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Review - Watch this: Casshern (2004): a sci-fi action film unlike anything else.

Review - Watch this: Casshern (2004): a sci-fi action film unlike anything else.

Directed by Kazuaki Kiriya - Produced by Shochiku Studios - Cert.15

Not so long ago I did a review of Enki Bilal’s science fiction film Immortel (2004) during which I found some publicity for the film that claimed it was the first film to be entirely shot on a digital backlot -  most scenes shot against nothing but a completely empty, enclosed, gigantic white or green coloured stage - with the effects/environments digitally added later.

It wasn't entirely successful - Bilal clearly intending some things to look entirely convincing and real and others to have a dreamlike quality.  Also, the earlier Star Wars prequels used the same technique, though perhaps some hairs are being split and a tiny bit of Star Wars was shot on location.  Who, really, cares.

What I do know is that Casshern (2004) was shot using the same technique in the same year and is a far more successful exercise in its execution and as a film.

The original trailer in Japanese.  The English ones are all awful.

Casshern is based on a manga (comic) that became an anime in 1973, which was later followed in 1993 by an animated film; so it's a property that possibly has greater resonance for its native audience than those in the West, but lack of familiarity with it shouldn't hinder your enjoyment. 

The plot is, frankly, too complicated to go into in much detail here but in broad terms a massive battle has raged for decades on an alternate Earth. The environment, as a result, has been hugely damaged and many people have become desperately ill because of it.  Two competing scientists develop competing technologies designed to deal with the problem.  One of them, Konami, believes he can manipulate certain cells within the body which will be capable of self-repair and instantly kill off all illness.  The other man, Azuma, is working on, what some now see, as redundant research; armour that protects the wearer from the elements and also imbues the subject with great strength and agility.

The cell experiments are not a success.  Multiple limbs and organs sit in huge vats of plasma - all dead, impossible to spark into life.

Later, Azuma’s son Tetsuya, is killed in battle. The body is brought home and taken to his father's lab.

The main fight sequence from the first half of the film.

Meanwhile that vat of dead limbs and organs?  The lab is hit by a huge lightning bolt and the body pieces begin to merge into people - genetically superior people.  It is ordered that they by executed; most of them are massacred but a few escape into the mountains.  It's an area people don't go anymore, the conditions too harsh, but they find sanctuary - an abandoned castle once important to the war effort; and it's full of autonomous mechanised artillery.  A small army perfect for exacting revenge.  The leader of these new breed of humans calls himself Burai - and he declares war on mankind.

Meanwhile, in Azuma’s lab Tetsuya is temporarily resurrected, but he won't live long.  His father, in desperation, puts the prototype armour on him.  It holds him together, gives him mobility and much more; but he's cursed to never be able to take it off.  Which is a problem when you have a love-interest.

Anyway, the Neo-Humans who want normal people dead and the guy in the battle armour aren't likely to agree with each other's moral stances - and that very much proves to be the case.

There's much more to the story; much of which doesn't hold to a traditional narrative and is heavy in symbolism and is far more nuanced and detailed than I can present in a short review.  But if you're a fan of slightly surreal science fiction films that feature some stunning action sequences I can easily recommend this one                                                      

7.5/10

Chris Coates

All rights Shochiku Studios

 

So, now the dust has settled: Just how good IS Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

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Listen to this: The sublime, shimmering indie dream-pop of Slowdive - Shine (1991)

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