As a superfluous addition to the long line of popular Fullmetal Alchemist mangas, TV shows, and now films, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos manages to be an entertaining and faithful expansion on the original material while being inconsequential to it. To know how the writers pull off this feature-length, fast-paced tangent to the completed TV series is by no means necessary to enjoy the action-packed adventure, but it helps to understand where the film falls into place. Writers Hiromu Arakawa and Yûichi Shinbo place this throwaway storyline, of main characters Alphonse and Edward Elric venturing to another country for the first time to find fugitive alchemist Melvin Voyager, as happening after episode 20 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It’s in this episode that Alphonse still believes that it’s possible to find his brother Edward’s body (his soul occupies a suit of armor), so it’s conceivable that they could jump on a train heading out of town in hopes of finding it, as they do here.
Once The Sacred Star of Milos starts, however, there’s little time or need to think about any of this as the film quickly boils up a plot full of new characters and places—albeit in a familiar broth of alchemy, spirituality, and familial bonds—that take you away from the familiar points of reference in the show to a blank canvas that the film can run its course on. Imaginative, brisk, epic, and dark in a way that few live-action films are, The Sacred Star of Milos, besides being hard to keep up with, may have jumped the track, marginalizing its main characters to focus on those they encounter on their journey, such as the evil Ashleigh and his sister Julia, who must defeat Ashleigh to save herself and her city, but the film retains the franchise’s themes on the abuse of science and the sacredness and impenetrability of truth and fills its self-contained world with a remarkable cosmology.
Though it has the requisite adolescent-boy bait—action, adventure, science, brotherhood—for a shōnen manga, Fullmetal Alchemist‘s tone has always been rather mature, its content graphic and its main characters tragic. While The Sacred Star of Milos keeps the brothers’ background surface deep, the film opens up an equally bloody Greek tragedy (many of the places have Greek names) of its own with rivalries between siblings Julia and Ashleigh, and the ethnically oppressed and displaced people of Milos and their oppressors from neighboring Creta who live in Table City, once the holy land of Milos. Without giving away anything, it’s the suspense around the human blood that at one point pipes through the ancient city of Milos that’s the most memorable detail in this rich tapestry, as it both recalls the at times barbaric nature of ancient civilizations and serves as a visually stark metaphor for the power of the people.