Casshern
R0 - Thailand - EVS Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (27th April 2005).
The Film

For first time director Kazuaki Kiriya Casshern is a rather ambitious and technically complicated film, even for a seasoned filmmaker the amount of special effects, stunt work and intricately choreographed action sequences can be difficult to orchestrate, but Kiriya seems to have a handle on those aspects, and itís a little sad that the story itself that had to suffer because of this.

Casshern takes place within an alternate history. In recent times warfare has spread throughout Eurasia, and has devastated the continent, but has finally come to an end leaving many casualties. Geneticist Dr. Azumaís (Akira Terao) son Tetsuya Azuma (Yusuke Iseya) was one of those casualties. Driven by the love for his fallen son, he attempts to gain government sponsorship for his controversial neo-cell treatment, in which he claims will regenerate humankind. However, the doctorís treatment is turned down. But this minor roadblock is not enough to stop him from reaching his goals and continues to complete his work by accepting an offer from an evil military faction.

During one of the experiments, an accident in the lab creates a race of mutants with abnormal strength that suddenly wage war on humankind with the aim of eventual annihilation, but only one warrior stands in the way of that, Dr. Azumaís deceased son Tetsuya has been reincarnated as the warrior Casshern.

It has been said before that the Americans are masters at action cinema, the Europeans are craftsmen at character development and the Japanese are excellent at creating atmosphere. In the case of Casshern Iíd say that is undeniably true as writer/director Kazuaki Kiriya exports to you into his fantasy world of giant robots and crazy costumed fighters with characters that look and feel the part set amongst highly stylized imagery. It really does make you feel that this alternate history did at one time exsisted (within the context of the film that is, if you truely believe in this world you may like to seek professional help.) The expertly choreographed action speaks volumes itís both intense and cartoon-like at times, which makes it rather amusing to watch especially when the character Casshern is moving at incredible speeds.

However at first glance at the filmís synopsis youíd think you just read the plot of the latest XBOX or Playstation game, and youíd be half right although Casshern is most definitely a film it was made like most recent video games, shot almost entirely on blue or green screen stages and all the backgrounds are computer generated. Itís simple and sometimes convenient plot unfortunately halts the film from making the leap from good film to excellent film, furthermore I also felt that Casshern seems to have a slight case of mistaken identity. It doesnít really know what it wants to be, the underlying tones of world annihilation that humankind will be the end of itself, this deep philosophical tone feels out of pace amidst a straight forward sci-fi action epic and brings the filmís more exciting moments down a notch.

Video

Presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this anamorphic widescreen transfer is for the most part quite good. Almost the entire film has been given the CGI treatment so any imperfections of the image would severely impair your enjoyment for the film. What we have here is a fairly sharp image, there are occasional blurs and softness but I believe these are artistic choices rather than actual source material flaws as itís used to establish that Casshern can travel quickly and move fast a blur effect is used occasionally, however there are some instances where sharpness is overlooked, especially in scenes that take place in darkness, blacks are not as well defined as Iíd like them to be and shadow detail may also be limited due to the overwhelming use of digital backgrounds. This film has a huge colour palette and we are often amongst different and unusual backgrounds and locations, for the most part the colours are rendered well especially during exterior scenes set during the day, but just like the sharpness issue dark scenes that use red, orange and yellow as part of their colour scheme seem to bleed on occasion, and skin tones are redder than they should be. On a positive note I could not spot any evidence of edge enhancement, print damage by way of scratches, blotches, sparkle etc or any signs of serious artifacting. What we have here is good transfer that could use some improvement, while not entirely as perfect as I was expecting for such a recent film, itís by no means distracting.

Audio

This Thai DVD includes three audio tracks to choose from, a Japanese DTS ES 6.1 surround track, a Japanese Dolby Digital EX 6.1 surround track and a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with itís Japanese DTS ES 6.1 track. Transferred at full bitrate this audio track is simply phenomenal, dialogue is clear and distortion free, the atmospheric surrounds are plentiful and exercise excellent surround separation across all 6.1 channels. The audio is totally immersive and puts you directly into this fantasy world additionally the music is rendered beautifully, the score is mixed well throughout each speaker and it never too overblown as to distract from any dialogue. I could go on all day about the clarity of the dialogue, sound effect and music but itís during the action scenes where this soundtrack is put to the test, and it doesnít fail, flying debris, gun fire, explosions, giant robots marching, the clanging of swords all comes together in a crescendo of aural excitement. Simply put this is one of the yearís standout audio mixes, nice job EVS.
The film also includes optional subtitles in English, Japanese and Thai, since I cannot understand Thai or Japanese I chose the option of English subtitles and found them to be quite good, there were no spelling mistakes that I could see and only one or two instances of grammatical errors, aside from that they are easy to read and donít disappear from the screen too quickly either.

Extras

The extras section is broken down into three sections, the first Trailers and TV Spots, the second Cast and Staff and finally More Attractions.

In the first section we have a series of 4 theatrical trailers all in Japanese without any subtitles; they include a 30 second teaser, a 1 minute 10 second version, a 1 minute version and a final 2 minute version as well. All are presented in widescreen and in fairly decent quality.

We also have a series of 4 TV spots and just like the trailers are all in Japanese without any subtitles and include three 15 second spots plus a 30 second spot.

The second section of the extras Cast and Staff feature a series of 14 profiles for various members of the cast and crew, they are all written in Japanese text so unfortunately for me I could not understand it.

The final section More Attractions includes a making-of documentary and no less than 3 bonus trailers.

The Making-of runs for 43 minutes and follows the director through various production meetings during the course of pre-production, production and post-production. We get a look behind-the-scenes of the special effects work, the art design, storyboarding, stunts and fight choreography as well as costumes used for the different characters. The documentary seems more than just your average EPK featurette and is quite detailed in its findings, however the entire documentary (taken from its original Japanese source) is dubbed in Thai without any subtitles. Although itís quite nice to see the process of making this film unless you understand Thai you will be lost especially during the interview clips with cast and crew.

The final extras consist of bonus trailers for Thrown Down, New Police Story and Breaking News all of which are in Cantonese without English subtitles, the trailer for New Police Story does have forced Thai subtitles though.

Overall

I enjoyed Casshern for the action and effects, I wasnít convinced that molding a simple plot with deep-seeded philosophical undertones to be a particularly good move, this occasionally saw the ugly head of pretentiousness rear itself.
For a 2-disc Special Edition I was a little surprised at the lack of substantial extras on the second disc, and the non-inclusion of subtitles on the Making-of was also a disappointment however this disc was made for the Thai market and I am happy that the film at the very least does include English subtitles.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: A+ Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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