Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Mar 5th 2012
Kei Kurono is off to a job interview and in a more existential level, a purpose in life. On the same train platform that Kei is waiting on is his childhood friend Masaru Kato. As a drunkard collapsed onto the train tracks below, a chain of events leads into the two of them eventually being down there as a train comes around consequently killing them. At least that's what they thought. They soon find themselves in an apartment which contained nothing apart from a black ball in the middle of the room. Together with several people who seem to have faced the same fate, the black ball known as Gantz, issues them with weapons and suits and a mission to kill aliens. Suffice to say, they and everyone else are left confused and it's only when people start dying that their new reality finally hits and they must fight to survive and save each other.
This first piece of a two part movie release is good. It is really good. From the acting, to the CG integration, to the overall story, everything was varying degrees of good. I wouldn't say that it's great, certainly not better than the Death Note movies (not counting L Change The World) which share the same producer as Gantz, but when I was hooked from the start and desperately wished I had the second movie by the end, then it's done something right.
So what did it do right? Firstly, it's the no-holds-barred portrayal of the characters, particularly the main protagonists Kurono (played by Kazunari Ninomiya) and Kato (played by Ken'ichi Matsuyama). Kurono is a fairly unaccomplished college student needing to find a role to play in society. He's also slightly predisposed to being lecherous though only in a comical way. Kato is more pragmatic and is mostly concerned about being there for his younger brother. The events of his life made him sensitive to human misery and all he really wants to do is ensure no one dies. Both Ninomiya and Matsuyama do a commendable job of presenting these characters in very unexaggerated and genuine ways; it's like seeing exactly what you might do were you in the shoes of the characters.
The story itself is very intriguing. The real reason why these aliens are around, let alone why they need to be killed is never really revealed. For the most part the characters comply with this directive because of a lack of choice. No explanation is given as to why their suits or weapons were as advanced as they were. There are really quite a number of concepts that were never explained but what makes this interesting is how and why the people were there in that empty Tokyo apartment to begin with; everyone's dead already. It's one of those, “that could be me” type situations and it makes you wonder for your own behalf what your reactions might be.
This is where I believe the whole show excels in; the atmosphere. It's not quite horror, although by the amount of blood and gore particularly in the first contact with aliens, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for one. At its core it's predominantly an action sci-fi movie but with a slight psychological twist. For all intents and purposes, the humans participating in the alien hunts are following orders from a ball. It's a ball which treats them as no more than characters in a video game. On top of being alive for another day, they are rewarded in some form for actually participating and as simple as this premise is, it does throw open a whole lot of possibilities for different kinds of people with differing motivations.
Where I would say it was lacking is perhaps in the presentation of the alien monsters. They look like literal attempts at transposing drawn/animated characters into the real world. This will always be a hit or miss affair and in this case, I'm tending to say it's a bit off the mark; they just felt fake. Essentially, they tried to show the aliens as having innocuous appearances so that when they showed their malice they would be all the more menacing for it but at some points, even when they start destroying buildings, I was more prone to giggling than being scared (the giant Buddha reminded me far too much of the marshmallow man from the Ghost Busters movie).
Due to the fact that this is a two-part movie, the ending is predictably going to end with a lot of loose ends. I knew that and I was prepared for it but with that said, I have to admit that despite it seemingly easy enough to do, they didn't quite get this aspect right. It appeared like they tried to finish things as if it were a standalone movie with an ending where the audience is meant to use their imagination to visualise the heroes continuing their struggle. Ultimately this isn't exactly a negative, but if they left things in a cliff hanger moment, then I think that would really set up the second movie better.
If you are after a movie that can totally immerse you in the atmosphere and make you really relate to the plights of the characters, Gantz is hard to give a miss. As the story progresses you just keep wondering, “what's next” and by the time it reaches its conclusion, you'll probably be very hooked and needing more. I was half tempted to grab the anime just so I can find out how it all ends – luckily Wikipedia satisfied me… for now.
Overall : A
Story : A
Art : B
Music : B
+ Intriguing plot that really draws you in.
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