Monday, April 25, 2011

Gantz: Perfect Answer 2011

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Rating: 2/5

A disappointing follow up to the promising Gantz. Sloppy plotting and pacing detract from the interesting concept at the heart of it.

Oh dear, what started out so promisingly finishes so averagely. All the intrigue and suspense that was built up in the tightly paced first two hours, peters out within thirty minutes and never gets going again. It's not a complete catastrophe, but it is a dismaying finale and a definite disappointment. Gantz was all about questions, Perfect Answer successfully removes the mystique.

Whereas originally we were dropped straight into the mix, here thirty minutes of slow and dull exposition is dumped on us before anything close to exciting has happened. Cramming an entire manga series into two films was never going to be easy and the demands of a lengthy and complicated narrative finally take their toll. The new characters that are introduced contribute little, and by broadening the scope it makes this conclusion a muddled affair. Perfect Answer, as the title would have you believe, is an attempt at explanation. The convoluted one offered here strains to wrap everything up neatly which was never going to be an easy task..

The story begins shortly after the first film and if you haven't seen that yet you might want to skip the next few paragraphs as there are spoilers aplenty. Kurono (Ninomiya) is fast approaching the hundred points that will set him free or allow to bring back one of the fallen players. The player he hopes to resurrect is Kato (Matsuyama), whose younger brother he has been looking after with the help of his “Will they? Won’t they?” college friend Tae (Yuriko Yoshitaka). He lives a double life, burger shop by day, alien killer by night.

However, the boundaries between the limbo of the Gantz world are beginning to blur as the post-brawl destruction makes news-headlines. A new character, Model Eriko Ayukawa, played by the alluring Ayumi Ito, finds a mysterious small black orb in her post box. The mini-sphere, like Gantz itself, gives her targets. Except this time the targets are humans, and her tasks are carried out in the real world. She is providing Gantz with his soldiers, and unable to resist. Another addition is shady looking P.I Masamitsu Shigeta (Takayuki Yamada) on the hunt for answers about a black ball in a mysterious tower block, who begins to pick up her trail. His search leads him to a group of aliens living in the real world, indistinguishable from humans. They procure his services in exchange for information.

Ninomiya's acting was already beginning to show signs of weakness, but the spotlight of the love interest and added heroism required of him here really illuminates the cracks. For the majority of the film he is fine, but when he sends it up with a mixture of anguished shouting, and some injured, struggling for breath crawling, it puts even the most hammy thespians to shame. The PG-13 relationship with Tae is tiresome, cutesy, and hard to care about. She is a pretty hollow presence and going for meek ends up moot. Their love story eventually takes centre stage and all the clever ideas built up dissolve in its blandness.

SPOILERS!Kato (Matsuyama) is back, which if you’ve seen a trailer you’ll know already, and doesn't do much wrong. As he does spend the majority of the film in a creepy, not very chatty, doppelganger role it would have been pretty hard to, but he is dependable as ever. The double doesn’t quite seem to make a lot of sense, although does allow for some exciting fight scenes and nice Terminator 2 allusions.

The rest of the surviving Gantz players chip in a bit more here, with mixed results. The ex-salary man Yoshikazu Suzuki (Tomorowo Taguchi) not quite taking to his new life as an alien assassin is a good presence. He looks like a fish out of water and is very convincing. The rest suffer from some serious over-acting problems. It’s almost as if they were trying to maximize the effect these bit-parts will have on their CV. As division creeps into the team things get a little bit more exciting, though there are a few too many Mexican stand-offs.

The aliens this time round are essentially just humans. Veins of black smoke trickle down to reform their limbs and they do that standard flittery eye thing to denote their unearthly status thing, but don’t expect any of the giddy heights reached previously. Before each action scene in part one you were wondering just what on earth is going to happen next, well in this film you know. There are no crazy looking 1950’s cartoon character robots, no angry deities, no half vegetable Frankensteins, just plain old run of the mill humans.. I was reminded of that common criticism of sequels that the formula is simply make everything bigger and louder. Well, for once that might not have been such a terrible idea because here less is less.

By the time the first action scene finally arrives, though decent enough, it doesn’t have any of the sense of mayhem and feels like a pretty routine set-piece. It is shot on a subway with real passengers, who assume that the group of futuristic, leather suited people are some sort of advertising stunt. What follows is a claustrophobic melee with plenty of carnage, but little imagination or originality. It works yes, but it is nothing new.

Perfect Answer is not entirely dreadful there are some good things going on here. Direction wise Sato takes some chances that come off well. There are some good, and sparingly used, first person point of view action shots that fit well with the film’s slightly video-gamesy vibe. Thrusting the viewer into the action it does have a pleasantly immersive effect. Some of the action scenes seem to have been looking at Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for inspiration as the characters float/fly across the Tokyo Rooftops, which looks nice. Perfect Answer is another technically well made film with convincing special effects and direction. It’s the stale pacing, sloppy plotting, and lack of surprise that let it down.

It’s unfortunate that Gantz did go on to suffer from Matrix syndrome ; an exciting high concept idea that gets lost in the following films. Like them, this is far more expansive stuff than the first and it loses its clarity. The simplicity of the action, plot, action plot structuring is out, and things are in full on epic-mode here. The need to follow the source material obviously made this a necessity, but it is handled all wrong. I said that no previous experience with the comics was required to enjoy Gantz. This is not so easy to argue with part 2 which squeezes a lot in that doesn’t seem to add up entirely. The intriguing first film was very good but, perhaps there is no perfect answer.

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