Story: Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) wants to help his old friend from school Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) to get of the tracks of an underground
subway after his friend has saved a drunk man's life. However, Kurono is ending up on the tracks as well and the two are hit by a train. When
the two are regaining consciousness they stand in front of a big black sphere along with a few other individuals who have all met their maker.
The sphere announces that the lives of everyone of them is now owned by the being called Gantz which is the sphere. Gantz sends nine recruits on
perilous missions in which they have to bring down dangerous aliens. Kurono and Kato as well as the girl Kishimoto (Natsuna Watanabe) soon
understand the rules of their deadly mission. After each job every "soldier" is rated with a score. If one of the soldiers should reach 100 points
he can choose whether he wants to get back his old life or revive one of the fallen "players". In case a soldier gets killed he is replaced by
a new "recruit". While the rest is still fighting to accept their new fate Kurono finally sees his chance to become someone extraordinary.
Review: "Gantz" is an action film based on the anime of the same name and is produced with a high budget seldomly invested into a movie
in Japan. The money is quite apparent in the lavishly produced special effects, which to the audience's surprise aren't just consisting of computer
generated effects, but instead look more old-school. This bestows a certain flair upon the movie that makes it stand out from similar Hollywood
productions. Apart from that there is also a story, of course, which seems a bit episodic, however. One reason for that is that the soldiers
recruited by Gantz are frequently sent on alien hunting missions and another reason is that the movie is just the first installment of a
two-parter. Therefore, you will have to deal with the fact that there are still a lot of questions left unanswered at the end. When it comes
down to it "Gantz" proves to be an interesting adaption for the big screen that nonetheless just has too many flaws to be recommended without
Since I'm not familiar with the original material this critic won't move into comparisons with the anime. According to my research, at least that much should be said, "Gantz" seems to abide by the source material, yet takes some liberties as well. Something that I actually welcome since the film can still hold a surprise for fans of the anime this way. Also, concerning the overall tone the movie adaption is more restrained as originally sex and violence stood in the focus. Kishimoto is said to be naked every now and then in the manga series, here there is only one small scene at the beginning during which we get to see a bit of bare skin from actress Natsuna and apart from a few comments of Gantz the humor is also more restrained in this respect. It looks completely different when it comes to the violence, though. Since that one has completely survived the adaption to the big screen, thus it sometimes happens that the recruits lose extremities or the aliens just explode in big fountains of slime. Not for the faint of heart, but since there is anime written all over it it's not as gruesome after all.
The biggest problem becomes apparent in the story, though, as most of the time it is dragging on a bit too much. The numerous trips on alien hunts actually become repetitive since they don't serve an all-embracing story thread. Obviously, it was intended to put more focus on the development of the characters, but that's just were the next problems arise. Kishimoto is drawn especially shallow, but Kato who apparently was granted a bit more background story also remains somewhat two-dimensional. He may have a tragic past and a little brother he has to take care of, but the director still can't get emotional access to the viewer via him. Kurono on the other hand depicts the actual hero of the movie, it's just that the change he undergoes from the chicken-hearted man to the new protector of Tokyo is realized pretty bumpily. At the beginning he doesn't even have the civil courage to save a drunkyard from the tracks and later on he is attacking the aliens with a battle shout without the audience having borne witness to his transformation in any way.
Also annoying is how the individual recruits are provided with ultra-modern weapons and armors that seem to be imported right from the next century and yet they are incredibly often pointing their guns at something without firing and instead tremble in fear. Oftentimes the characters are displaying so much inactivity that we are almost hoping for them to lose their lives because of that high amount of stupidity. When to make things worse several recruits are standing in front of a 10 meter high statue come to life and no one starts to strafe this target that is impossible to miss we have to ask ourselves what the actual intention of the director was with this.
Besides these flaws, that are in fact taking a lot of fun out of the otherwise captivating alien hunt, "Gantz" knows how to score with its special effects and the alien drawings. Especially an odd robot alien can win over the viewer as it is terrifying because of its tremendous power and quickness and at the same time looks somewhat funny because of its appearance that resembles a toy.
The drama parts, which aren't that successful on their own, are enhanced by some action filled fights. They aren't really spectacular to be honest since no one except Kurono excercises with his combar gear, although it's the obvious thing to do, but the fight for sheer survivial, as the new recruits are almost dying by the minute, gives all of it a special flair. The finale is kicking in with numerous impressive effects and epic destruction orgies. What's really a delight are the figures of the gigantic statues that remind us of Ray Harryhausen, especially the deity with 1000 arms that looks like it has been brought to life by good old stopmotion craft. Actually, everything has been laboriously done at the computer, of course.
"Gantz" shows potential, but the character drawing and the drama inserts can't keep up with with the lavish big budget. The flaws are to be found on multiple levels, but there is still hope that everything will turn for the better in the sequel. Let's see what the future holds in store.