Gantz (2011) — movie review
Posted on January 27, 2011 by Chris Nelson
If you’re reading this. you probably already know what Gantz is. But for those of you who don’t, I’ll make it quick.
[Be sure to read my review of the anime series if you haven't already.]
Gantz is the tale of Kei Kurono, a young man who, after being hit by a subway train, finds himself, along with others recently deceased, in a mysterious apartment, inhabited by an even more mysterious giant black ball. This ball informs the gathered persons that their lives now belong to it, and it has decided they need to perform assassination missions. Make that, assassinations of alien invaders, currently living on earth, right under human noses. By carrying out missions and surviving they will earn points, and thereby work towards getting a second shot at life.
Sounds like the Gantz you know and love? Well, kind of.
This is Gantz as you would expect from a contract negotiation where the purchasing parties did not quite know what they had bought. It’s a film where marketability has taken precedence over truthful adaptation. It is one where star power decides who lives and dies, basic character motivations, and how the story will ultimately unfold. It is one where the series staples, namely boobs and blood, have been filtered through seeming Puritanical committee — buckets of blood are okay.. just no beheadings, or god forbid, nipples!
First and foremost, Kei (Kazunari Mimomiya) is a now a nice guy. Yes, you read that right. He’s not the arrogant prick who thinks he knows everything, and owes nothing to anyone. He’s not the sukebe pervert who drops porno mags in the subway and fantasizes weird stuff about Kishimoto in a dog collar. He’s not the guy who does a Tomb Raider look-alike in the hallway of Gantz’s apartment to establish his masculinity and superiority. He’s your average shy high-schooler, harboring innocent crushes, who dreams of a larger destiny for himself. In fact, he’s even got an admirer from the get go, in the form of Tae (Yuriko Yoshitaka), a character from the blue phase of the Gantz manga (explained later), an all around nice girl with hopes of Manga superstardom. It’s so sweet it’s saccharine.
This departure is likely largely due to Mimomiya’s superstardom. The member of boy-band Arashi’s sheer presence in the film guarantees female attendance. Making him an asshole would sacrifice box office millions. And adding Kenichi Matsuyama (aka: MatsuKun) to the mix, you have yourself a veritable cinematic female catnip — even with a film about alien-killing teenagers (it’s worth noting here that our Gantz screening was packed with a roughly equal male to female ratio. Insane!). Both are decent enough actors, but they feel a bit wrong for the characters. Mimomiya was a bit too happy go lucky for a boy in constant danger of being obliterated, while Matsuyama came across as a bit too philosophical for the beefy Kato.
The female leads feel a bit odd as well. Natsuna Watanabe does her best to provide the set dressing her cardboard cut-out Kishimoto requires, but she wasn’t quite cute enough to be sell the illusion (in fact, Watanabe looked disturbingly like Anita Mui in Rumble in the Bronx). Yuriko Yoshitaka’s Tae, on the other hand, was a far cry from the runty little girl she was in the manga. Her illustrations usually came off as mildly disturbing, while the female in the film was center-poster material.
Acting from all involved was probably decent enough…but I can’t say anything one way or the other. Rather than preserving the original Japanese audio track, VIZ opted for the most horrible english dub I have heard since early days of Jackie Chan Dimension Pictures releases. I’m sure some dumbass in marketing had a convincing reason for doing so, but given the fact that this was a Thursday night screening of a big budget Japanese Anime/Manga adapation, appealing to otaku who know how, and are used to reading, and native Japanese speakers interested in seeing a film from Japan, in their own language, in American cinemas…this was beyond retarded. Seriously, VIZ should be ashamed of themselves. The actors’ facial emotings seemed honest enough, but the voiceovers destroyed any suspension of disbelief.
But you know what? As bad as I make it sound, it’s really not. Even with all the narrative tampering, oddball censoring, and questionable casting, Gantz The Movie is pretty decent. The film flows a lot better than the anime, and there is a definite sense of urgency in the majority of the missions. Missions that spanned an unnecessarily long three-to-four episodes in the anime are condensed to 10-to-15 minute outings in the film. And for the most part, the spirit of those missions are intact. They may not be as large scale (four enemies might be condensed down to one), but the dangers posed are all there. One or two death scenes have their particulars adjusted, which robs them of their poignancy, and not all the participants are present and accounted for (no Tomb Raider chick…no sukebe dog), but they are all exciting, and recognizably Gantz.
Furthermore, the special effects in the film, while not entirely up to American standards, are some of the best we’ve ever seen for Japanese action pictures. Just compare it to other big budget efforts like Nihon Chinbotsu and Assault Girls. It’s great!
Lastly, Gantz fans will find some treats in the forms of A number of characters from Gantz‘s blue phase (named for the color of the covers…[Forgive me for getting technical here, but the issues that formed the basis for the original anime were all red, up until a point where the anime split off and completed its own ending. Blue continues the story with Kei finally being forced to learn about responsibility and duty to others beyond himself...I could go on, but you should probably just go read it]), but which never appeared in the original anime are present in the film. For example, the previously mentioned Tae, who Kei ends up dating on a dare is present, as well as an old man who helps him fight off some dinosaurs in an awesome circular motorcycle (like I said, read the manga).
Criticisms aside, I did like the movie. I liked it quite a bit. In fact, I’ll probably be purchasing it once copies are available stateside. I mean, I already buy damn near everything else Gantz, and this is far better than some of the weaker manga entries. If you do see the picture, be sure to stick around for a trailer for the second installment after the credits.