By all rights, Casshern should be a superhero movie.
We have a dystopian future in which the world has been decimated by years of global war. We have the young and foolhardily brave Tetsuya brought back from the dead by a god to right the world’s wrongs and save the human race-who, as it turns out-also has to wear a neat-looking body suit to keep from his body’s own innate strength from making him explode. Said heroic superbeing performs astounding feats of daring do. We also have the Neo Sapiens wiping out the last vestiges of humanity with their army of killer robots led by the angriest Devil May Cry cosplayer I’ve ever seen. We have mad scientists, selfish military men, and damsels in distress. We have super-powers, violence, special effects, fight scenes and brilliant costume designs.
But this is not a super-hero movie. Not really.
While watching Casshern, one should keep in mind that it’s not a deus ex machina if the deus is present throughout the whole film. The god in question-Casshern-has brought a number of people back to life. But why? And while we're at it, why are any of us here? This question becomes the heart of what is essentially a stunningly visual philosophical argument as each character experiences frustration and mysteries.
Lest you think this is a deep piece of thoughtful introspection, let me be very clear:
There's an army of killer robots.
Tetsuya destroys them with his bare hands.
The centerpiece of Casshern occurs about midway through the film when, for about five minutes, Tetsuya does everything you ever wanted in a super-powered fight at break-neck speed. We learn the reason why superheroes are not allowed to have PTSD. It justifies the film’s existence, even if you don’t like anything else about it. Remember when you first saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 and somewhere during the Crazy 88 fight, you realized that you had were grinning from ear to ear? Yeah, this part of Casshern is like that.
With killer robots.
To be totally honest: this is a very uneven movie. Between the horrific violence, there's going to be a lot of talking. And, odds are, it’s subtitled talking. Take some solace in the fascinating characters (and the knowledge that at some point they are going to unleash holy whup-ass), and take much more solace in the absolutely bizarre look of the film.
Adapted from an anime series in 2004, this was one of four films shot entirely on a green screen (the other three being Sin City, Immortal, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). To keep production costs low, different effects/sequences were farmed out to different studios. As a result, no two shots look alike. Granted, this movie would have looked weird no matter what. One scene will be in glossy/scary future-vision while the next is a gritty, black and white war flashback. There’s even a stop motion sequence. It may be odd, but at least your eyes wont be bored.
I’m not going to lie: I will defend just about any film that's this willing to throw anything it can think of against the screen to see if it sticks. Not everything sticks in Casshern but it looks great, has a kick-ass soundtrack, and pretty Japanese people jumping in the air, screaming (as they seem wont to do).
Isn’t that enough for you?