As Andy Muschietti‘s filmmaking career continues to thrive, he’s definitely dreaming big. His Hollywood trajectory has only kept skyrocketing ever since he broke out as a feature film director with the supernatural horror movie Mama. Since then, Muschietti has taken a break from producing his original stories on the big screen. Instead, he most recently turned in a fantastic Stephen King adaptation for the modern age. Well, half of one. His version of IT is far from over, as it is split into two parts with the latter portion due out in September 2019.
Muschietti is not slowing down in the slightest and seems intent on exploring different avenues of horror regardless. We previously heard he will collaborate with the Russo brothers of Marvel fame to translate a narrative art book on screen. But Muschietti has also already set his sights on an even bigger project on the horizon that truly rivals a 1000-page King novel. Variety has announced that Muschietti has boarded the Warner Bros. feature adaptation of Hajime Isayama‘s famed manga series Attack on Titan.
The popular manga, which Kodansha Comics began publishing in 2009, features a plethora of genres rolled into a fantastically nightmarish extravaganza. In a post-apocalyptic era on the fictional Paradis Island, a community of citizens is isolated from the outside world behind three concentric Walls. These partitions evidently block out Titans, giant humanoid creatures who have a penchant for devouring people.
Attack on Titan particularly focuses on three leads, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert. They all wonder what life is like beyond the confines of the Walls. However, when a Titan breaks through and wreaks havoc, killing Eren’s mother in the process, a revenge plot is kickstarted in our young protagonist. Eren and his friends enlist in the military, determined to bring the Titans down. However, they soon find out that there is more to these towering beasts than meets the eye.
After almost 10 years on the market, Attack on Titan is now one of the most popular manga series of all time, having sold up to 76 million copies. It has become a multimedia franchise in its own right, too. The most famous and lauded of the lot is an ongoing serial anime of the same name, but spin-offs, spoofs, films, music, video games, and novels all add to the cultural salience of the Attack on Titan series.
It was only a matter of time before Hollywood pounced on the property. In fact, Warner Bros. producer David Heyman, most famous for bringing the Harry Potter universe to cinematic life, has apparently been chasing the movie rights since early 2017. Those initial reports about an Attack on Titan film — specifically a remake of a Japanese live-action project helmed by Gamera‘s Shinji Higuchi — were refuted by publisher Kodansha. Nevertheless, both parties have now come to an agreement to adapt this intense mythological story in America.
So, how would Muschietti’s version fare? Variety’s report makes no mention of a reboot, which leads me to believe that Warner Bros. is looking to mine the actual manga for its own adaptation. This could bode well for Muschietti’s film, as the Japanese live-action take on Attack on Titan was met with mixed responses. Higuchi’s lofty two-part venture notably includes numerous changes to the series’ lore. And these brand-new additional elements are not necessarily tacked on for the better.
The lack of absolute fidelity doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker in adaptations. Yet although Higuchi’s Attack on Titan is as visually ambitious as its source material demands (iffy CGI aside) and rife with the requisite destructive Titan action, the film is ultimately just ham-handed. In an attempt to marry drama and action into a cohesive experience, the movie comes across as needlessly exaggerated. None of the characters really undergo much development either, which isn’t ideal for a series that gained so much popularity because of its fascinating roster, to begin with.
After Mama and IT: Chapter One, I trust Muschietti to create character-driven stories. IT is a great filmic interpretation of King’s novel overall, given that it is very focused on delivering both story and scares based on its child protagonists while generally being respectful of these characters’ plights and viewpoints.
That said, Muschietti has demonstrated that he doesn’t mind holding out on important mythological aspects in favor of such narratives. IT doesn’t make much headway explaining the cosmic underpinnings behind the creation of its primary antagonist Pennywise, save for perhaps one cursory mention of a turtle in the middle of the film. We’re still practically a year away from IT: Chapter Two and I’m already worried at just how much material the movie has left to cover based on what’s left over in King’s book.
However, perhaps what makes Attack on Titan a comparably easier task in the vein of onscreen translation is the fact that even after 10 years of storytelling — amounting to 26 volumes of manga — there are specific arcs that Muschietti can follow in order to make his film work. Attack on Titan is intricate in its cultivation of backstory and historical context. But picking a couple of plots at the beginning of the series that bank on the mystery behind the Titans’ existence as well as the personal journeys of Eren and his friends is an accessible way to adapt that sprawling mythology.
Moreover, while there are legitimate concerns regarding the literal vastness of Attack on Titan‘s visual demands, hopefully, those will be tempered by the involvement of a huge studio. Ensuring that Muschietti’s film improves on the crude CGI of the Japanese live-action movie would be a valid investment, anyway, seeing as the narrative mechanisms of the series involve larger-than-life imagery.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Muschietti’s Attack on Titan ends up being franchisable somewhere down the line should the movie pan out; that’s probably the hope. Nonetheless, the sheer commitment of adapting Attack on Titan for the big screen yet again is a huge — and possibly foolhardy — undertaking for any filmmaker and studio. These guys had better be ready to deliver on the epic scale that this story deserves.