaining the movie without spoilers, Ed wanting to just get on with it, etc. The rest of it is Roy discussing the history of Creta and Milos to a bored Riza and Winry, with cut of shots of Ed and Al in the movie as we get to see the ‘outtakes’ so to speak. It is quite amusing and unexpected as it does actually tell bits about the movie that may have confused you, but it is interlaced with comedy so you’re still enjoying it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The FMA movies double pack basically gives us the two sides of two different series. Shamballa is a release based on the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series (movie done in 2005) whilst Milos is a release based on the 2009 Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood release (movie done in 2010-11). It’s a case where both movies are stand alone, but would need knowledge of the series overall. The first movie is perhaps more stand alone but is also more confusing, whilst the second is more linked in the series but can easily be set as its own story and is probably the easier to follow and enjoy.
The Conqueror of Shamballa follows after the original series ended in a fashion (though it has been a while since I saw the original series so going through it with hazy memory). It is set in an alternate Earth where Ed doesn’t have his alchemy powers and is now a rocket researcher in 1920s Germany, along with a research who looks very similar to Alphonse Elric but is in fact a rocket designer named Alfons Heiderich. The story goes through this new universe as Ed saves a gypsy woman named Noah, who apparently has the ability to tell the future. Whilst she has visions of Ed’s life, you realize that this world is basically a mind screw to Ed as he appears to be the only one who remembers his old life, and the fact so many people from his past have been brought into this world as other people. For example, his old enemy King Bradley is now a Jewish movie producer named Fritz Lang and actually becomes Ed’s friend, whilst Ed’s old friend Maes Hughes is now a policeman who seems to err on the side of good when it comes to German rule and yes, even Nazi’s. To say this universe is a bit strange is an understatement but it definitely is taking a historical look after the first World War and a retake of that so to speak.
The main plot is a group known as the Thule Society lead by a woman named Dietlinde Eckhart use what appears to be Hohenheim as a catalyst to link towards Ed’s previous world, believing it to be the utopia Shamballa after learning about it from Hohenheim. A number of armored soldiers are sent through the portal, only to emerge on the other side in the city of Liore as mutated zombie-like creatures. In this world though, Alphonse is still there back as a human but with alchemy powers and he fights them off, and due to an accident Ed and Al are able to reunite briefly in his old armour, as Ed wants to return to his true world.
The movie basically then gets in our heads of the two separate universes with a combination of Al having to get to the other world along with the help of Roy, Riza and Winry – whilst the Thule Society uses Noah how to open the gate. It actually touches on the historical nature with the story of Adolf Hitler coming into power as told by Fritz Lang, so Ed needs to stop them. With the aid of a dying Heidrich, he is able to get his old automail limbs from Winry, reunites with Alphonse and later even Mustang during the climactic battle. It finishes in an actual interesting note as you wonder if in this future, the Elric brothers would be the true heroes of the post-war.
The short of this movie is that it at first is very confusing. It doesn’t really kick in until you realize there are two universes and how it links with how the original FMA series – fortunately it is explained and eventually ties in well with everything with all the characters and the ending does make sense. Some clunky storytelling at first does seem to be its main weakness, but the story is driven, the battle sequences are excellent and how it all integrates together makes it overall an in depth and intelligent movie.
Star Of Milos is a lot more straight forward. It starts off with our main protagonist Julia, a young woman who has recurring nightmares about her past when she studied alchemy with her old brother, and when her parents and brother were apparently murdered. We then flash forward to present day where the Elric brothers fight off against an alchemist who seems to specialize in using ice and lightning. It leads to some interesting action sequences as the two chase him through but then gets interrupted by the now adult Julia, who they are unsure if she is to help or hinder them. Turns out, she is originally from an area known as Creta, where they used alchemy that is unfamiliar to anyone of the military. Her alchemy however seems to be similar to the one that the alchemist they were chasing also uses. The alchemist in question notices Julia, and whilst the military seem him as an escaped criminal known as Melvin Voyager, he claims to be Julia’s thought to be dead brother Ashley.
Some research and cameos from Roy, Riza, Armstrong and Winry, the Elric brothers learn that Julia was arrested while entering illegally in the remote Table City, as she was raised in the slums of Milos and her parents were branded as traitors for their style of alchemy, hence why her brother had to pretend to be dead. However, complications occur as the sibling’s story is not as easy as it appears. The man claiming to be Ashley is in fact an impostor named Atlas, and he was the one response for killing Julia’s parents. His real goal was to use the blood of the families to create a Philosopher’s Stone. It then gets even more intriguing when Ashley is revealed to be alive, and is in fact one of the officers who was dealing with Julia’s illegal entry into Table City. It does get a little confusing when we get to the climax, where Julia, Ed and Al first have to deal with Atlas (where Julia actually swallows the Philosopher’s Stone) and then dealing with the real Ashley who wishes to destroy Milos for how his family were treated, yet Julia was beloved by the children there so it brings into conflict those two as well.
It again, ends neatly with a nice twist in how the family issue is resolved, though whilst the storyline was a lot more neater, there wasn’t really that much of the actually Elric brothers in it as Julia served as the main character – and whilst a complex and developed character, it did feel the main cast got shafted (though Al does get a strange crush on Julia in a way), then again it does feel this could be a side story during Brotherhood during any of the brothers travels, so it doesn’t feel out of place in terms of the storyline.
My overall thoughts on the movies are that both are not really accessible unless you have watched the series first. They can be seen as standalone stories, but you need to be familiar with the characters enough in Milos, and you really need to have watched the entire FMA series to really get Shamballa. Out of two, I’d say I enjoyed Shamballa a bit more once I got into the story, as it finally clicked in my head what was going on, and all the confusion I had early in the movie cleared up. Milos is more straight forward though, and is definitely more action paced and whilst had a good story, felt it was slightly weaker than Shamballa, mainly because of the Elric brothers lack of direction in it and it was more the story of Julia and Ashley – which whilst good, still made you feel a bit for the characters who weren’t in it. Shamballa at least did give you enough action and reuniting Roy, Ed and human Alphonse was a fantastic moment.
Two different movies set in two different versions of FMA. It’s funny as whilst I definitely prefer Brotherhood over the original series, in terms of the movies I actually prefer the original series movie to the Brotherhood movie. Whilst can be initially confusing, it’s complex story clears up, you get an understand and it builds up to an excellent finale with the characters you love but in a different scenario. Brotherhood keeps it safe and makes it a side story from the series but sadly loses the focus of the main cast and whilst you feel for Julia, it doesn’t feel much as an FMA movie as more as a side story/filler episode from the series. Saying that however, I definitely recommend it for FMA fans, but as standalone releases, I’d say you would need to watch the original series at least in its entirety before tackling them.
Conqueror Of Shamballa;
Behind The Scenes Feature, U.S Trailer, Japanese Theatrical Trailer, Japanese TV Trailers, Production art, Image gallery
Star Of Milos;
US Commentary, Making Of Feature, US Trailer, Blu-Ray Manga Entertainment Trailers, Web Promo, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spot
Content Grade: B+/B (first mark for Shamballa, second for Milos)
Audio Grade: A/A
Video Grade: B+/A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: A-/A-
Extras Grade: B/A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 3rd, 2012
Running Time: 100 minutes(Shamballa) 110 minutes (Milos)
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.