Casshern – DVD Review

Directed by:
Kazuaki Kiriya

Starring:
Yusuke Iseya … Tetsuya Azuma / Casshern
Kumiko Aso … Luna Kozuki
Akira Terao … Dr. Kotaro Azuma
Kanako Higuchi … Midori Azuma
Fumiyo Kohinata … Dr. Kozuki
Hiroyuki Miyasako … Akubon
Mayumi Sada … Sagurê
Jun Kaname … Barashin
Hidetoshi Nishijima … Lieutenant Colonel Kamijo

Dreamworks Home Entertainment presents Casshern. Written by Kazuaki Kiriya. Running time: 117 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 16, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.

The Movie


The main undertones in Casshern are “war is bad” and most sons always have issues with their father. Which aren’t necessarily bad ideas to base a story around. Not the most original either, but if handled in the right manor could have made for an interesting SciFi film. The only problem is that after those two are presented, we’re then reminded about both for over 100 minutes, with no progression or alternative view on either topic. It’s like somebody was forced to take the concept of writing the same sentence over and over in school, only this time were forced to do that exercise as a screenplay. Except it’s more of a punishment for us, the viewers, than the writer himself.

From what I can make of it, the movie is based on an old 1973 Japanese anime series. Which features a son, Tetsuya, who, against his fathers wishes, enlists in the army. The reasoning behind his fathers anger, aside from the potential of losing his only son, is that his mother has fallen ill and he’s engaged to Lun, which makes him view Tetsuya’s actions as disrespectful. The war in which Tetsuya has enlisted has been waging on for over fifty years, only he doesn’t last long enough to it conclude. After mistakingly setting off a trap he’s left dead on the battle field.

While back at home, his father, who is some type of unexplained scientist, has been working on neo-cells to try and harvest whole organs–and body parts–to help citizens live longer. But when some random metal lightning bolt comes from the heavens, which nobody in the film seems to question in the slightest, comes crashing into the lab smack dab in the research facility, things go awry. The parts begin to cobble together and form new life, bringing a race of self proclaimed “neo-sapians” into existence — and they’re not a very happy bunch. After being hunted down by the company funding the research, they declare war on the war hungry humans. Tetsuya’s father takes his sons body, which just happens to have arrived home just in time, and uses the neo-cells to bring him back to life. Reborn at Casshern. Making him mankind’s last hope for survival. Or something.

As far as premises go, the one presented in Casshern is a really interesting one that goes wasted, basically from the very start. Instead of a SciFi movie centering around morality and man playing god, we’re left with what feels like a two hour music video. And I don’t mean that in the new hip critic lingo of describing poor editing choices, I mean the music at times almost drowns out the actual dialogue. Trying to force emotions out of the viewers because the actual material is so flat. Too bad for them that the movie is subtitled, so their attempt at covering up the flaws are trumped by viewers reading the entire movie.

Director Kazuaki Kiriya is so busy trying to one up himself and draw attention to what’s happening on screen that it’s like a little kid constantly screaming “look what I can do!” right into your ear until you acknowledge he’s there. Which wouldn’t become so grating or annoying if what we were being shown had something below the surface — it doesn’t. The fact that the film is so convoluted and void of any substance only makes the viewing experience more infuriating. One part about the movie that can be given honest praise is the fact that the filmmakers managed to produces such a high scale looking film with only six million dollars. Which is faint praise, given the fact that a lot of the digital effects have been tweaked and filtered so much that it can be headache inducing when you inadvertently find yourself squinting from time to time.

Acting in the feature is simply atrocious, with actors seemingly just standing in place staring off into the distance while the cameras are rolling. Giving dead pan expressions with no gravitas or emotion when reading their lines. Basically coming off more like cardboard cut-outs than actual people.

Having original clocked in at 141 minutes, the cut of the movie that is on this disc has been streamlined into one that’s just shy of a two hour long jumbled mess. It’s so incoherent that only the broadest of information as to what’s going on is told. The sad thing is that there’s still a lot of material here that could have been left out of the final cut.

The DVD


Quality:
While the backgrounds have a tendency to appear flat and lacking depth, that might have been an artistic decision to mimic the anime style from which the movie is based on. That or the budget restraints forced them to cut a few corners. Aside from that, the DVD looks about as good as low budget, fully digital movie can. There are two Japanese audio tracks included, a 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Surround. While never particularly difficult to make out, the subtitles can be frustrating to read at times. Mainly due to them occasionally going by way too fast, while also at times not even bothering to include subtitles on a sentence or two.

Extras:
None, thankfully.

Well, there are Previews (4:29) for Transformers and Next included on the DVD.

The Inside Pulse

Casshern is perhaps the best example possible to describe style over substance. While it’s one of the very first films to be shot on a digital backlot, it’s a distant third behind both Sky Captain and Sin City in the quality department (fourth if you include 300). The only reason to check this movie out is to see it from the technical aspects, nothing more.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Casshern
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

2
THE VIDEO

7.5
THE AUDIO

6.5
THE EXTRAS

0
REPLAY VALUE

0
OVERALL
1.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)