I picked up the 3-disc “ultimate edition” of Casshern a couple of years ago. I had been blown away by the look of the trailer, and the movie did not disappoint. Though not quite the all-out action fest hinted at by the trailer, and sporting some sizable flaws, I still found Kazuaki Kiriya’s debut film incredibly fascinating and even moving.
From my review:
So does Casshern live up to hype? I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t stumble disappointingly in places, usually when Kiriya attempts to push his pacifist message to near-mythical heights. But I count it to Kiriya’s credit that Casshern actually does pack an emotional punch by its end, concluding things with a very melodramatic, yet quite touching denouement — especially given the film’s traumatic and uber-apocalyptic climax.
I once saw a review of Donnie Darko (itself another stunning debut) in which the reviewer remarked that the film may be too ambitious for a debut feature, but ambition and imagination still trump mediocrity any day of the week. That easily sums up my opinion with Casshern. Any way you look at it, there’s no denying that Casshern is an extremely ambitious film, probably one of the most ambitious I’ve seen in a long time. And the fact that this was Kiriya’s first film (not only did he direct, he also wrote the screenplay, edited the film, and was the cinematographer), and that he made it with only $6 million, only adds to that impression.
Unfortunately, North America has been denied a domestic DVD release… until now, that is. Go Fish Pictures finally released Casshern on DVD earlier this month. IGN has just posted their review of the DVD, giving it an 8.0 rating:
Without any doubt, Casshern is a compelling piece of filmmaking. Why it took Dreamworks this long to finally release it on DVD is beyond me. Casshern is a gripping blend of social commentary, science fiction and noir, wrapped around an emotional story of personal sacrifices and family. As much as it is an anti-war film, Casshern seldom strays far from its more gut-wrenching story of a family torn apart by circumstances, giving a usually metallic-cold and impersonal sci-fi film a chance to prove it has heart.
A few things worth noting, however, about the Region 1 DVD.
First, the DVD contains the “director’s cut” of Casshern, which is thirty minutes shorter than the original Japanese version. (Amazon erroneously lists the runtime as being only 80 minutes, or over an hour shorter.) A shorter version is not necessarily a bad thing, though. The original film is very uneven in places, so a little judicious editing here and there could do well to tighten things up and cut away some of the dross.
Second, the DVD doesn’t contain any DVD extras — not even a trailer. Which is a real disappointment. A film as unique and groundbreaking as Casshern practically demands some extras, like a feature or two exploring the “digital backlot” techniques used to create the film’s stunning visuals. And in this day and age, shouldn’t trailers be a given?!?
On a related note, Twitch has been reporting on Kiriya’s next efforts. One is a martial arts fantasy film called Goemon that will be filmed in Japan and the second is an alien invasion film will be done for Warner Brothers here in America. Suffice to say, I’m very eager to see both of them. Based on what I saw in Casshern, Kiriya has both style and skill to burn, and I can’t wait to see what amazing visions he comes up with next.