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Blu-ray Reviews
Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:00
GantzGantz in anime and manga form was a no-hold-barred kinda show, holding very little back both in terms of violence, and in characters being complete bastards. Sadly, the transition to a live-action movie seems to have led to some toning down...

Teenage high school student Kei Kurono is waiting for a subway train home when he recognizes an old childhood friend Masaru Kato on the same platform. Suddenly, a drunken commuter falls on the tracks just as the station's speaker system announces the approach of a non-stopping express train. Kato immediately goes to the man's assistance but struggles to lift him to safety on his own. Reluctantly, Kurono joins him and they manage to save the man but are unable to get clear of the oncoming train, which hits them and kills them instantly. A split second later, Kurono and Kato find themselves in a bare room in an unfurnished apartment containing several strangers and a large, black spherical object. They quickly discover that all the people in the room have recently died and been instantly resurrected by the mysterious sphere. But their second chance at life comes at a price. To remain alive, those chosen must follow the sphere's instructions in seeking out and destroying numerous bizarre alien life forms secretly inhabiting the earth...

Welcome to the apartmentThe man inside

Nice suitIt's behind you...

One credit to chalk up for Gantz right off the bat: it's faithful to the source. I've never read the manga, but the anime was generally taken as being a faithful adaptation, and the movie follows right in its footsteps, with the 2 hours here roughly covering the same territory as episodes 1 to 21 of the anime. Which means that a lot of what you see here will be vey familiar to anyone who's checked out the source materials - but while the story is more or less intact, there have been small changes made to other aspects, some good, some less so.

There are two sides to Gantz: the battles, essentially an urban combat 'game' mediated by the Gantz, which hands out scores to the survivors based on performances; and the scenes in between each round, which gave an opportunity to give some development to the three main characters - Kuruno and Sato, already mentioned, and Kei Kishimoto, the rather attractive girl who's brought into the game at the same time as Kurono and who he "falls in love" with (in the sense the she's now the only girl in the world he has any hope of scoring with). The game rounds come off the best in live-action form - they're a good excuse to splash out on the special effects to do something visually impressive, and they've made a decent attempt to try and keep the visceral feel of the original intact, without going too overboard on the actual gore (compare the movie's 15 rating, with the 18 handed out to the anime for evidence of a little toning-down). It works well, it's far better paced than the anime - it's only got two hours to work with instead of just short of eleven - and it's fun to switch off to and watch. Yes, they could have ramped up the gore, but I don't think that would've made it any more enjoyable.

The character side, though, comes off less well - for precisely the reason that the action side benefits: covering the arcs that the movie is covering in just two hours means there's very little time for it. It hasn't been excised completely, but there's a lot less of it than there was, and the movie does suffer for it. In the anime, Kurono was a complete arsehole, obsessed with himself and behaving in quite disgusting ways towards Kishimoto; but he's been toned back a lot here to someone with just a tough of arrogance about him. Kato is still loyal to his little brother, as before, but without the same level of explanation to the background of that, you don't get to connect with him the same way; Kishimoto suffers from the same scaling back of her backstory. We go from having three characters that I developed quite strong feelings (negative as well as positive) for over the course of the anime, to three characters who are just there and facilitating the action this time around. All the rough edges have been rubbed off them, and it's hard to care about what's left behind.

The original Gantz was an exercise in extremes - violence, personalities, and switching from being great fun one moment to deeply frustrating the next. The movie adaptation pulls it all towards the centre - it's far less frustrating, far better paced, but ultimately it's got far less about it that really grabs you. It's just there, doing its thing. That's still entertaining enough, for as far as it goes, but if the aim in rounding off all the corners was to make Gantz appeal to a wider audience, all it's managed to do is take away the spirit that really made it stand out. Worth seeing, still, but not what it could or should have been.

Rating - ***

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