Re:View – ‘Gantz’
I sat through both parts of ‘Death Note’ unimpressed, thinking only that this was really not aimed at me, but ‘Gantz’, from the same producers, started out as another matter entirely. A cross between ‘Battle Royale’ and er, I don’t know, ‘Super 8’ possibly, or ‘MIB” crossed with ‘Scott Pilgrim VS The World’, or perhaps it’s best not to compare it with anything else at all, ‘Gantz’ was spawned by an incredibly violent and sexual Japanese Manga, but arrives as a lavish fantasy pic with its more offensive elements toned down.
And rather against the odds, it’s terrific. Or at least, half of it is – I’ll explain in a moment.
After trying to rescue a drunk on the subway tracks, two teens are hit by a train and wake up in a room dominated by a mysterious black sphere that sends them to hunt down and kill aliens hiding on Earth. It’s powered by a human being trapped inside it. If they can rack up 100 points on their mission, they can free themselves or choose to free someone who already died.
You’re thinking it’s the old ‘undead teens battling aliens in limbo Earth world’ scenario, but it gets weirder, trust me. The sphere is sarcastic, provides them with nifty power-suits and packs them off after some very peculiar aliens, a creepy ‘Freaks’-style mini-alien who reeks of onions, a fantastic robo-quiz-host type being with the sun inside his mouth, and an alien that can inhabit statues and bring them to life. Each must be fought for the points which return life to the dead.
Even as I’m typing this, I realise how awful it sounds, but for some reason it’s not at all. The film is actual two two-and-a-half hour long features released five months apart, and the action incorporates the five-month gap into the story. In the second half matters are complicated with doppelgängers, a second sphere and new rules, with a terrific fight on a runaway subway train. But the second half is also confusing and drawn-out – Pantz, in places. It does at least have a neat if somewhat guessable resolution.
There’s no way that UK audiences can see films like this on big screens anymore. They’re not arthouse fare but subtitled blockbusters, so they bypass multiplexes and I would probably not be aware of their existence if I didn’t trawl websites looking for such lunatic offerings. The direction is unobtrusive, allowing time to establish the characters and also adding spatial awareness to the battle scenes, so that a sense of tension occurs – and refreshingly, the teenagers are rather slow at firing their futuristic delayed-reaction weapons, preferring to work things out first.
‘Gantz’ is more original than most fare currently coming out of Hollywood, and is available as a double DVD. Don’t say this site doesn’t try to bring you the best in peculiar, that’s all.