Sunday, 12 February 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

I think it's fair to say that come the end of its broadcast run, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood had simply blown me away time and again in terms of both its story and the way it was presented.  Even though that made for a perfect ending to the series, I was more than a little happy at the idea of visiting a new theatrical side-story for the Elric brothers shoe-horned into the midst of that show.  The result?  The Sacred Star of Milos.

The film certainly wastes no time in introducing us to the new facets of its particular story, as we see a relatively well to-do family rescued from the midst of  massacre - a family with links to alchemy, which quickly sees them targeted and the parents of the unit killed mercilessly.  But what becomes of their children?  It's here that Edward and Alphonse enter proceedings, courtesy of a prison break-out in Central by a man known as Melvin Voyager - someone who manages to hide his abilities as an alchemist until making good his escape just months before his release from jail was scheduled.  Why would someone do such a thing?  The timing and circumstances of his escape lead them to the release of a girl named Julia Crichton, imprisoned for illegally entering a place called Table City.  Putting two and two together, the Elric brothers set off to investigate.

One massive train-centric set piece later (Thomas the Tank Engine this ain't), we arrive to chaos at Table City, with the escapee Melvin and a group known as the Black Bats both fighting over possession of an escaping Julia.  As Ed and Al are dragged into this mess, we end up in a deep valley surrounding Table City, and learn of its people - despite inhabiting an area known as Cleta, they are in fact the put-upon last surviving inhabitants of Milos; a story linking us in to those opening scenes as brother Ashley and sister Julia work to bring a new beginning to the people of the area.  The main goal of their efforts revolves around something called the "Star of Blood" - an items which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Philosopher's Stone...

So goes the basic story of The Sacred Star of Milos, although of course there are more than a few twists and turns along the way.  With its series proper completed, it's clearly quite difficult to create a story that doesn't disturb what comes before, and this leaves the film with almost an overly light touch, particularly in terms of the characters it deploys - with no Scar, Lan Fan or Homunculus on show, nobody really greedily gobbles up their screen time as some of the more fascinating characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are want to do.  Similarly, the story has a bit of a "seen it all before" feel to it - there are some clever twists for sure, but there's nothing that really makes The Sacred Star of Milos stand out from the crowd, and it certainly never lives up to some of the jaw-dropping revelations within the series itself.  As a whole, its story is functional rather than spectacular.

In essence, much of the movie seems to be built around a pair of (admittedly impressive) set pieces - the aforementioned train-led scenes, and of course the culmination of the movie as the desire for the power of the Star of Blood reaches its climax.  As a whole, the film's animation seems to aim towards fluidity and movement throughout over detail, and that serves it best during these action scenes as chaos reigns in the midst of destruction and blood-shed aplenty - it's something that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood never failed to pull off with aplomb, and this is again the case here.

Overall, it was perhaps always going to be impossible for The Sacred Star of Milos to match the intensity of Brotherhood, and there's no doubt that it does indeed fail to do so.  That doesn't make it a bad film, but it does feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity given how limited its scope is and the way it criminally under-utilises some of its characters (Mustang, I'm looking at you).  Fans of the franchise will be happy to see more of the Elric brothers I'm sure, but beyond that this is a decent effort that does little to be memorable in the long run beyond serving as a couple of hours of half-decent entertainment.

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