STUDIO:  Paramount Home Video
MSRP: $26.99
RUNNING TIME:  117 Minutes
• Take it in the Casshern. Nothing.

The Pitch

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow meets Akira.


Yusuke Iseya, Arika Terao, Kanako Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Mayumi Sada, Jon Kaname, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mitsuhiro Okawa, Susumu Terajima, Jideji Otaki, Tatsuya Mihashi, Toshiaki Karasawa

The Nutshell

In the distant future, the world has been ravaged by a costly chemical, nuclear and biological war waged between Asia and Europe. As the battle subsides, a Eurasian doctor, Dr. Azuma, believes he has discovered a ‘neo-cell’ the likes of which can regenerate lost body parts in the war. He sees it as a way to help better the lives of those who have suffered during the war-torn decades past; the government sees it as a way of creating indestructible soldiers. As with most experiments in science fiction, it goes terribly wrong and from his experiments comes a splinter faction of the previously dead, calling themselves neo-sapiens. They declare themselves the master race and re-declare war on Eurasia. In an effort to end the madness, Dr. Azuma revives the dead body (killed in warfare, in a pretty neat little sequence in fact) of his son Tetsuya who is then placed in revolutionary indestructible armor. As humankind’s last stand against this new race, Casshern struggles to remember who he was and why he must continue to fight. There’s also a giant lightning bolt from the sky.

"Should I call you the Highlightander?"

"At least I’m not wearing a huge fucking retainer."

The Lowdown

Normally, I’m not one to go for the special effects that seem to be of the video game cut-scene variety: too often they pull one out of the film’s reality and are laughable attempts at displaying scope or believable environs for the characters to roam through. However, Casshern has a commitment to this style of SFX; in fact, I don’t believe I can recall a single scene that wouldn’t have incorporated them somehow (usually in the background and then in the foreground whenever the action ratchets up) and this consistency in using them helps make the fever-dream state they were trying to achieve much more tangible. I don’t think this is as successful as, say, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in creating a world and occupying it, but the style doesn’t pull you out of the picture, it in fact immerses you in to the point of suffocation.

"It’s a hand."

At first, I was worried the action was going to be frenetic to the point of geographic incoherence. The Casshern characters first battle against one of the neo-sapiens is just disorientating instead of cool or effective, but by the next battle (a reasonably pulse-pounding effort involving Casshern versus an entire robot army*) at least those worries were negated. The movie simply looks cool and manages to drum up the visual fireworks for the action set pieces (although the generic rock n’ roll music cues that start up during the battles truly suck) and even allows for the characters to interact believably with their environments even though they’re fully computer realized. There’s just that superficial layer of interest to this film though, its like a gift-wrapped bucket of AIDS blood that slowly pours itself down your throat throughout the film’s running time.

Timex’s new Mandiglo watch.

This film seems to want to be about something, but whatever point its trying to make is drowned out over the din of the constantly visually enticing landscape and general narrative-related lack of cohesion. There are attempts made at broaching such topics as the futility of war and how man is doomed to constantly fight amongst himself, but beyond the characters saying those things out loud there’s not a hell of a lot to support whatever statement the director was trying to make. There is a bit of “we’re all humans, we’re all in this together” that seeps through the cracks, but its sort of beaten into submission by the flashy design and action that envelops the majority of the films running time.

The bots would come from miles around to watch a little man-on-porthole action.

Also working against the picture is the fact that it takes a solid forty-five minutes to really get itself in position for the story’s main conflict. It feels like an interminably long prologue to set up the film’s conflict, which then plays out over the last hour of the film. And despite this being a new director’s cut of the film, shaving somewhere in the ballpark of forty-five minutes from the original cut, the film doesn’t gain anything in coherence or pacing. It still feels long as Holmes and convoluted to the point of confusion. I’m hard-pressed to remember anything of plot specifics having just watched the film, which is never a good sign. There’s the visual aspect, but that’s about all this film has to offer.  

Cue MIDI file of ‘Where is my Mind?’.

The Package

The cover art is a little generic, but it does showcase the impressive design of Casshern’s body armor while hinting at the huge dreamlike scope that the film has. And when you’re going bare bones (anyone expecting bonus material can consider themselves Cassheraped) you damn well better make the audio and visual components up to snuff, especially on a film that offers nothing beyond the expansive imagery the film basks in. Luckily, it looks good and has a 5.1 soundtrack to back it up. So there’s that. But not much else.

4.8 out of 10

*Who, apropos of nothing, look like fat-assed ROM: Space Knights.1 

"Tetsuooooooooooo…I mean, Tetsuyaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…"

1Or Cylons developing a paunch, your choice.