Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As you get older, my friends, you will learn that nostalgia plays a big part in your life.  Whether itís true or not, everything that happened when you were younger will always seem better.  I mention this because thereís a scene in this movie ĎGantzí, the live action version of a popular and controversial Japanese manga, that almost renders me incapable of giving a fair and unbiased opinion of it.  A scene that took me back to watching Saturday morning television and the movie ĎDaimajiní.  Iím telling you, animated gigantic statues stomping on people never gets old.

College student Kei (Kuzanari Ninomiya) is kind of walking through life invisible.  Even his own father doesnít know when heís around.  One day while traveling to a job interview he see what he thinks is an old elementary school friend in Kato (Keníichi Matsuyama).  Yup, thatís Kato all right, even though Kei completely ignores him for some reason.  Then a drunk man falls on the subway tracks, Kato jumps down to help him, asks for others to help but apparently the Japanese populace doesnít believe in helping drunk dudes on subway tracks.  Itís tense because the subway is coming, itís not stopping, Kato is about to be smashed until Kei finally decides to lend him a hand.  Now from my vantage point it looks like Kato pulled Kei onto the tracks, but I donít why heíd do that.  Regardless both young men are dead.  Or not.

You see, instead of being dead Kei and Kato find themselves in a locked room with six other people, a naked chick and large black orb.  I know, right?  The black orb is called Gantz, and I donít know if itís explained what Gantz is in the manga, but it most certainly isnít explained here.  Apparently, since these people were about to die anyway, Gantz has hijacked their lives and will be controlling them from now on.  He has provided them with some dope super hero suits, and some awesome weapons and he transports them on missions throughout Japanís urban areas to kill Aliens.  Crazy.  What we little we do know about Gantz is that it applies a points system for our alien hunters, a lousy and unjust point system at that, but if you reach 100 points, which is highly unlikely, you get a couple of choices.  You can resurrect any previously killed character or go on back to your original life, never knowing that you were once an alien hunter.

There is one young man, Joichiro (Kanata Hongo), who seems to know whatís going on, but heís throwing around information like manhole covers.  Regardless, these people are transported to the surface, find an alien and kill it.  The thing is these things arenít easy to kill and not all of them are going to survive this initial trip, which I guess gives them a True Death.  But for most of our movie we will be focusing on former friends Kei and Kato, and the naked girl Tae (Yuriko Yoshitaka), as they struggle with this seemingly impossible situation, and their melodramatic lives outside of the locked room since they are transported back to their original lives once the mission is completed.  Kei eventually becomes a bit full of himself, and his super suit, and fancies himself some kind of superhero, Kato is scared that if something happens to him no one will be around to care for his younger brother Ayumu, and Tae thinks sheís found true love in the troubled Kato. 

And so it goes.  Our heroes go on these alien hunting missions they donít want to go on, except for Kei, with the aliens getting tougher and tougher with every mission.  Until they get to the final mission.  Iíve played a video game before and I know a boss battle when I see one, and the alien of 1000 arms is bad news.  Somebody better get to a hundred points because resurrection services will be needed.

Since ĎGantzí is the first of what I believe will be two films, I have to assume, or more accurately hope, that the second film will start to tie together some of the stuff that we have seen in the first film.  Just a little bit.  Because from where I was sitting, this was one glorious mess of a film.  This isnít to say that I didnít enjoy ĎGantzí.  To the contrary, I liked Director Shinsuke Satoís movie an awful lot, basically because it was so aesthetically pleasing to witness, and also because it pandered to my little boy prurient desires to watch things explode, watch stuff move really fast in front of my eyes and of course watching a really pretty girl sporting a really tight black vinyl outfit while shooting a laser gun.  Who wouldnít want to see that? 

Itís not like the narrative supporting ĎGantzí was incomprehensible, in fact itís pretty darned simple.  Kill the aliens before they kill you.  Itís the where and the why of everything thatís sketchy, if not completely non-existent.  Why are there aliens in Japan?  Why is that lunatic stuck inside a big black ball attached to a breathing machine?  Where did he get his powers of resurrection and matter displacement?  And according to the alien with a thousand arms of blades, these aliens werenít bothering anybody, so why are we bothering them?  Sheís not happy about any of this by the way.

But again, it sure is pretty to look at, it moves real fast in between the melodrama, the basic premise is as simple as it gets.  Good looking people fighting aliens.  Needless to say I will be looking forward to the next film which we do hope adds a little more clarity to the mix of the mystery of Gantz, while losing none of the glitter.

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