It’s hard to dislike Shinsuke Sato’s work. He’s a great director, with a unique perspective to film making. Hell, he was responsible for The Princess Blade, one of my favorite Japanese movies of all time.
But this time, with Sato’s big budget adaptation of Hiroya Oku’s morbid manga Gantz, I was frankly quite disappointed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The film stands up to scrutiny as a decent (well, more than decent) sci-fi flick, but beyond style, presentation and an eye candy cast (especially when they’re all clad in form fitting spandex), it’s a film that has little to offer to fans of the original story.
Like the manga (and anime), Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) and Masato Kato (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) are killed in a subway accident after rescuing a hobo from the tracks. They’re transported into a featureless apartment, where they’re co-opted into hunting aliens by Gantz, a mysterious black sphere that needs a built-in spell checker badly, and sent out on a variety of missions, each more dangerous than the last.
But that’s where the resemblance ends. Admittedly, it’s tough condensing the story of the initial few volumes (and the first 18 episodes of the anime) into 2 hours, but this attempt, it seemed, was rather sloppy. There was simply not enough time for characterization, so you ended up with a story that was as flat, and as much of a facsimile as the poor people picked up by Gantz were.
And talking about characterization, Kurono, ostensibly the manga’s biggest asshole, comes across as bratty and whiny, while Kato’s just a QQ emo kid with baggage. Kishimoto, on the other hand, isn’t so much a love interest as a third wheel. With the way the two male leads keep staring at each other, it’s obvious that there’s more bromance than romance going on.
At least the aliens, the suits, and the weapons were mostly true to form. That, coupled with the special effects (which were really impressive), strong action choreography, and good camera work, were the only things that kept the film going.
All in all, Gantz isn’t all that bad if you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime before. It’s respectable, and it ups the ante considerably for Japanese film makers, especially considering the flagging standards of its past few manga to movie releases. Without prejudices, it would have been worth an easy 3 out of 5.
But if you’re a fan, and were expecting something true to canon, then you’re out of luck. There’s only one thing you can expect out of Gantz – it’s a film that’s pretty much dead on arrival.
And that, of course, is the way the cookie crumbles. 😛