I REALLY dislike Casshern. It may have its fans, but so does trepanning, and I REALLY dislike that, too. In fact, I mention trepanning because that's what Casshern is like. It's a drill into my skull, one that then keeps going and going until I can feel tremors throughout every bone I have while my senses twitch and spasm towards death. I dislike it.
But DAMN does it look nice at times.
Directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, who also helped to co-write the script with Dai Sato and Shotaro Suga (based on a 1973 anime), Casshern is a grand mix of Shakespearean themes, Frankenstein, war and peace and young men who also have super-powers. Akira Terao plays a doctor who announces that he is close to using certain harvested cells to be able to regenerate human body parts. With a war raging, this discovery could prove invaluable, but the doctor is dismissed by all except a private party. Thanks to his generous benefactor, the doctor continues with his work and then one day, the same day that the corpse of the doc's son is brought back from the war, a big lightning bolt strikes the lab and the cells and limbs that were being experimented on and created come together to create a race of superbeings. Soldiers attempt to kill all of the creatures, but some escape. Meanwhile, the doc grabs the corpse of his son (Tetsuya, played by Yusuke Iseya) and brings him back to life in the lab. And then the war moves up a level.
I can't really fault the acting from everyone involved here, but that's because this movie isn't overly concerned with acting. Terao, Tetsuya, Kumiko Aso and Kanako Higuchi are the best of the bunch. It may seem unfair to not spend more time discussing their work, considering the themes that the movie explores, but this is a film that's more than happy to jump from one fine visual moment to the next at the expense of any actual acting. Why show a smile from a character thinking optimistically when you can show a sky filling up with golden sunlight over land ravaged by war? That's the approach of the movie.
There are one or two effective moments throughout the movie - the rise of the main characters is almost quietly horrific and there are a couple of great fights - but nothing really makes up for the many moments of tedium. It's a paradox that those lovely visuals are also so overloaded with style, and enough flares to keep J. J. Abrams happy, that they become tiresome within the first 10-15 minutes.
The script is overloaded with attempts to muse on the nature of man, the meaning of life and the effects of war, which would be all well and good if it managed to strike a good balance. It doesn't. Kazuaka Kiriya seems to spend most of the movie being very pleased with himself. Every line feels like it's trying to be important, every scene takes twice the time required. This movie runs for approximately 142 minutes, fer chrissakes, in the most complete version. The fact that there's not enough in the mix to barely fill a film of half the length means that it overstays its welcome very quickly.
If you disliked Sucker Punch, if you hated Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, or if you just prefer to spend your time with good movies worthy of the time you invest in them then I advise you to give this one a wide berth.