Way back in around 1995 or '96 I happened to catch the Casshan: Robot Hunter anime on the Sci-Fi Channel Anime Week marathon. That, along with the other movies that were shown that week, were the catalysts that piqued my interest and eventual obsession with Japanese animation.
So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that they were making a live action version of that anime called Casshern. And as a fan of the anime, I have to say that all in all, I was not disappointed in this movie.
The first thing that I have to mention about Casshern are the visuals. They were awesome. They were beautiful and effective and just plain cool to behold. And unlike a lot of special effects movies, I thought that the visuals in Casshern actually complimented the story nicely and even enhanced the drama.
The story was pretty strait forward. There's a war that has recently ended but that has resulted in the earth being covered in nuclear radiation, leading to widespread disease. A scientist named Dr. Azuma is trying to come up with a cure for this global sickness in the hopes that he will be able to save his dying wife. The experiments end up being sponsored by his country's military and ultimately lead to the creation of these super humans called Neo-Sapiens. After the military tries and nearly succeeds in slaughtering them all, the Neo-Sapiens vow vengence upon all humanity. The only one who can stand up to them is Azuma's son, Tetsuya, who has also been recently resurrected as a Neo-Sapien but one-ups the others by sporting power-armor developed by Azuma's associate.
As goofy as that description may sound, I actually thought the story was pretty good. Sure it had enough holes and unexplained occurances to make your head spin, but somehow I was willing to forgive it all. For example, after having the majority of their newly generated species eradicated, the remaining Neo-Sapiens stumble upon an abandoned factory that is all set to mass produce battle robots. And with nary but a flip of the switch the factory starts pumping the robots out by the legions, and thus are used in the fight against humanity. Of course it's never explained where the heck this factory came from (perhaps it was abandoned in haste during the war for some reason), but really who cares? I think the robots were just supposed to be a sort of homage to the original anime. Not to mention the fact that they were a conviniet device for leading into some super kick ass fight scenes.
Ultimately I think it really just comes down to the fact that the the visuals were cool and the characters were cool and to hell if the story leaves much of the explaining to the audience's imagination. Some people would even say that's a good thing. Like me damn it! :D
The ending also wasn't too bad in my opinion. It was really drawn out, but even so I never felt bored as the climax played out. Most of the major plot elements were explained and wrapped up in an original and satisfying way. And although the explanation for the end isn't spoon-fed to the audience, with a little brain power anyone could figure it out.
One thing I did notice with this movie (and a lot of other Japanese films -- both live action and animated) is that there isn't any "resolution". In other words it goes through the climax, but doesn't provide an afterward to allow the audience to wind down before the end credits. It's just climax, then cut.
All in all though, I did enjoy watching this movie. I'd recommend it only to those who like cool visuals and who are not easily flustered by lack of explanations. It's just cool. That's all there is to it.