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The Reviews :: Casshern
Reviewed by Simon Gao

Casshern. If you have heard of this movie, then you probably heard about it through the final trailer release. That trailer was the epitome of perfection; it hyped everyone up, despite being in Japanese. (By the way, you can see the trailer on the official website.) Needless to say, I was very excited about the movie. Casshern, which is loosely based on an old anime series, has a pretty confusing plot. It starts after fifty years of brutal warfare; the world is polluted and vile from the weapons used in the war. In an effort to save his wife and humanity, Dr. Azuma asks for funding to support his genetic research on stem cell-related regeneration. His research is picked up and funded by the military. The project goes horribly wrong one day, and Dr. Azuma is forced to revive his dead son to deal with the problem. The cells cause the muscles in his son, Tetsuya, to grow and expand at a fatal rate, but that problem is solved with a prototype power armor. The rest of the story is a setup for fights and philosophical discussions.

There are a lot of ideas in the movie—perhaps too many. It wants to talk about war, about the ethics of war, the ethics of genetic research, the irony of fate, the suffering in war, the responsibility that comes with power, and so on. You get the idea. It lacked focus. That is its greatest fault. Other than that, I found it to be extremely enjoyable. The cinematography is top-notch; the colors are vibrant and fittingly fantastical. There is a scene in desert-like outlands where the movie turns into black and white and features one of the coolest fight scenes ever. Speaking of fight scenes, they are probably the best parts of the movie. The editing for those scenes is awesome; you feel a rush of excitement as you watch them. They are fast; they are brutal; and they are just plain cool. The music fits the movie very well. Some people may be put off by the crazy rock/metal music that highlights the action scenes, but I thought it was awesome. There are scenes that definitely had a music video feel, which I liked. That is not surprising as the director, Kazuaki Kiriya, used to film music videos.

When I think about it, Casshern is pretty much a superhero movie. In my mind, it is a combination of Spiderman 2, with its amazing CGI and action sequences, and The Hulk, with its brooding intelligence. The movie made me think, especially with the way it ended. It could have either been a really bad ending or a deeply existential ending; I still cannot work it out. In essence, the movie is just plain ambitious, but it does not quite succeed. Do I like it? Yes, it was awesome. The set design was retro sci-fi, with the bulky technological look. The dialogue could have been better; well, rather, the subtitles could have been better. I am sure a lot of ideas and meaning were lost through the translation. I am willing to believe the movie is much deeper and more thoughtful than the way the subtitles presented it.

Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Starring: Yusuke Iseya as Tetsuya Azuma/Casshern
Akira Terao as Kotaro Azuma
Hideji Otaki as General Kamijo
Hidetoshi Nishijima as Lieutenant Colonel Kamijo
Kanako Higuchi as Midori Azuma
Kumiko Asou as Luna
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