As I read a quote from the DVD cover of "Casshern" stating that the film was "Better than both MATRIX sequels put together," I became worried. Saying a film is better than both of the horrendous MATRIX sequels isn't saying much at all. After watching "Casshern," it turns out that I agree with this quote, but again that isn't saying much.
The story (which is based on an anime series) is set in the future on Earth where war, disease, radiation, etc. has plagued mankind. Luckily, Dr. Azuma is working on a project involving Neo-cells, which can essentially repair the body. When a freak lightning bolt hits the test subjects, a band of mutants (dubbed Neo-Sapiens) are created. The Neo-Sapiens were meant to be destroyed immediately, but they escaped and are now hell bent on battling humanity with the help of a robot army. Luckily, the lightning bolt also managed to strike Dr. Azuma's recently deceased son, who has now become a powerful superhero named Casshern. Can Casshern stop the Neo-Sapiens reign of terror or will he fail in the process?
Note: The Japanese version runs 141 minutes. The running time of this U.S. Director's Cut DVD is 117 minutes. Perhaps the full version explains more of the film's shortcomings. Region-Free player owners and fans of the film might want to consider buying the complete version.
If you have heard of "Casshern," you've likely heard about the film's striking surrealistic visuals. I'm here to tell you that f/x live up to the hype. How this film was made for 6 million U.S. dollars is beyond me. The film looks more expensive than "Spider-Man 3!" The giant (and uber) robots with flamethrowers and missiles, the war torn landscapes, scorched skies, flying helicopters, tanks, explosions are all beautifully rendered and detailed and bring the film to life.
As stunning as the visual style is, I'm afraid "Casshern" falls victim to focusing more on style over substance. The script has several interesting Anti-war, humanity, creation, family, and love themes but they are all beaten over the viewer's head in a tiresome fashion (often with repetitious flashbacks). And to think this isn't even the complete version! I can't imagine an added half hour to this film. Anyway, the script is vague and become more incomprehensible as the film progresses. For instance, why did a lightning bolt strike and create the mutants? Why did the mutants happen to conveniently come across a robot army? Why does Tetsuya want to go to war when everyone he loves knows it will ruin his life? What was with the mumbo jumbo spirit ending? None of this is very clear and it leaves one scratching their head.
"Casshern" is also plagued with an obnoxious frantic rock score and dizzying editing. Granted, the action is meant to be fast-paced and intense on screen, but that's no excuse to duplicate the Michael Bay school of frequent edits.
The widescreen picture quality is gorgeous. All of the separate locations have their own unique visual style that look breathtaking on screen. I did notice grain during the grayish colored Eurasia/Zone 7 scenes, but that was intentional. Note: The subtitles play automatically. There is no option to turn them on or off or an option for a dubbed version. Thank you Dreamworks.
The high quality Japanese 5.1 Surround track puts the speakers to work with all of the sound effects used during the action pieces. Viewers also have the option to play a Japanese 2.0 Surround track.
Trailers for "Transformers" and "Next." As if I haven't seen those a million times already...
"Casshern" is visually mindblowing, but the story turns out to be a murky mess. Worth a rent for sci-fi and visual f/x junkies.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.