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GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER -- DVD Review

A sequel that forgets most of the questions it aims to address.

Check out the review of the first live-action GANTZ movie here.

The problem with being mysterious is that, sooner or later, you have to offer up some explanations. People will only stay curious about what’s in the box for so long. And the longer that reveal’s put off, the more profound it better be. The more profound it has to be. GANTZ #2 is a sequel that shows how some questions aren’t worth protracting past the credits of the first flick, no matter how “perfect” their titular answer tries to be. And it takes some painfully obfuscating paths to get to that answer, too.

GANTZ was a solid, simple cult movie mash of sci-fi, action and horror - - something like PHANTASM with the gear of MEN IN BLACK - - seasoned with weird afterlife states, indiscriminate supernatural punishment and the very rules-and-points-obsessed death games that preponderate Japan’s bigger crossovers into global pop culture.

Two young guys, Kato and Kurono, randomly reunite in a subway after years of estrangement. They both get run over by a subway train and then miraculous find themselves resurrected in the living room of a mysterious, malevolent, omniscient and possibly even omnipotent entity - - a big black orb identifying itself as Gantz. These guys can earn their lives back if they uses Gantz’s BFGs to accumulate points killing strange and dangerous aliens Gantz. They’ve got to kill to live again, right?

We’re never told who, or what, Gantz is, and there’s always a tense ambiguity in the "games" since, most times, the aliens seem rather pitiful until they’re provoked into enraged, monstrous states. Are the “aliens” what Gantz makes them out to be? Are they actually innocents being persecuted by these resurrected slaves? Is Gantz’ scheme to protect the Earth from invasion? Or is it to torment helpless human captives into doing his dirty work? The flick tied off before any of those Q’s could get a proper A, ending on a cliffhanger where Kato dies in combat and Kurono’s faced with the added task of accumulating enough points to resurrect his best friend.

PERFECT ANSWER takes its sweet time picking the plot back up by spending the first 30 or so minutes on a go-nowhere sub-plot involving a detective who’s investigating Gantz. Somehow, his investigation brings him to a boiler room full of weirdos led by a blank-faced dude in a loose suit who’s actually identified, on-screen, as the “Men in Black alien.” Vague threats about revenge make him and his cult look like an order of vengeful aliens who’re either possessing or cloning dead human bodies (one of several murky plot points) so they can bring the fight to Gantz and his indentured goons. This is retribution for all the aliens who’ve been slain.

Complicating all this, Kato actually appears to be among the Men in Black alien’s gang, even though Gantz asserts he’s still dead and Kurono needs only just a few more points to finally bring him back.

Two bombastic set pieces don’t really make a movie, but PERFECT ANSWER does deserve some acclaim for a couple thrilling bouts in its larger feud between the Gantz gang and the Men in the Black. The choreography, effects and, yes, even the digital doubles lock together in a fashion thrilling enough to makes you forget (for a few minutes, anyway) all the time spent wading through the boring, indistinct downtime in between. The first brawl dances inventively throughout several subway cars, packing enough swordplay to recall an urban, futuristic spin on a samurai flick. The second pushes the Gantz suits’ superheroic powers to their limits as no less than two Katos fight each other in a manner that’s as fun as the Jet Li vs. Jet Li duel in THE ONE (if not as techniquely dazzling, even 10 odd years later.)

Granted, you have to accept some stupidity in order to buy the fights; and I don’t mean that in the way prissy critics do when they act like they’d honestly prefer the good & bad guys talk out their problems.

See, the aforementioned subway brawl has the Gantz gang opting to use katanas and take serious causalities instead of ending the fight quickly with their head-exploding pistols because they’re worried about harming innocent civilians. That reason’s stated right after the Men in Black have wasted every single bystander in the train car with a barrage of automatic gunfire. So you’re watching these heroes fret about innocents (even though all the civilians are dead) and struggle with their foes (even though they have high-powered firearms on their hips the whole time) and you start thinking that a simple, throwaway explanation about the guns malfunctioning wasn’t offered simply due to absentmindedness.

The reason for that, of course, is that sword-fighting looks cool. But does it look cool enough?

As funny as it sounds, the disuse of the head-exploding pistols reflects the rest of the flick. What’s frustrating is that there’s really a lot of interesting concept and scenarios in PERFECT ANSWER - - and even some moving performances from the leads, actually - - but they’re submerged under so much aimless maneuvering. The soup’s so diluted that you’ve lost interest by the time you’re given a sort-of, kind-of explanation about Gantz and his feud with the aliens. Yes, that might have likely been better kept to one, short movie's ambiguous conclusion.

If you’re aware that there’s also a GANTZ manga and anime series, you might walk away from this thinking that interesting material was crammed into overly-constricting confines, and that the other versions may offer better conclusions (or, at least, better support for these same conclusions.) Even if you aren’t , though, this still feels like a spurious continuation made by a party not involved with the first outing; somebody finding less-interesting ways to extend and put a period on a sentence that probably should’ve just ended with a question mark.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

RecSpecon Jan. 31, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.

I always liked the idea of Gantz, but I was never a fan of the anime or the manga after the whole apocalypse happened. Maybe a movie is the best format for this series.

Edit: On second thought. Reviving people was where the manga started going downhill.

AlKusanagion Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:11 p.m.

I enjoyed it, but I never read past the first few manga volumes.

WarlordPayneon Feb. 1, 2012 at 12:03 a.m.

No one in Gantz ever fires a gun outside of point-blank range, so using guns rather than swords wouldn't have made much of a difference.

I'm disappointed, though not at all surprised, that the movie stunk. I find Gantz's premise fairly intriguing but the anime, manga, and evidently the flims are all pretty bad. They just start story arcs out of no where and then abandon them without any resolution to move on to the next thing that's caught the author's fancy.

apegantzon Feb. 1, 2012 at 4:59 a.m.

D: As a fan of the premise and first few volumes of the manga; I am disappointed.

Sammo21on Feb. 1, 2012 at 7:41 a.m.

I wanted to like Gantz but was turned off by most of it. Decent premise ruined by Japanese sexual repression, cliche, and poor plot. I almost feel the same way about High School of the Dead, as I just finished the anime last night.

paulungaon Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

The first couple hundred chapters of Gantz are definitely up there with Berserk as my favourite manga of all-time. It's too bad Japanese mangaka love to crawl up their own ass and prolong a series lifespan to match their own. Hell, I became so disenfranchised with the series I didn't even know there was a first movie.

Dig Deeper into Gantz: Perfect Answer

Part 2 of the live action adaptation of Hiroya Oku's Sci-Fi/Thriller Gantz.

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