Gantz (and sequel)

(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)

Gantz is a live-action film version of a manga strip that, even by Japanese standards, is a long runner. It started in 2000 and continues today after more than 350 episodes, written and drawn by Hiroya Oku. The concept is an afterlife deathmatch. At the start of the film, two youths are killed by a Tokyo subway train, and find themselves in a mysterious apartment in the darkened city, along with several other people similarly resurrected. In the apartment is a clearly alien black sphere (there’s a maybe-human man wired up inside, but no hint if he’s a slave or controller). The vaguely 2001-ish impression – the sphere could form a set with that film’s human-baiting monolith – is undercut when the black ball starts playing stirring martial themes and writing sarcastic messages on itself.

The resurrectees are charged with going out into the city night (they get sexy black combat suits) and killing strange creatures. The fighters that survive get to return to the normal world but are periodically summoned back for further contests. As with other Japanese comic adaptations, what impresses is the remake potential. The film itself suffers chronically from dull characters and stilted performances, though the later monsters are surprisingly good in a Harryhausen way. (In the strip, the characters eventually graduate to fighting armies of dinosaurs and vampires.) There’s also an anime version of Gantz, which had more interesting ideas than the live-action version and dollops of puerile sexual perversity, though its battle scenes are interminable. The problem with a Western remake is imagining who could direct it; perhaps Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron.

(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.

(I reviewed the sequel film, Gantz 2: Perfect Answer for SFX Magazine, Future Publishing)

Like the first Gantz film released a few months ago, this is a live-action version of a manga strip about a black alien sphere (the titular Gantz) which resurrects ordinary people and forces them into battles to the death around Tokyo. Whereas the first film gave them oddball monsters to fight, the new adversaries are vengeful humanoid aliens, while Gantz itself threatens to go on the blink.

The characters are utter ciphers, and the ending is insultingly incoherent. But if you watch Asian action films purely for their energetic action, and don’t give two hoots about story and character, then you may find the film broadly satisfying. The standout set-piece is a melee gun-and-swordfight aboard a packed subway train.