review by Seraph

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Japan showing Hollywood is wasting money!
What can you make for $6 million US these days? An advert for a new car? An episode of a high profile American TV series? Probably. Well, if you're lucky. What do you go and make if you're Kazuaki Kirya, a fashion photographer (vogue) and music video director? Well, you make Casshern of course. A two and a half hour Sci-fi/war film/artistic experiment based on an original anime dosed with action, romance and family feuds and spattered with CGI which puts most recent American films (Star Wars/Matrix) to shame.

Casshern is set in the future, when the Earth has been separated by two opposing factions. After a long and terrible war, the Greater Eastern Federation rules the Eurasian continent. The war leaves everything a complete mess, the world all but destroyed by nuclear weapons, and chemical warfare. Leaving the inhabitants weak and diseased.

Geneticist Dr. Azuma creates a neo cell treatment which can rejuvenate the human body, and hopefully save mankind. This new research carries a personal deep meaning to him as well, in the shape of being able to help his diseased wife Midori who is growing weaker. After a freak lightning storm sends Dr Azuma's experiment haywire, a devastating group of androids are unleashed on the world. Yet, after a battle against the military, some survive and go on to kidnap the doctors ill wife.

All is not lost however as Tetsuya, Azuma's son who was killed in the fighting, is reborn using his father's neo cell technology and becomes Casshern. Can this young man save the entire world?

Many people come away from Casshern disappointed. Perhaps they expect something else from the movie, a giant action film? That wouldn't be unrealistic to hope for. The movie was based on an original anime, well two series' to be exact. The most recent of which was Casshan: Robot Hunter. Now with a title like that you would probably expect a fast paced cartoony action movie. Though indeed, there are two big scenes of Casshern pummelling giant mech robots with his bare hands there is a whole lot more to this film. Perhaps too much for some viewers.

A 'lot' of time is spent building up characters. It's nearly 50 minutes before we even see any action. Though when we do, we are treated to probably the craziest special effects fest in recent memory as Casshern takes on around 500 enemy robots. The special effects here, and indeed throughout the movie are absolutely stunning, and on $6 million US, nothing short of a miracle. But they aren't just simple effects. The film probably utilises effects in 99.9% of it's scenes but director Kirya is trying something different, something more artistic than say The Matrix films or Star Wars. From grainy black and white footage, to over saturated colour. Odd angles to frantic editing, the entire film looks like the work of a true artist. The music (Kirya is a music video director also) works on an outstanding level. Each scene being bought to life by an eclectic range of themes, from Metal to J-pop.

But the artistic sentiment is also what alienates some people. Occasionally with all the editing tricks, flashbacks, flash-forwards and special effects it is difficult if not impossible to follow the story. To me this just gives the movie repeat value to decipher some of the hidden meaning but to some it will and has been, just plain annoying or pretentious!

There isn't a whole lot to say about the acting here. Mainly because everyone is portraying nearly typical anime characters. Nothing really stands out but it is not horrendous either. The real star of this film for me is it's director Kazuaki Kirya. This is his first movie and he co-wrote, directed, edited and was even the cinematographer. To say that his career will be interesting to follow is an understatement. Whether you 'get' Casshern or not.

To sum up, Casshern is, at it's worst, two and a half hours of eye candy with a few incredible action scenes thrown in. At it's best it's an intriguing tale of families at war, with themselves and with the world. I don't want to tell you the main point of this film as it will take away from the experience. Credit must be given though, for Casshern not only being a kick ass action film, but also having the decency to mean something.

I rate it 9/10

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Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Starring: Yusuke Iseya
Length: 150 minutes
Year: 2004
Reviewed by Paul (Seraph), January 2005