Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Romi Pak, Rie Kugimiya, Maaya Sakamoto
Written by: Yûichi Shinbo, based on the manga by Hiromu Arakawa
Directed by: Kazuya Murata
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 05/02/2011

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Chemical Brothers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fullmetal Alchemist began as a popular manga series, then became a TV series in Japan, followed by a 2005 feature film. Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos is the first sequel, and the first to be released in U.S. theaters. That's exciting for fans, but not so exciting for others, as the new movie does little to bring newcomers up to speed. For example, since the heroes -- The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse -- have already been established elsewhere, they are not very deeply developed here; most of the time is spent on the convoluted plot and supporting characters.

Ed and Al are alchemist heroes, trapped in different bodies after an accident. After a mysterious prisoner breaks out of prison with only a short time left on his sentence, the brothers attempt to solve the puzzle. Their investigation leads them to a beautiful alchemist named Julia, who lost her parents and her brother years earlier. Before long, they find themselves in a valley inhabited by the Milos, a repressed people struggling against exploitation. Julia hopes to lead the Milos in a revolution, and she's even prepared to use the deadly power of the Philosopher's Stone to do it.

The plot is ridiculously complex, but also sometimes simplistic, as when basic dramatic turns and arcs occur. Its big, outsized themes and end-of-the-world dramatics are fairly familiar to this type of anime. However, the movie is gorgeously animated and has many powerful images and ideas, and what little we do get of Ed and Al is enough of a sampler to spur viewers on to find more in this series.

For Bay Area readers, the movie opens Friday, Jan 20 at San Francisco Film Society Cinema.
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