Attack on Titan: The Movie - Part 1 ended on a humdinger of a cliff hanger, so this concluding half of the two part movie is one which carries a fair amount of expectation regardless of reactions to the first instalment. Picking up more or less straight after the end of part one, the situation continues to be desperate as the mission to acquire explosives to blow the wall closed is an abject failure. Thanks to Eren’s efforts, the Titan onslaught has eased off but he now finds himself in the direct firing line of sinister dictator Kubal. Coming up with an alternative plan to recover the dud bomb we saw in the beginning of the first film, our intrepid band of comrades decide to return to their former home, paving the way for the massive Titan on Titan frenzy finale.
Whereas Attack on Titan: The Movie - Part 1 attempted to reframe itself as a monster movie, End of the World places itself firmly within the comic book genre. Rather than a frightened populace desperately trying to protect itself from the sudden arrival of man-eating giants, End of the World introduces a series of human lead super-Titans who will eventually be duking it out during the film’s finale.
Largely, End of the World eschews the thematic concerns of the first film in favour of large-scale action scenes but it does come up with a few new ideas of its own. Towards the beginning, it seems as if the film is about to undercut all the unpleasant fascistic connotations of the previous film by bringing Eren into contact with the Survey Corps who are now the rebel resistance, but this turns out to be a hollow offering as the squad is then painted as a renegade militia commanded by a madman.
After his original imprisonment, Eren wakes up in a minimalist, low ceilinged white room which contains a ‘50s style jukebox with a cover version of the old-time hit The End of the World already playing. Despite the ban on machines “the government” has apparently stockpiled some of these “artifacts” for their own use which also includes a rather prominent remote control for an Apple TV. At this point we’re shown some archive footage which explains the birth of the Titans and the creation of the “modern” society, the implication being that the Titans are part of an elaborate governmental propaganda scheme designed to keep the unruly populace firmly in line. The Titans reappeared at a political crisis point as the government felt the loyalty of its people waning and also feared that the plan to explore outside of the walls would weaken their authority. Having already instituted authoritarian policies such as limiting access to childbirth, the government used the Titan threat to galvanise support through fear.
This sequence begins to offer an entirely different reading of the film - one which is more fully hinted at in the final post-credit sequence, but is then largely forgotten. Aside from a nasty slice of possible domestic violence and some PTSD, End of the World stays away from further character-driven drama, leaving Shikishima to ham things up with an increasingly camp performance whilst behaving in a very ambiguous way towards Eren which proves awkward when considering further information provided regarding Eren’s childhood. As a whole, the Attack on Titan movies have a major problem with internal consistency, piling plot holes upon plot holes yet still failing to make any of its central conceits remotely compelling.
However, End of the World does improve on some aspects of the previous film - notably in its tighter running time and action set piece finale (lengthy exposition sequence and extremely long recap aside). Production values appear a little better, there is far less of the bad CGI which marred the first film and there’s even some more interesting production design to be found too. The Hollywood style heroic ending with the sun shining and the score soaring might appear less clichéd when considered alongside the alternate reading offered by the post-credits sequence, but then again this may be another red herring just like the resistance group which originally appeared to offer hope but was then summarily discredited.
The two live action Attack on Titan movies come at the original franchise from vastly different angles and are often at odds with each other. Some of these inconsistencies may be explained by the post-credits sequence which is, perhaps, a hook for a putative third film but only adds an additional layer of confusion to what is already an overloaded premise. All of that aside, End of the World does offer a slightly more straightforward, comic book style trial by combat action heading into its finale even if it does lay on the exposition a little thickly. Whilst offering some mild improvements over the first film, End of the World fails to rescue the project as a whole but is likely to provide satisfaction to those left hanging after the curtain fell on part one.