Contemporary scifi fantasy
2011, colour, 1.85:1, 129 mins
Directed by Sato Shinsuke (佐藤信介)
By Derek Elley
Tue, 08 March 2011, 23:41 PM (HKT)
Dull manga adaptation fails to hook on either an action or an emotional level. Beyond Japan, genre events and specialised ancillary.
Tokyo, the present day. One day at a metro station, shy college student Kurono Kei (Ninomiya Kazunari) recognises onetime junior high school friend Kato Masaru (Matsuyama Kenichi) when the latter jumps on to the track to rescue a drunk. The drunk is rescued but Kurono and Kato are seemingly killed by a train and wake up in a room with a large black orb and other "dead" people, including Kishimoto Kei (Watanabe Natsuna) who attempted suicide after her boyfriend ditched her. It turns out that all them had been taken to the same hospital after their "deaths", leading one, Suzuki Yoshikazu (Taguchi Tomorowo), to believe they are part of some secret government experiment. The orb, known as Gantz, instructs them via messages on its surface to kill Onion Alien and gives them black protective suits to wear. Nishi Joichiro (Hongo Kanata), who has been in the room before, explains that it's like a survival game, in which everyone is awarded points afterwards. Onion Alien is eventually killed but only Kurono, Kato, Kishimoto, Nishi and Suzuki survive. Kurono is later transported back to his former life, where he meets fellow student Kojima Tai (Yoshitaka Yuriko), continues unsuccessfully applying for jobs, and re-meets Kishimoto, who confesses she's fallen for Kato. Meanwhile, Kato, who lives with his younger brother Ayumi (Chisaka Kensuke), and is still on probation for the killing of their abusive father, is haunted by dreams of his experience with Gantz. Subsequently, the same five, along with other newcomers, are transported back to the room, where Gantz instructs them to kill Tanaka Alien. After proving heroic during this battle, Kurono conquers his lack of self-confidence and starts training seriously, especially after Gantz informs them that anyone winning 100 points will be set free and be able to bring back a colleague who has died. Their next mission is to kill Ill-Tempered Alien, which goes less smoothly.
OKU Hiroya 奥浩哉's cult manga (already adapted into two TV anime series in 2004) gets an unexciting big-screen transposition in Gantz ＧＡＮＴＺ (2010), which is basically three so-so battles between humans and aliens separated by lots of dull dialogue scenes. This initial two-hour offering in what was shot as a two-part movie could charitably be seen as a slow warm-up for Gantz: Perfect Answer ＧＡＮＴＺ：ＰＥＲＦＥＣＴ ＡＮＳＷＥＲ (2011) — trailed at the end of the film and to be released on 23 Apr 2011 — which promises to answer all the questions raised by Part 1. For fans of the original manga, questions like "who exactly is Gantz?", "are the protagonists all really dead?" and "is it all a government conspiracy?" will not need to be answered. But for audiences just wanting an entertaining sci-fi fantasy, Gantz is often painfully slow-moving, has characters whose emotions aren't remotely convincing even on a genre level, and action sequences whose visual effects are smooth but are hardly kinetic.
For a manga which is still continuing after more than a decade, there has obviously had to be massive compression for the movie version — one of the heroes' girlfriends, Tae, doesn't appear until much later in the original, for example — but the script and dialogue by WATANABE Yusuke 渡辺雄介 (one of several writers on the first two installments of 20th Century Boys ２０世紀少年 (2008)) is signally lacking in any human drama or emotional content. The friendship between the two male leads which should drive the film is cardboardy, and not helped by wooden performances from NINOMIYA Kazunari 二宮和也 (much more interesting in Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) and The Lady Shogun and Her Men 大奥 (2010)) and MATSUYAMA Kenichi 松山ケンイチ (ditto as L in the Death Note デスノート (2006) movies and the lead in Norwegian Wood ノルウェイの森 (2010)).
Aside from the script, the blame would also seem to lie with workmanlike director SATO Shinsuke 佐藤信介 (Love Song ＬＯＶＥ ＳＯＮＧ (2001), The Princess Blade 修羅雪姫 (2001)) who can't seem to establish a tone for the movie and soft-pedals the violence and nudity of the original manga. There's some humour in Gantz itself, whose messages make jokes about the gaming and one of the female characters' breasts, but none of this filters down into either the protagonists or the action. The oft-repeated message that everyone has their own hidden potential will hopefully prove true for the film itself in Part 2.
ContactSales: Nippon Television Network, Tokyo (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: Japan, 29 Jan 2011.
Presented by Gantz Film Partners (Nippon Television Network, Shueisha, Toho, J Storm, Horipro, Bashipu, Yomiuri Telecasting, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nikkatsu) (JP). Produced by Nikkatsu Studio (JP), Nippon Television Network (JP). Executive producer: Okuda Seiji. Producer: Sato Takahiro.
Script: Watanabe Yusuke. Manga: Oku Hiroya (ガンツ, 2000-). Photography: Kawazu Taro. Editing: Imai Tsuyoshi. Music: Kawai Kenji. Production design: Harada Yasuaki. Stylist: Miyamoto Masae. Sound: Yokono Kazushiko. Action: Shimomura Yuji. Special effects: Kamiya Makoto. Visual effects: Toyoshima Yusaku (Digital Frontier).
Cast: Ninomiya Kazunari (Kurono Kei), Matsuyama Kenichi (Kato Masaru), Yoshitaka Yuriko (Kojima Tae), Hongo Kanata (Nishi Joichiro), Watanabe Natsuna (Kishimoto Kei), Taguchi Tomorowo (Suzuki Yoshikazu), Ayumi Ito (Ayukawa Yutsuriko), Yamada Takayuki (Shigeta Tadashiko), Ayano Go (group leader), Mizusawa Nako (girl in group), Chisaka Kensuke (Kato Ayumi, Masaru's younger brother), Shiraishi Shunya (Sakurai Hiroto).