Edward Elric is a talented alchemist, perhaps the best in the world, but he has a troubled past. As a child, Edward and his younger brother Alphonse attempted a forbidden transmutation to return their mother to life. The failed attempt took a terrible toll, leaving Edward missing limbs and Alphonse’s soul bound to a hollow suit of armor. Edward now spends his time split between his duties as a state alchemist and searching for the elusive philosopher’s stone, the only item that can restore Alphonse to his human body.
The transition from anime to live action has always been a tricky one, and filmmakers seldom handle it with much success. In this case, Fullmetal Alchemist fairs relatively well, though the film winds up falling into some of the same pitfalls that plague others of its kind. Perhaps the filmmakers were a bit too focused on keeping the anime looks and tropes, which translate relatively well during some of the effects-driven scenes and less so during other parts of the film. While the cutesy anime bits usually play well with popping cartoon hearts and overly exaggerated animated features, this type of thing falls apart pretty readily in the live action version of Fullmetal Alchemist.
All that being said, the film makes for an entertaining watch. The backdrop for this story combines an early 20th-century feel with the magical science of alchemy that permeates the world of Fullmetal Alchemist. With this aspect, the movie does a decent job of capturing the setting and, as is the case throughout the film, it tends to shine when it leaves its anime roots behind and focuses on the story.
The B rating may be a bit generous in the case of Fullmetal Alchemist, as it takes into account an appreciation for anime and an interest in its source material. Those who have little interest in the subject matter aren’t going to find much to change their minds here, and there are much better routes to follow if you have a desire to explore a new genre. Still, this is a step in the right direction and shows the potential to take many of the great stories anime has to offer and bring them to a wider audience.