Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa / Gekijouban Hagane no Renkinjustsunshi Shanbara o Yuku Mono
The Synopsis: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa
is the movie sequel to the similarly-named 2004 TV series. Taking place five years after the series concluded, the movie continues the stories of the two brothers as each seeks to reunite with the other. Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, is now living in the world beyond the gate (essentially our version of Earth) as a rocket scientist in Munich Germany, while his younger brother, Alphonse has relearned the ways of alchemy and is searching for a way to reopen the gate to the other side. The ambitions of the German Thule Society on Earth will throw things into chaos and Ed and Al will soon find themselves in a battle on both fronts. Review:
As the sequel to the popular Fullmetal Alchemist TV series, The Conqueror of Shamballa
has a lot of expectations to live up to. And while it may not fulfill all these expectations, it is nevertheless an exciting, action-packed and worthy conclusion to an already excellent TV series (which decidedly needing a more conclusive ending). For seasoned fans the formula hasn’t been changed much and, for the most part, only fine tuned for the big screen. The action sequences are still spectacular to watch, the character-driven plot is just as important as it is in the series, and the characters themselves are just as dynamic and intriguing. And in fact, BONES did well to not change things too much because, frankly speaking, the formula works and is a blueprint for success, even on the big screen.
As always the plot is not overly complex nor does it try to be too broad in scope. The story is still centered on the two brothers, their friends, and their enemies as each battle to achieve their goals. What makes the storytelling different from the series however is that the movie takes place amid the backdrop of the economic depression of post-World War II Germany and the eventual formation of the Nazi Party and the rise of Adolf Hitler. While the movie never focuses on these events, the story brings the alternate reality of Earth (the world that Ed and Al lived in) to the real world of the viewer (early 20th century Germany). This blending of fantasy with actual world history adds a new dynamic to the storytelling and brings a sense of realism that originally escaped the series. We are also introduced to several new characters in the alternate world, including an alternate version of Alphonse, who is a fellow scientist who works alongside Ed, and Dietlinde Eckhart, a high-ranking member of a German occult organization called the Thule Society who fears the world beyond the gate, which they call “Shamballa,” (undoubtedly a reference to the mythical city in Buddhist legend) and seeks to destroy it. Several other “alternate” or “real-world” versions of familiar characters from alternate Earth also appear in the film, which makes for an interesting contrast when comparing them to their counterparts in alternate Earth.
Many themes prominent in the series are also prominent to the movie such as the importance of family and friendship and the problem of racial discrimination. We also see ideas such as the nature of hate and fear, and the necessity of self-sacrifice. Ed and Al, while being worlds apart, never lose hope of reuniting. Eckhart’s curiosity concerning the world of “Shamballa” soon turns into fear and hatred. And while there are points in the movie where the tone is dark and melancholy, the movie is overall a positive one. We are encouraged to be involved in the world, because we are all a part of it and that it isn’t where we live that matters, but who we are. That said, the movie is also more serious overall compared to the series (well at least the first half of the series anyway), but that is not to say there aren’t bits of humor interjected amongst the drama.
Looking at the visuals of The Conqueror of Shamballa
, one can’t help but be impressed by the production values. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and the animation is smooth, vivid, clean, and detailed. The results are quite spectacular, from the introductory flashback in the beginning to the epic sky battle at the end. BONES has once again done a marvelous job, showing us bright outdoor set pieces, dark ominous interiors, and pretty much everything in between. All this makes The Conqueror or Shamballa
look even better than its predecessor. For a 2005 animated title, the Blu-Ray transfer is also surprisingly excellent and a major step up from the already good DVD transfer. To complement the excellent visuals is the superb surround sound audio. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio is sharp and clear and at times surprisingly immersive. The English dub track, as with the series, is good but definitely not one of the best I've heard. But if you don’t fancy reading subtitles all the time, the dub is certainly a viable alternative (not to mention that the Blu-ray version has an English TrueHD 5.1 track). The music in the movie is also great, and helps to set the tone and atmosphere of the film.
Now then, do I have anything bad to say about this movie? Well only a few things. One, the pacing could have used some work as the movie suffers from what many could consider “the middle problem” in that the middle part of the film does tend to drag a little without much plot or action occurring. This isn’t a big problem, as this part of the film is still quite interesting, and the fast-paced action of the rest of the movie does more than make up for it. But it could certainly have been handled better. Two, this is a sequel, and because of that it doesn’t have nearly as much impact and doesn’t work nearly as well as a stand-alone feature. While there is plenty of action, adventure, and drama here for pretty much anyone to enjoy, to truly get the most out of the film, the viewer needs to understand the subtle relationships between the characters as well as the background story presented earlier in the TV series. Hence, for those who have not seen the series beforehand, the movie may leave them feeling a little confused and unsatisfied. Finally, while I found the movie to be very enjoyable, it just doesn’t have the same kind of impact that the series had, and the story, even with its new dynamics, is still fairly linear, and isn’t quite as well developed as it could have been.
However, despite some minor issues, The Conqueror of Shamballa is an excellent film that will definitely please many fans of the Fullmetal Alchemist
TV series. And even those who are new to the FMA universe will most likely find enough to like about in the movie to find it enjoyable and to also give the series a try. This is, without a doubt, high quality fare and a definite a must see for fans of Fullmetal Alchemist.