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19 July 2011 @ 11:22 am
"The Sacred Star of Milos" [Spoiler-Free Review]  
Yesterday being Umi no Hi, I got the day off work and took the opportunity to go see the new FMA movie, "The Sacred Star of Milos", in theaters. My review and impressions are below - and I've kept them as spoiler-free as possible, and will be doing a full spoiler post separately.

(Please remember before you click that I'm going to have to give away at least some of the details of the setup in order to review this thing. Nothing specific beyond the setup and some vague statements about the plot arc will be given, though.)

To be completely honest, I went into the theater with very low expectations. We all went through Shambala together, which is explanation enough, and my reaction to the Milos trailers was basically, "Batman? Really? And I'm going to end up paying money to see this?" (Yes. Yes, I was.)

The bad news is, Milos isn't The Movie all fans hope for - the mind-blowing, fulfilling continuation of a beloved canon that we'd watch again and again. The good news is, Milos is a fairly solid offering all the same, putting favorite characters through familiar paces in a mildly exotic locale with a reasonably interesting cast of new faces.

- ☆ -

When writing the story for Milos, BONES fell back on that old standard of the FMA video games: the era during which Colonel Mustang had the Elric brothers at his disposal to send hither and yon, investigating alchemical oddities. (Considering the number of video games, fanfiction, and filler episodes set during this period, which couldn't have been longer than a couple of years, one begins to wonder if Mustang has a time alchemist squirreled away somewhere. My money's on Riza "You're Off Schedule Again, Sir" Hawkeye.)

In a twist that also reminded me of the video games, the brothers endeavor to get to the bottom of a shocking alchemy-related incident (in this case, tracking down an escaped criminal who explosively broke out of jail with only a few weeks remaining on his sentence, taking with him only a newspaper clipping), and in the process become embroiled in a mysterious conflict (an ethnic rebellion in Creta, involving the ancient alchemy of the Valley of Milos) and help a troubled girl confront the demons of her difficult past.

All of this is nothing new, but it's handled with reasonable panache and flair, and for once the writers stay more or less within the bounds of alchemy as we know it (no angels or Gatebabies or leaping between dimensions, though the Milos Valley form of alchemy flirts with the boundaries of human transmutation in a way that raised my eyebrows). There are plenty of lovingly animated fight scenes, including an impressive set piece with a crashing train on a bridge (how does anyone convince the Elrics to board trains anymore?) and several chase scenes that take advantage of the unique architecture of Table City, that wedding-cake-shaped citadel from the trailers.

The new cast of characters are fun, and although you may find yourself wondering who filed the serial numbers off Yoki and recycled him as a minor villain, they otherwise feel fresh and engaging enough. The writers chose to parallel Ed and Al's sibling bond with another, more damaged sibling relationship in the form of our heroine du jour, Julia Crichton, and her older brother; it feels a bit like a rehash at times, but generally it works. They also took the interesting step of making Julia a love interest for Alphonse instead of Edward, and the resulting bond unfolds slowly enough to not feel too forced, particularly since it's based on one part rescue-romance and five parts mutual fretting about their bonds with their difficult, yet beloved, brothers. Julia herself is surprisingly appealing - she's intelligent, determined, has her own believable goals, and never loses the chance to pick up a gun and use it, if one happens to be lying around.

As for the standard cast, the movie tells us very little about them that we didn't already know (Edward cannot resist lending a hand to a lost cause, Alphonse loves his brother and cannot say no to a pretty girl, Mustang and Hawkeye are helpful in a fight, Winry shows up with a toolcase and a smile right when she's needed), but it has fun putting them through their paces one more time. There are a lot of cast cameos early in the film, but once the action moves to Creta, it's mostly the Elric Show, with Mustang and Hawkeye showing up to be Big Damn Heroes near the end and then...not doing much, really. There are a handful of very funny moments, and the barest whiff of shipservice for the EdWin fans, but Royai fans will have to content themselves with more of the usual office/battlefield back-and-forth and not much else.

In the end, the trouble with Milos isn't with what it is. As it stands, it's a fun enough romp that teaches us a little more about the world of FMA outside the borders of Amestris, and although it takes a slight turn for the weird near the end (and gets startlingly gory - who knew a human body contained that much blood?), it comes nowhere near the delirious strangeness of Shambala, or even the first anime finale. As a film released during the television run of Brotherhood, with the expectation of more films to come, it would have been a blast.

Sadly, Milos is doomed to disappoint fans of the series to some degree, not because of what it does, but because of what it doesn't do. As the first film after the series finale, it has a lot of fan expectations riding on where it might go, but it's trapped by its mid-series setting, and consequently it doesn't develop the regular characters any further, or teach us anything especially new about alchemy. It doesn't advance any ships, reveal any secrets, or move beyond the finale into any new adventures. It's just a standard, classic Military Dog-era adventure for the Elric brothers, and if you set your expectations no higher than that bar, I can almost guarantee you'll have a great time watching it. Just try not to grieve too much about what could have been.

- ☆ -
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on July 19th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
If it does well, maybe we'll get something more later?

Hey, a fangirl can hope.

Thanks for the review!
Russia's greatest love machine: 8Drandom_prophet on July 19th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
Well, this sounds fun! I have to admit that I'm pretty okay with this, and I do like that it sheds a little light on Creta since the actual series never really went into the countries surrounding Amestris that much.
Bay Alexison: Can you hear me?bay115 on July 19th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
Sounds really fun. I'm cool with the movie being a side action/adventure since I like thinking over what other adventures the Elric brothers were into. Also the main female doesn't sound as bad as I thought, LOL.
(noun)nounbeast on July 19th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
Ahh, figured it'd be mid-series (spouse and I loled heartily at the 'time alchemist' remark btw), with Al in the armor in the trailers and all--I kind of like hearing What Those Elric Boys Were Up To anyhow. Being a shameless shipper my ears perked at the promise of an EdWin nibble, but boo no Royai.

Super excited to see glimpses of what goes on outside of Amestris, though!

Thank you for writing this up, and I look forward to the spoilerific followup. :D
aim828: Boot FMAaim828 on July 19th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
Thank you for the review! It sounds decent/pretty good to me. I knew it was going to be a mid-series movie, and I don't have high expectations, which is good in this case. I'm glad it sounds pretty good for what it is.
fullmetalrosefullmetalrose on July 19th, 2011 04:37 am (UTC)
Thank you for the review. Actually to have it more of an action packed movie is what I am more interested in than a romance. FMA is mostly action/drama which is why I adore it so much.

Elizabeth: :3 (Mustang)quietcreativity on July 19th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)

This is probably an incredibly dumb question. Where/how did you see the movie?

I haven't even seen previews, and I was super bummed about it, since I was at Anime Expo last year when it was revealed that FUNimation had the rights to the movie.

Please..to share info with a curious and out of the loop FMA fan?
Arijan (pronounced "AH-ree-yawn"): you shouldn't have ♥tobu_ishi on July 19th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
I'm living in Osaka at the moment. ^^; So it was just a matter of looking up theaters and taking the train to Namba Park.

There are previews up on YouTube, though! Just search for FMA Sacred Star or similar.
Cynthia: Beautiful Daycsakuras on July 19th, 2011 05:25 am (UTC)
Great review, thanks for writing it. :D I wasn't really expecting anything great from the movie either, but now I'm looking forward to it more~ (And I'm happy to say I'll be able to see it fairly soon~ yay Otakon!)
sairei on July 19th, 2011 05:50 am (UTC)
lmao that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the trailer: "It's the PS2 game formula!" Weird villains, lolwhut moments, God Mode magical girl, magical girl falling in love with an Elric...

Thanks for the review, it was very informative and well-written. I've tossed aside all expectations for this movie so I'll enjoy it in all its fanfic-like non-glory.
Arijan (pronounced "AH-ree-yawn")tobu_ishi on July 19th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
To be honest, Julia was fairly mild as far as God Mode goes. [Fairly major spoilers: She's the daughter of two skilled alchemists, but not a very good alchemist herself (they died before they could give her much training), so she mostly sticks to mundane hand-to-hand combat and firearms...until she swallows a Philosopher's Stone, which we've seen several times is enough to godmode even the most mundane hobby-alchemist.] Like I said, she's more appealing than your typical FMA game heroine.
Kasumi Lovegood: Chibi Ed *-* Winry is here xDkasumicc on July 19th, 2011 06:19 am (UTC)
Finally, a review! ♥ Thanks a million for it! It sounds way better than what I had expected, ngl.

I think BONES decided to go safe this time and played inside the boundaries of canon, instead of extending and going beyond an established canon as they did with Shamballa. I'm a fan of Shamballa myself, but I know this movie faced a lot of criticism even among those who had the anime canon as their only canon. I feel that, had they pulled out a move beyond the finale with Milos, criticism was unavoidable; there's just no way you can please everyone unless you have Arakawa herself writing the script.

I still feel that a movie inside the Brotherhood universe was unnecessary. So will be any future movie, if they have any. But if any future movie's going to be like this, I guess I have nothing to fear, at least...
bob_fishbob_fish on July 19th, 2011 08:08 am (UTC)
Thanks for the thoughtful, nicely written review! That was a pleasure to read, and the movie sounds pretty fun. I definitely think I'm going to enjoy it more if I go in expecting neither the premise-nuking loopiness of Shamballa nor a mindblowing two hours that adds new depths to the story.

I think the thing that cheers me most is that Al gets the romance. We all know the Sues make a beeline for Ed, elbowing Winry and Al in the eye as they go.
qashqai1 on July 19th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! The movie sounds fun, and exactly like something I expected. I think I'm gonna love it.
delectable tea, or deadly poison?: [fma] ALL RIGHT!genarti on July 19th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for the review! I love your style, and I think I'm definitely going to enjoy this movie -- but it's definitely helpful to know what to expect from it.
karinnyan on July 19th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the review!!! Yeah...I suspected that it wouldn't advance anything regarding the story since Edo is still short and Aru is still in the armour. In fact I heard that Arakawa-san was going to release an extra volume for the manga (Vol 11.5); a "manga version" of the movie. Also, Julia seems like a pretty interesting character. Despite not being a sequel to the finale of FMA, i'm definitely watching this when it comes out :D

Again, thank you so much for the review!! :D
Arijan (pronounced "AH-ree-yawn"): time to disco!tobu_ishi on July 20th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
Yup, they were handing out the mini-volume at the door. The cover design is exactly like an official volume, but it's very slim. The first third is Chapter 45.5 (in which the Elrics fix things around town and find out about Havoc's paralysis, and then we get a brief run-up to the events of the movie), the middle third is production notes and sketches from the film, and the last third is various staff commentary and advertisements for merchandise.

I may need to scan some of it at some point. :D
karinnyan on July 21st, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
It would be awesome if you could scan some of it :D

I'm currently collecting the manga and I'm at Vol 25 :D (i've read it all already but my hobby is to collect manga :D), just missing 2 more x3 and well...dunno if I would be able to get the mini-volume 11.5 at my country D:

anyway, i'm karin, nice to meet you and thanks again for sharing :D
militsa: Alphonse pleased with selfmilitsa on July 19th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the review! I have to say I am relieved that it's What it Says on the Box, i.e. it's a mid-series piece of action and more fun than drama. I actually have a fondness for the deep weirdness that was Shamballa so I'm perfectly content that they didn't try to replicate that, which was perfect in its disappointing bizarreness, if that makes any sense. I'm actually looking forward to this because it sounds like it won't upset me LOL.
kristensk: fma colonel epickristensk on July 19th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the wonderful review! It sounds like this movie is going to be everything I'd hoped for - more, action-packed fun with some of my favorite characters. Now, I can't wait for Otakon and the chance to see it!
Té Verde con Menta: Roy/Riza Awesomemintysage on July 20th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
After reading this review, I can say I am more than eager/excited now to see Milos. I was a little worried at first about Julia, but judging from your descriptions, I think I'm going to enjoy her character as well.

Thank you so much for this!
Reckless Endangerment to Youthlotuseyes on July 23rd, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm more or less just happy to see more FMA. I'm seeing this at Otakon, so that's exciting enough for me (I saw Shambala first at Otakon too, which is what began my love of FMA oddly enough, so it holds a dear place in my heart).

I'm glad tho that they didnt' do a mediocre 'after brotherhood finale' movie as however. as much as I'd like to see everyone post-finale, I'm deeply worried it would be troublesome to continuity (they did a well enough job to stick to the manga, let's not shake that boat).
ξ( >◡❛)ξ▄︻▇▇〓〓 Tiro Finale!: Rizawink || by electrohoplunelight on July 23rd, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! I laughed at the "filing serial numbers off Yoki" bit. xD
Laurenlost_is_there on September 22nd, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
Great review- thanks for being honest. I haven't been able to find an intelligent word about the new movie at all. All I've found has been mindless ranting about how awesome it is that it's coming out. I have to admit that I am a huge fan of the 2003 anime canon, but I was really hoping for something better than "Ed and Al go on some assignment for Mustang," but I guess there's not much else they can do for it, now.

Again, thanks for the good review, even though it solidified my worries about SSM. :)
Arijan (pronounced "AH-ree-yawn")tobu_ishi on September 22nd, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
No problem! I feel bad about never getting around to that spoiler post before the film premiered at Otakon, but I'm glad the review was helpful. : )

(Don't be too sad! It's still a good movie in its own right, and nothing in it will make the fandom cringe the way Shambala did. I still hold out hope that they'll do a movie set after Brotherhood someday, maybe following the brothers' adventures in the East and West.)
Laurenlost_is_there on September 22nd, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
I'm not gonna lie- I liked Shamballa because it was different. And I didn't mind the way it ended, unlike everyone else in the world haha. I realize that I'm in super-minority, but the 2003 canon is my favorite.

What could they really do with an after-Brotherhood, though? I know it sounds good in theory, but what could they really do? Al's adventures in the East would be fun, but you can't really pull a movie out of it unless you take the "wtf" Shamballa route. And that will make the Brotherhood fans furious.