2005 Melbourne International Film Festival : Casshern (2004)

23rd July 2005

Director: Kazuaki Kiriya

Starring: Yusuke Iseya, Kumiko Aso, Akira Terao, Kanako Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hiroyuki Miyasako , Jun Kaname, Hidetoshi Nishijima

Tagline: Worse than the Matrix sequels!

Set in an indeterminate time in the future at the end of a 50 year war, this film follows the story of Dr Azuma (Akira Terao) and his work on ‘neo cells’ to create spare body parts for the war effort. His son Tetsuya (Yusuke Iseya) doesn’t agree with his work and goes off to fight in the war just to spite him, leaving his father to look after his mother, Midori (Kanako Higuchi) who is going blind due to illness and who Azuma is trying to cure with his research.

A year later after an accident at the research institute, life arises from the vats and in the panic the military tries to destroy it. This is the worst possible thing they could have done as the survivors swear vengeance and vow to wipe out mankind. They get a hand in this regard when they find an abandoned castle with a ready-made robot army and they set to work, calling themselves the ‘Neo Sapiens’.

At the same time, Dr Azuma takes the body of his son, who has been returned for a military funeral and ‘baptises’ him in the research vat and brings him back to life.

It is at a high price though as Tetsuya is still traumatised by his memories of the war and the process that brought him back is unstable and he could explode at any time.

His father arranges for him to be sheltered by another scientist who fits him with a new type of body armour he has been working on that gives him super human skills.

Just as the scientist finishes work on him, the Neo Sapiens arrive to kidnap the scientist and Tetsuya awakes and fights them. Will he succeed or not? Will the Neo Sapiens get the humans to respect their right to exist? You could find out for yourself, but you would be best not to.

I had been warned that this movie was not up to much, but I still wanted to see it for myself. The whole thing left me cold as there was no way to get close to the characters as you never found out enough about them. This is one case where the visuals definitely took precedence over the story in the mind of the director and the film suffers for it.

It would have been better if the director had just been the cinematographer in this case or just released a coffee table book instead with some of the shots from the film. If Baz Lurhman released a science fiction film, I would imagine it would be just like this movie.

What also was annoying is that every time there was an action scene, the director went straight into music video mode as music cranked up and the shooting angles got very annoying, along with the editing. The musical score was also very overbearing and intruded on the action in some scenes (always a bad sign.)

As I said before, I couldn’t care about the characters as they never said or did anything that made you want to do so. This is also the fault of the script. It is mostly long tracts of plot exposition interspersed with too short and confusing action scenes.

This movie is also far too long and could have done with at least half an hour being cut out of it as I was wishing for it to end long before they got to the actual conclusion.

There are supposedly some serious messages in the movie, but they are so badly handled as to be insulting. It has to be one of the most shoddy and overlong anti-Iraq war statements that I have seen, even to the point that they include stock footage from war zones to hammer home the point, as if the preceding two hours and twenty-eight minutes wasn’t enough.

I would strongly advise you to stay away from this movie, even if you are interested in some of the material it covers, I would recommend the following movies as they share similar story elements and are actually worth watching: Der Golem, Frankenstein, Terminator 2, Metropolis, Dr Strangelove, Star Wars and virtually any World War II movie with Nazis.

Rating: 5/10