|"Fullmetal Alchemist" is based on the manga series by Hiromu Arakawa.|
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Fraternal alchemy, from Japan
Just because a Japanese animated film is screening at the Museum of Fine Arts doesn’t mean that you can count on Miyazaki-caliber artistry. At the same time, “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos’’ is more than some cheap feature advertisement for the imported kid-collectible craze of the moment. The film offers occasional glimpses of the energetic entertainment that’s made the “Alchemist’’ saga a staple of both manga comics and TV anime over the last decade. If only the movie and its culturally characteristic rhythms translated better overall. (The version shown to the Globe featured the original Japanese-language voice performances; the MFA is screening the English-language version.)
The heroes of the “Alchemist’’ mythos are Edward and Alphonse Elric (voiced by Vic Mignogna and Maxey Whitehead), young brothers hailing from an Industrial Revolution-inspired fantasyscape, and scarred by a disastrous attempt to resurrect their mother through techno-magic. As a flashback efficiently explains, the episode left Ed with a morphing mechanical arm, while Al was stuck with a sumo-robot body; neither of them is all that bummed, considering.
The brothers are drawn into an adventure involving Julia (Alexis Tipton), a teenage girl with alchemy skills of her own, who ends up leading her slum-dwelling people, the Milos, against their oppressors. The filmmakers aim for apparent geopolitical relevance with repeated references to the Milos’ usurped desert metropolis as “the holy land,’’ but the parallels are muddled. Among the narrative clutter crowding the allegories: magma spills, a blood-fueled artifact, and a contrivance-filled mystery about what Julia’s fugitive brother (Matthew Mercer) is after. Soporific exposition culminates in a visually chaotic final act that makes “Tintin’’ look downright restrained. Better, sometimes, to just appreciate the scenery, like the circular canyon where the Milos are confined.
Ed’s moments of breezy heroism in particular go a long way toward explaining the franchise’s appeal. But with all that’s going on here, the brothers are virtually bumped from headlining to costarring in their own movie - an unintended effect, you’d guess, of a push to give the movie standalone accessibility. It’s a viewing frustration, but presumably Ed and Al are copacetic with it.
Tom Russo can be reached at email@example.com.