Casshern is a visually stunning epic sci-fi film which paints a pretty bleak future for mankind. Advancements in science and devastating wars have brought the world to the brink of extinction; a hero is needed to save mankind, a legendary hero reborn by the name of Casshern.

Casshern is stunning to behold

The film is set in the late 21st century. A war which has lasted over 50 years led to a victory for the Eastern Federation over Europa. The planet has been ravaged by chemical, biological and nuclear weaponry leading to mutations in the human race. Despite the end of the war there is no peace as the fascistic government hunt down any perceived opposition that remains in their war against terrorism.

A small group of bitter and corrupt old men run the new world but their health is failing. Desperate to cling onto to their pathetic existence they fund Dr Azuma and his genetic research into "neo-cells", biological matter capable of producing spare parts for human beings. Azuma makes some mistakes with his experiments and accidentally unleashes a race of mutant Frankensteins who attempt to lead an army of super robots against mankind.

This is a breathtaking film to behold, a reworking of the 70´s anime which had the same name. This live action version was written and directed by Kazuaki Kiriya and he employs a number of anime techniques to bring it to life. The scope of the film is amazing, both visually and mentally, the colours and effects, the spectacular backdrops and the eye-popping action sequences are all worthy of note. Thematically the film covers a wide range of human dilemmas raising some excellent philosophical questions and challenging the audience to think about things.

The sordid world of the future is a dark and mysterious place, every character has a secret and the pace of the revelations matches the intensity of the action. Just as it looks as though mankind may be doomed Azuma´s resurrected son holds out a beacon of hope for humanity. The desperate struggle continues toward an explosive, thoughtful and meaningful ending.

A super robot explodes

The plot in Casshern is definitely confusing in places and perhaps the greatest criticism of this sprawling 142 minute film is that it tries to cover too much. Questions of ethics, why war happens, what nationalism, relationships and family mean to people are all explored here. It is exhaustingly thought provoking and somewhat bleak but the conclusions drawn cannot really be argued with.

There are a great deal of characters in Casshern and the cast seems very accomplished. Yusuke Iseya gave a fantastic performance in the title role, conveying the full range of human emotions through this complex part. Kumiko Aso played his love interest Luna extremely well, Akira Terao was brilliant as Dr Azuma and his wife Midori was equally well-portrayed by Kanako Higuchi. The rich characters convey the complex tale well and their motivations and relationships make for fascinating viewing.

The art style employed here is really something special. Kiriya brings this future vision to life with heavily detailed cityscapes, amazing visuals which reflect the changes that the planet has undergone and some excellent technical design and futuristic decor. Even when struggling to comprehend all of the intricacies of the plot you will still be blown away by the epic nature of the visuals.

Casshern is a very well made film which marries spectacular action sequences with powerful ideas. It is a long film which has a lot to say and while it may fall short of its own lofty ambitions there is enough here that works to make a unique and memorable piece of entertainment.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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