Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Straight from Japan from some dudes Power Mac comes the CGI / Live action anime based super hero drama ‘Casshern’.  A film that manages, all in one fell swoop, to squeeze in  two hours worth of confusion, clarity, boredom, intense action, nonsense, and poignancy.  

Based on a popular Japanese Anime, the film version of ‘Casshern’ takes place in a post apocalyptic future where there is still a brutal and violent war taking place and society itself in grave danger.  Doctor Kotaro Azuma (Akira Teraro) is desperately developing a technology called ‘Neo Cells’ that are intended to assist in the regeneration of lost limbs.  More importantly, his desperation to succeed in completing his research is compounded by his need to save his dying, blind wife Midiori (Kanako Hugichi).  Dr. Azuma’s single minded focus has strained his relationship with his son, Testuya (Yusuke Iseya) who against the wishes of parents joins the war effort as a soldier and is subsequently killed.  His death shatters the life of his girlfriend Luna (Kumiko Aso) who’s father, Dr.Kozuki (Fumiyo Kohinata) is a close friend of Dr. Azuma and is a top government armor design specialist. 

An experiment at Azuma’s lab goes terribly awry and the various human limbs in this big vat of experimental goo he’s created begin to fuse and form into conscious humanoids.  The Government immediately begins to wipe out these new humanoids by the thousands, but the few that survive form a new race, calling themselves the Neo-Sapiens.  They mobilize a huge robotic army and are determined to destroy the Homo-sapiens and begin a new race of people.  Dr. Azuma takes the body of his

deceased son Testuya and dips him in this genetic goo bringing him back to life.  However the only thing maintaining his body structure is this super genetic armour designed by Dr. Kozuki which also gives him amazing super powers.  It is now up Testsuya, now known as Casshern, to stop the Neo-Sapiens and save the world from total destruction.  Phew!

I don’t know if that description confused you or not, but I tried like to make it as clear and concise as possible, and also realize that I had to excise a whole ton of crap out.  As noted by others, ‘Casshern’ is similar in it’s creation to ‘Sky Captain, and the World of Tomrrow’ and ‘Sin City’ in that the vast majority of the film was shot on green screen and the rest of the elements composited in CGI.  The look of ‘Casshern’ in my opinion at least, easily outdistances the look and the scope Sky Captain and Sin City as it takes it’s CG environments and creates a world that is so creative and vibrant that it really has to be seen to be appreciated.  No real attempt appears to be made to make anything look ‘real’ and all of the sets are kept squarely in ‘fantasy’ and as far as the look of the film goes, and it works wonders.

Now as far as the film itself, it’s definitely a mixed bag.  The first forty five minutes are dreadfully boring and quite honestly, I had to fight to keep myself awake.  I understand they are laying the foundation for this deep, involving, over-reaching epic, but for a long while it’s all setup, repetitive setup at that, with no payoff.  It also doesn’t help that the narrative is extremely confusing with a lot elements left for the viewer to assume.  Considering how long they took to set up the story, setting aside a little more time to clearly explain to us what was going on couldn’t have hurt.

Finally, when Testsuya dons the super armor and becomes Casshern, the film really starts to pick up his pace.  The Neo-Sapiens are pretty much wiping everything out and Casshern rises up, just discovering what he is capable of, and what follows is one of the more spectacular battle scenes ever filmed… errrr… computerized.  The action is truly phenomenal, and since the filmmakers weren’t going for photorealism, it’s truly over top, colorful and almost comic in nature staying true to it’s source material in that regard.   Also the story, though still a bit convoluted, begins taking a more cohesive shape and begins to become almost interesting.  Almost.  There are a lot messages that director Kazuaki Kiyira is trying slide across and he only has a little bit of time to do it in.  From Mankind’s inability to find peace, to the oppressive role of money minded corporations, to runaway genetic research, right to life, nuclear proliferation, gun control and more and more and more.

‘Casshern’ ends pretty much as vaguely as it begins with a lot of open speculation.  It could be the world ends or maybe it begins a new or maybe… hell, who knows.  ‘Casshern’ is definitely worth seeing simply for the spectacle of it all, and maybe those whose conscious runs deeper than mine, and those who don’t mind watching a film15 times will have fewer problems deciphering the cryptic messages, but still, for a single viewing it’s a movie any self respecting sci-fi fan won’t want to miss.

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