Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writer: Hiroya Oku, Yusuke Watanabe
Cast: Kazunari Ninomiya, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Kanata Hongo, Natsuna Watanabe
Running Time: 130 min.
Much like “Death Note,” 2010’s “Gantz” is a two-part live-action adaptation of a popular and long-running manga/anime. While “Death Note” sticks closely to the realm of the supernatural, “Gantz” is pure science-fiction. At times it feels like a cross between “The Matrix” and “Men in Black.” The premise offers an immediate hook: right as they’re about to be flattened by a subway train, two childhood friends are transported to a starkly furnished room with a group of complete strangers. It’s there that a giant black orb explains their mission: aliens are among us and must be hunted down. Our protagonist, Kei, and his unlikely allies suit up in “X-Men”-like black leather and hit the streets to take down aliens with powerful weaponry unlike anything on this earth. “Gantz” is one of the few films that manages to deliver on its high concept with two hours of violent action and existential dilemmas, leaving the viewer hungry for Part Two.
My experience with the “Gantz” anime was limited to the first four or five episodes and I have to admit I found the live-action film to be something of an improvement. The movie tones down the more “ecchi” (perverted) elements of the anime, removing the overtly sexual content but keeping the blood ‘n gore intact. While this certainly softens the story in some regards, making Kei more likable than he was in the anime, I feel like the changes are acceptable to allow “Gantz” to reach a wider audience. In other words, Kei is no longer imagining that every girls he sees is naked – but you still get your fill of exploding aliens. I know some have called the film a “dumbing down” of the source material but I wasn’t bothered by the trade off.
For the most part, “Gantz” is a slick piece of pop entertainment with great production design and costumes, fairly decent special effects, and a convincing cast. Most of the flaws in this film can be traced back to the anime and manga: although the characters are equipped with extremely effective weapons, they have a habit of aiming their guns at an enemy and standing there, mouths open in shock or rattling off about their latest existential crisis. You can kind of get away with this storytelling crutch in an animated series but once it’s in live-action it becomes even more noticeable and plenty of reviewers have already criticized “Gantz” precisely for this issue. However, it might not be as much of a problem if the viewer knows what to expect. Just be warned the characters of “Gantz” have a habit of crying and yelling when they could just pull a trigger and solve most of their problems.
While “Gantz” is only one part of a two-part series, it does a fairly decent job of telling a complete story. The only thing disappointing about the third act, really, is that it degenerates into an endless series of CG-infused battles. The computer effects are acceptable but not necessarily up to the standards of a Hollywood blockbusters. I suppose the nature of “Gantz’s” enemies necessitates that they be conceived with digital effects – they are aliens, after all – but I found that the first two, more humanoid opponents provided more satisfying action sequences. The last 20 minutes of “Gantz” prove to be CG overkill.
Regardless, “Gantz” is an enjoyable popcorn movie. The characters are anguished, the costumes are tight, and the aliens are out for blood. Chances are you either love these live-action anime adaptations or you’re driven nuts by how they deviate from the source material. Depending on where you stand, “Gantz” should be another satisfying entry in this particular genre, which seems to be enjoying a renaissance as of late. As for me, I’m looking forward to popping in “Gantz: Part II – Perfect Answer” as soon as I get the opportunity.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8/10