My boyfriend has a thing for Asian movies and once in a while he somehow makes me watch one. I have to admit, I have a thing for not watching movies where I don’t understand the language, because reading subtitles all the way through, kind of spoils the focus. With a movie, especially a movie like Casshern, your eyes should be free at all times, to take in every aspect of the picture.
Casshern is first of all, a beautiful, beautiful movie. And I am not talking about the story here, or the acting, but simply, the picture. Every single frame has such detail, you can’t help but be impressed. It has taken hours in post production to make it look like this. The colours, the land, the forest in particular, even the scenes where the robot army comes marching, are warm, red, and alluring.
The bad guy, the blonde mutant, sure knows how to work his red cape, in an otherwise dark setting, most of the time. He has a lot of shots that are so posed he could have been in top model, (or a cartoon hero) and he would have kicked their asses, and it works. He is so choreographed, at all times, you can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t get tiresome to watch, but it doesn’t. He is picture perfect, just like the rest of the movie.
Tetsuya is our hero, only it takes a while before you realize it, since you first meet him when he is about to go to war, mostly to spite his father. Like a true soldier, he comes home in a box, after having been party to a series of war crimes that would haunt him forever, had he lived.
Tetsuya’s father is a scientist, and has been working for the military, trying to perfect his project on Neo-Cells, a cell that can regenerate human tissue. Basically it repairs you. If you lose an eye, a neo cell will give you a new one… If you lose an arm, you will grow a new one… and so forth. Quite a nice little cell, no doubt about it. When Tetsuya comes home in a box, his father bathes his dead body in the neo cells and he is forced back to life, later taking the name Casshern, who according to legend was a protector of the people.
Now, the story in itself is not that brilliant. Suddenly the neo cells create a gang of mutants, rising out of the pools in the laboratory, only to be gunned down instantly by security. A handful of them escape, bringing with them the scientists wife, Midori. She is sick and dying, by the way, and still she teaches these new born mutants quite a lot about compassion and understanding. In the end though, she cannot stop the war alone, as the mutants stumble across and old castle, filled with robot warriors. At which point you are thinking “what idiot left them out there for someone to find?”
I don’t know, I am pretty sure something got lost in translation somewhere.
It doesn’t really matter though, because what this movie is really about is not science fantasy, it is not about mutants vs humans, it is not about neo cells or anything else. It is simply about war.
It is about how there can be no winner at any war. How people die for nothing. It is about the cruelty, the horror, the inhumanity of war. Even when Tetsuya takes it upon himself to make up for what he did as a soldier, and protect the civilians, he cannot win. Genetically mutated as he is, he is still getting his ass kicked by those who want it more.
He has a really beautiful sword fight with one of the mutants, where he makes the mutant promise that if he should win, he will help the people who live there. At which point I was thinking well, they are not going to kill t he hero. They wouldn’t. Unnamed mutant will die now… Right?
Had it been a Hollywood movie, yes. But then I remember, all bets are off, when it comes to Japanese movies. They could very easily kill the hero. I guess that is what I love about this movie. It is nothing like anything you will see in Hollywood. You can’t anticipate what is going to happen at any time and there is no one, I repeat no one, you can trust.
So, as beautiful as this movie is, as detailed, as perfectly produced, it is cruel and heartbreaking, simply because everybody fights for nothing and no one really does win in the end.
It isn’t pointless though. Not at all. It is a movie that makes you stop and wonder, mostly because, what if? What if a science project like the neo cells went wrong in our world? Would we welcome the mutants? Or would we try to exterminate them on sight, never giving them a chance to live?
In a lot of ways, this movie could have happened in our society. It already has. And nobody is winning. Even worse, nobody really cares anymore.
Should you watch it? Well that depends. Are you into a movie for its beautiful, artistic picture? Because then, absolutely yes. Do you like a movie that is not just action, sex and explosions, like most Hollywood movies? A move that will leave you with a lot to think about? Then yes.
It is as beautiful as it is horrible. And it is absolutely worth your time. Even if reading subtitles is tiresome…
Oh, and Natio gets points in my book for how many times he manages to flick his hair out of his eyes during this movie, in a totally girlie way, and still be one of the evil empire’s men. Got to love how Asian guys can always look cool at all times.
I skipped talking about Luna and the mutant girl, because as much as they are the token women in the movie, they could have been left out, and it wouldn’t have made a world of difference to the story they are telling. Luna does have a lot of beautiful, beautiful scenes, with perfect light, and perfect settings, so she gets points for that. She is too, the one human to be accepted by the mutants, which is kind of a really cool scene, but in the end, she and her fellow female character, are mostly there to make it personal for the heroes.
Which works for the mutants better than for the humans, I may add, as they seem to grieve more for their lost ones, than the humans do. The mutants does seem to, in the end, understand what it could have been like, if there had been no war. At least a few of them seem to grasp the concept of peace, better than the human race. Think about that.
I won’t go into details about the ending, but I love it how I was on no one’s side through the entire movie, how there was no real good or evil, just two sides of a war and how they were both wrong.