Movie Review: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star Of Milos (2011)

The first time I saw Fullmetal Alchemist was half a decade ago, when I noticed the show running late night on Cartoon Network. Such an intriguing title; I recorded an episode and watched it the next day. The animation wasn’t bad, but coming into the show during the middle of the plot arc was too difficult. However, knowing it was a series, I thought to myself, well, if it wraps up and starts all over again, I’ll catch it from the beginning and see what it’s really about. Catching it from episode one helped immensely. As the series progressed, I began to get hooked on it—yes, I would officially call myself a fan at that point—but then something terrible happened! I was recording them at night, and watching the next day, well, about at the mid-point of the series, this new episode sported a different opening credits sequence, was calling itself Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and seemed to be a repeat of the start of the series.

Why are they rerunning the first episode?!

And why does the animation look different? Better, even.

What the fuck?!

I immediately paused it, went to the computer and searched for the title to learn that we Americans aren’t the only ones fond of remakes. FMA is based on an ongoing manga, which both series are based on, but when the first of the two incarnations was being created the manga was not complete, and when it hit the end of the unfinished comic, the creators of the show were forced to make up everything that came next. The manga was eventually completed, and soon there was a remake of the series, this time adhering strictly to the plot of the manga.

Before I get into my review of the movie, I think I should explain what Fullmetal Alchemist is about,  for those who aren’t familiar with the plot.

It’s set in a world that looks just like ours, mostly from the turn of the century, as far as I can discern, but in this world, alchemy is common practice. The series focuses on two teenage brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are practicing alchemists. When they were young, their mother died. Heartbroken, they attempt to bring her back to life using alchemy, but in this world even magical forces have laws that must be obeyed. The most crucial one is NO human transmutation (i.e. bringing the dead back to life). If such a feat is attempted the practitioners must be prepared to make one hell of a sacrifice, and even after that sacrifice is made, the person that has been brought back will still not be the person that once existed, presuming they can be resurrected beyond the burping, and sputtering and gagging organic mush that commonly results from such dabblings.

During the ritual Ed loses his right arm and left leg and Al loses his entire body, but Ed had the presence of mind to bind his brother’s soul to a suit of armor nearby. Ed survives, and his missing limbs are replaced with automail armor, a type of almost cybernetic prosthesis commonly used in this world.

The series follows the two boys as they work professionally as alchemists and search for a way to restore their bodies to normal, believing that one must exist. Both series spawned two movies. The first one was called, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, and is tied closely to the events of the first series. The second movie, which follows the second series, is more stand-alone. It feels more like it could be an episode sandwiched into the series, but a more grand and operatic one, with even better animation. You don’t need to have seen any of FMA: Brotherhood to enjoy it. I enjoyed both features immensely.

The plot of this new movie, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, can be summed up in a dialogue exchange on a train between two characters, Winry Rockbell, a childhood friend of the brothers, and their boss, Colonel Roy Mustang:

Winry: . . . . a lot of things can happen in five years . . . it’s cruel sometimes that you can never go back to the past . . .

Mustang: . . .  dwelling on the past is a waste of time. The present time belongs to the one who is brave enough to seize it . . .

 To me, this is the heart of what the series is about, and what the boys painfully learn as they trek from adventure to adventure seeking that one thing that will give them back their bodies.

Milos starts off much like the series did, except this time it’s a brother and a sister interested in alchemy who have their parents violently torn away from them. Unlike the Elric brothers who stayed together, these siblings, named Ashleigh and Julia, are separated by five long years. And when they reunite their goals are no longer aligned. They come from a city that was once whole but has been divided by war. Both cities have a legend about something called the Sanguine Star, a stone that will give the owner immense power. Both sides are in search of it, each hoping it will give them the upper hand, and utter dominion over the other.

The Elric brothers get caught up in this civil war when, by happenstance, they encounter the brother, who is an escaped prisoner wielding alchemic powers they have never seen before, powers that may have the ability to restore their broken bodies.

The film is quite bloody, especially as it nears the end. People die, and most times brutally, at the hands of magic, bullets, and the claws of a beast. Believe me, there’s a reason the Star of Milos is called Sanguine. The animation (character, action and background) on this new movie is absolutely gorgeous, and you’ll really feel the fruits of the animation studio’s labor during the battle sequences, especially the final one.

You can get the movie as a DVD/Blu-Ray Combo or as a standard DVD only. The standard DVD comes in a 2-Disc set. Disc One is the movie, along with that you get a commentary with the U.S. cast that dubbed the movie, the U.S. trailer and a set of trailers for other Funimation releases.

A brief word about the commentary. Pretty much every major cast member is present and accounted for, but they are not all together. Each one shows up, discusses the film for a short time, then exits for the next actor or actress to show up and do the same. If you really want to get a sense of how unique and beloved the Fullmetal Alchemist mythology is, tune in for Vic Mignogna’s session towards the end of the flick. He voices Edward Elric and has a real love for the series and anime in general and it comes through big time.

The second disc comes with an hour and four minute documentary titled, Fullmetal Alchemist: Making Of Sacred Star Of Milos, a series of theatrical trailers, TV Spots, and a Web Promo for the movie. These are original Japanese material, and are subtitled in English.

In closing, if you’re any kind of fan of the Elric brothers, this new movie is a must have for your collection.

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