Film: Casshern

Man, did I hate this movie. Casshern (2004) utterly fails to transend its inherent “interestingness.” This is an imaginative and visually striking, but utterly incoherent, dystopia blending live action, animation, science fiction and horror. In the wake of a fifty-year war that has left the world a toxic wasteland, Dr. Azuma (Akira Terao) attempts to cure the world’s health problems with his research into “neo-cells.” These cells can be used to replace the tissues and limbs of the wounded, or cure the illnesses of those who have fallen sick from the war’s after-effects. Then lightning strikes the research facility, “frankensteining” its huge vats of body parts and fluids into creepy, superpowered golems. Panicking, the human guards attempt to exterminate this new posthuman race, but a handful escape, vowing revenge. It’s up to Azuma’s son Tetsuya (Yûsuke Iseya), brought back to life, thanks to neo-cells, to bring the new war to a conclusion.

Or…something like that. Casshern, evidently based on an anime film (and it shows), is a structural mess full of pretentious SFnal melodrama and mindless violence, and it is beyond disorganized. Which is all very unfortunate, because it really is cinematically unique: a visually distinctive film full of creative set design and special effects, bizarrely hybridizing live action and anime. Unfortunately, its wildly inventive look fails to mask a scattered, nonsensical plot, in which characters choose sides randomly for maximum physical conflict. Ultimately, that action has no emotional weight, as the fight scenes are too frenetic and incoherent to follow, even if you wanted to. The tone is self-serious, the dialogue purporting to make insights into the vicious evils of the human condition. But in the end the “story” is all just an excuse for flashy but tedious spectacle. What a shame that such visually imaginative films so often have no handle whatsoever on story-telling.

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