|CASSHERN: The Movie -- ANOTHER Retro Review|
Casshern was a 2004 adaptation of a 1993 direct-to-video anime, Casshan: Robot Hunter. It takes place in the future. But this future is a retro future where many things actually resemble past eras like in Brazil. Unlike Brazil, however, there’s no obvious reason for it, apart from perhaps choosing things that looked cool, and maybe because Steampunk is trendy. O.K., I could live with that… if it was the only thing there was no reason for, but…
In 2004, due to breakthroughs in technology, there were a few films that were long on effects and short on everything else - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Chronicles of Riddick both immediately spring to mind – and Casshern shares a lot of things in common with those films. In fact, the robot army scene is almost an exact replica of the robot army sequence in Sky Captain – although since both films came out the same year, it’s hard to say who ripped off whom.
The plot of Casshern is so convoluted as to defy synopsizing. It’s like the Matrix movies that way . Also like the Matrix films, we have an unstoppable superhero protagonist – he’s even made up of “Neo” cells (perhaps a direct Matrix reference), and a villain who is a “Neo-Sapien” who vows to eliminate homo sapiens (ala Magneto in X-Men). The majority of the film involves these two super powered guys with hazy, unspecified godlike powers beating on each other Mighty Morphin Power Ranger style for most of the film, breaking off and resuming their battle at random times (oh yeah, another thing the film is guilty of – in the middle of a fight the fight will just end – no one wins loses or gets knocked out, they just start doing other stuff and forget about the fight).
Worse, again like the Matrix films, it thinks it’s philosophical, and much “deeper” than it really is, with characters spouting cheesy platitudes rather than engaging in any kind of meaningful dialogue. I generally give the dialogue of a foreign film a pass because I never know how much of it can be blamed on the translators, but there’s just too much of it in Casshern to let it slip by without mention. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
I’ve mentioned a lot of other films in this review, and I’m not done yet because Casshern also borrows heavily from Akira, and just about every other SF anime of the past 25 years.
But, cinematically speaking, perhaps the most apt comparison here is to The Crow: City of Angels – a film that is incredibly beautiful to look at, but makes no damn sense. It’s painfully obvious when watching that even if it were a perfect translation of the Japanese (which it probably isn’t) it still wouldn’t make any sense. Like a cut scene from a videogame taken out of context - a two hour long cut scene.
In fact, on that count it’s down there with some of the worst offenders of the genre, and deserves to share a cell with the likes The Crow: City of Angels and Highlander 2: The Quickening.
On the bright side, it is visually a treat (I was not surprised to learn that the first time director who is also the writer & cinematographer, much like with the aforementioned Highlander was primarily a music video director). But, as gorgeous as it is, I had a hard time sitting through the whole thing.
My recommendation - turn the volume down and the METAL up, and enjoy it for the 2 hour music video it is!