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DVD Review: GANTZ -- The Movie

When you die, you're doomed to wear leather and fight onion-head monsters with explode-y guns. So, how does this live-action anime hold up?

Stealth really isn't a concern when you're packing one of these.
Stealth really isn't a concern when you're packing one of these.

Full admission: I was apprehensive about watching this because the DVD cover says it’s from the same producers as the DEATH NOTE movies. My objection to those honestly rested less with plot changes - - movie #2’s ending was actually more satisfying than the anime’s - - as it did with their puzzling, inappropriate tone. Even putting aside the rubbery toon death demons, it’s simply impossible to take a horror story seriously when it’s staged and lit like an IKEA commercial.

What’s funny is that, even though GANTZ actually spends a lot of time in an unfurnished loft, there was never a similar moment where I was drawn out of the viewing experience by the look. That sounds like no big deal but, believe me, it was a relief. There's no bigger buzzkill than the nagging sense of what your reaction to something should be, instead of just being able to sit back and think, "Hey! Those GANTZ weapons are cool! And so's that whole cross-sectional teleportation effect!"

The deeper I get into these, the more I feel like I’m accruing references for some big, long sociology paper. I was only able to catch the first episode of the GANTZ anime earlier this year (and then I blew my chance to see a screening of this live-action version like a bonehead) but perhaps it’s better that I’ve only now gotten to see it. GANTZ feels it’s funneling every thematic current I've noticed in recent J-pop culture.

Gun racks are just so much more posh in Japan.
Gun racks are just so much more posh in Japan.

Like I said, I’m a little late to the party, so I’m sure most of you are already familiar with this tale of high school buddies Kato and Kurono and the deadly, alien-fighting safari a mysterious orb forces them into after they’re seemingly killed on the subway. In the comparative terms I’m going for, GANTZ centers on an absurd-yet-visceral points-based game of death (like in BATTLE ROYALE) that cycles through arbitrary victims (like the curse of THE GRUDGE) who’ve entered an oddly-understated afterlife (recalling DEATH NOTE) with few explanations offered for the why’s and how’s (as was the case in THE RING.) Somebody a lot more knowledgeable than me would know how to weave all of that together but, even if I can’t, I still can’t help but point out all the threads hanging here.

And threads do get left hanging. This also follows the trend of blockbusters at large by seemingly halving what, I presume, was initially one long story in a fashion like the last TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER flicks. Thankfully, it doesn’t partake in the maddening, mercenary bait ‘n switch of slapping us with a “To Be Continued…” before the credits - - there’s a unity to its action, at least - - but the ending nevertheless leaves you with inconclusiveness that’s either ballsy or sloppy depending on how open your tastes are.

The characters have serious unfinished business that’ll presumably be resolved in the already-forthcoming PERFECT ANSWER sequel. Without any knowledge about a movie #2, however, the ending feels like an uncompromising nihilistic statement, as if this whole thing were but an extended glimpse of some NO EXIT vision of purgatory whose prisoners wear sleek leather uniforms and make penance through the use of cool, head-exploding guns.

Let's all hope she's pointing that thing in the right direction.
Let's all hope she's pointing that thing in the right direction.

GANTZ doesn’t really “work” according to the same criteria we judge most movies by. You never learn enough about the Kato, Kurona and their lady friend, Kojima, to quite care about them on paper... yet the actors manage to emote quite powerfully withing the minimalistic context and through the bizarrely-accented dub track. The alien foes (ranging from an onionhead sasquatch to the bizarre love child of Dennis the Menace and a robot Shin Chan) aim for the ridiculous-yet-terrifying quality of, say, an evil clown like Pennywise and hit the just plain ridiculous instead… yet you’re still rapt during their respective duels.

This flick works without qualification, however, in sustaining your interest, and I was absolutely engaged throughout every step of this unveiling of a challenging, provocative and genuinely-surprising mythos. Even if the explosion weapons seemed to stop working at inconsistently-inconvenient times, and even if the combatants' trigger fingers weren't as itchy as they ought to have been, the GANTZ tools are some fine and creative additions to the greater pop culture armory.

Actually, an armory's an apt metaphor. Maybe it's best to picture this as one of the 36 chambers of Shaolin; an advanced stage devoted to one specific focus that's best kept to black belts of the discipline. That is to say, GANTZ isn't recommendable to the casual movie watcher but, if you're a seasoned veteran with deep experience in all things cult, an insatiable appetite for the fantastic and an iron stomach for gore, this flick offers a visceral ride you won't find anywhere else (in live action.)

ZombiePieon Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.

GANTZ the live action show doesn't work because...GANTZ the anime and manga don't really work.

UchihaSasukeon Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:08 p.m.
Saw the anime so I'll probably check this out as well. I don't agree with@ZombiePie: . Gantz wasn't great, but it had some pretty interesting elements in it as well as satisfying action sequences. 
sharingan_eyeson Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.
to me Gantz is a great manga, and a decent anime, but the movie was just meh, although i've heard there are sequels so maybe they'll be better
ZombiePieon Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:44 p.m.

@UchihaSasuke said:

@ZombiePie: Gantz wasn't great, but it had some pretty interesting elements in it as well as satisfying action sequences.

I will agree to that in part. I wont go into details because I suspect some users haven't already check the series out, but boy oh boy are some of the plot points that aren't related to action garbage. I kind of regret saying putting the manga in the same category as the anime. To me GANTZ always encountered the Dark Tower problem where the first book was fantastic and the second one was just as good but after that you start to notice a decline in quality, but by that point you are already invested in the series so hey why not see the thing through till the end? So by the time you finish it you can't help but feel it could have been something more.

The_NHK_Manon Aug. 24, 2011 at 9 p.m.
The the two Gantz movies were shot together, like Kill Bill, and then split into two parts because of time.  I guess Death Note did the same thing since it is difficult to fit such long manga into a two hour film.
I've seen both of the Gantz films are they are OK.  I prefer the manga and the anime, but considering the movie couldn't be a extreme as those to avoid a strict rating, they turned out well enough.  The one thing that did bother me a little was the way Kei was portread.  In the manga and anime he's a... d-bag would be my adjective to describe him.  But in the movie he is more of an a$$.  It's a small difference, but in the manga I also felt like he was filled with self doubt or a feeling of inadequacy.  Where as in the movie he's a d-ck.  The second film gets a little bogged down towards the end and if you dont like the manga or anime I don't think the film will convert you.  However, if either of its earlier properties are some you can enjoy I think you can at least find the movie to be interesting.
reinon Aug. 24, 2011 at 9:27 p.m.
I loved the movie. It made me squeal like a little girl because in my mind, it was the first successful anime to LA adaption. (It also happens to be one of my favorite animes)
Crono11on Aug. 24, 2011 at 10:48 p.m.

@ZombiePie said:

GANTZ the live action show doesn't work because...GANTZ the anime and manga don't really work.

Truer words have never been spoken.

AlexanderSheenon Aug. 25, 2011 at 3:08 a.m.
@Crono11 said:

@ZombiePie said:

GANTZ the live action show doesn't work because...GANTZ the anime and manga don't really work.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I only saw the Anime version of it, and that thing was ... not pleasant to watch. But that's not necessarily the anime's fault, maybe it's just Me. And yeah, there was interesting elements in it, that's true.
SomeJerkon Aug. 25, 2011 at 4:17 a.m.

I was satisfied with this one, considering it something of a spinoff, its own take on the still ongoing and really messed up Gantz saga. It's just that it's going to take a while to catch up with the start of the current manga arc, which is EFFIN NUTS.

Dunchadon Aug. 25, 2011 at 7:12 a.m.

@SomeJerk said:

I was satisfied with this one, considering it something of a spinoff, its own take on the still ongoing and really messed up Gantz saga. It's just that it's going to take a while to catch up with the start of the current manga arc, which is EFFIN NUTS.

I really hope they never do that. While the story is still set around the "survival game", it's somewhat enjoyable - so they could do one more movie that ends right before the big reveal/plot twist that ruins the story. Where the manga is right now... I just want it to end already.

I think the movies would benefit from going their own way - show Kurono being badass at killing the aliens, gathering points and reviving his friends. Then give the story a happy ending and forget all about the crazy shit that's going on in the manga.

coffeefuckyeahon Aug. 25, 2011 at 6:11 p.m.
I was really blown away for most of the movie. But what was great about the anime GANTZ was its ability to keep a slow and yet very revealing story. That by most anime lovers accounts, is one best anime series around. The LA version (which I actually saw the premiere of) kept so close to the original that I too was excited like a school boy. But around the final act it lost it's footing, it started making huge cuts, and leaving out memorable moments. Also rushing through action ilke a bad remake. The attempt was amazing, the first half was great, the final verdict. :|
No_name_here staff on Aug. 26, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.

@ZombiePie said:

@UchihaSasuke said:

@ZombiePie: Gantz wasn't great, but it had some pretty interesting elements in it as well as satisfying action sequences.

I will agree to that in part. I wont go into details because I suspect some users haven't already check the series out, but boy oh boy are some of the plot points that aren't related to action garbage. I kind of regret saying putting the manga in the same category as the anime. To me GANTZ always encountered the Dark Tower problem where the first book was fantastic and the second one was just as good but after that you start to notice a decline in quality, but by that point you are already invested in the series so hey why not see the thing through till the end? So by the time you finish it you can't help but feel it could have been something more.

You thought it was downhill after DRAWING OF THE THREE? I found DARK TOWER to be more like anti-epic. Not a lot happens in the first three books. Than two books' worth of plot happen in WIZARD AND GLASS. I was turned off by King's messianic appearances in the last three books, but WOLVES OF THE CALLA and the 200 pages of the last were absolutely killer.

ZombiePieon Aug. 26, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.

@Tom_Pinchuk said:

@ZombiePie said:

@UchihaSasuke said:

@ZombiePie: Gantz wasn't great, but it had some pretty interesting elements in it as well as satisfying action sequences.

I will agree to that in part. I wont go into details because I suspect some users haven't already check the series out, but boy oh boy are some of the plot points that aren't related to action garbage. I kind of regret saying putting the manga in the same category as the anime. To me GANTZ always encountered the Dark Tower problem where the first book was fantastic and the second one was just as good but after that you start to notice a decline in quality, but by that point you are already invested in the series so hey why not see the thing through till the end? So by the time you finish it you can't help but feel it could have been something more.

You thought it was downhill after DRAWING OF THE THREE? I found DARK TOWER to be more like anti-epic. Not a lot happens in the first three books. Than two books' worth of plot happen in WIZARD AND GLASS. I was turned off by King's messianic appearances in the last three books, but WOLVES OF THE CALLA and the 200 pages of the last were absolutely killer.

And I thought that Wolves of Calla was dogshit.

Dig Deeper into Gantz

Part 1 of the live action adaptation of Hiroya Oku's Sci-Fi/Thriller Gantz.

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