The concept set out at the end of the Fullmetal Alchemist series was not inherently a bad one: while I'm not usually keen on mixing a fantasy world with the real one (beyond Narnia-style framing narratives), particularly not so late in a series, the idea was not really explored in depth. Which isn’t to say it was anything more than a starting point for a distinctly average story.
This wasn't a bad movie tie-in, but didn't really fulfil its potential. A little too much mindless action, and not as much character exploration as I would have hoped. I feel the potential was a little wasted; the peripheral characters get so little screen time that I wished the movie was twice as long, with less of Nazis and dragon-Envy and more discussion of why things were happening as they were.
Still, there was a great scene with the two surviving (non-dragon) homonculi, Wrath and a rather different Gluttony. Alfons Heinrich was a good character, sweet yet selfish and a great contrast to Alphonse Elric. Some great little in-jokes with alternate versions of major characters made me smile, though why they're all German/gypsies while Ed is apparently British I'll never know, and I wasn't keen on the way Hughes was used.
Despite this, I found it all highly enjoyable, well-animated (with a bit of dodgy CG) and with great vocal performances and some very funny moments. And the Flame Alchemist kicked some serious butt. They don't really try to answer all the questions the fans have had, instead just having a new story to concentrate on: you know what happens to pretty much all the characters, but whether your question is 'Do Roy and Riza get together?' or 'Will Ed ever get back home?', you'll just have to keep watching, or go to the manga. They had a very open-ended final sequence. If you don't mind knowing that, read on...
Ed and Al end up staying in our world at the end, Al with his own body, leaving poor Winry behind. WWII is looming, of course, and we don't know what has happened to Envy (who was used to open the portal between the worlds), so there is definitely no resolution.
Personally, I don't particularly want to see the next movie being Ed and Al Battle The Nazis...Hess and Haushofer were quite enough for me.
Not the story or ending I would have chosen, but definitely a worthy next step in the Fullmetal Alchemist anime story.
(originally written 24.7.05. There was an earthquake while I was in the Tokyo cinema! This was the last story in the original series’ continuity, as the next Hagaren animated by Bones was the Brotherhood reboot)