Despite some tremendous inadequacies in plot, pacing, and script, CASSHERN is the kind of film that you really want to like.
A tremendous breakthrough from Japanese cinema, the film offers an almost Hollywoodesque adventure that any film fan would cherish: a multi-layer, action-intensive plot backed by top-notch CGI visuals that, in many cases, defy definition, convention, and expectations. The film looks like a million bucks ... but, alas, that's all CASSHERN delivers: good looks.
While CASSHERN promises to deliver some huge bucks in premise, it only manages to muster strength in the first half: a world populated by war receives one last chance for survival thanks to the work of Dr. Azuma, a genetist whose 'neo-cell' treatment promises to revitalize the human race by growing new human tissue, organs, and body parts. However, when the 'neo-cells' evolve into their own race, the Earth's sole hope rests in the returned-from-the-dead son of Azuma (Tetsuya Azuma played by Yusuke Iseya) to rediscover his new humanity -- and his new abilities -- before an all out attack destroys the planet.
Think Ridley Scott's modernization of the Frankenstein mythos, the stellar BLADE RUNNER, remade with an anime influence, and you get the picture.
However, the first half's strengths quickly crumbles under a second half heavily bogged down in talk and theme. Arguably, the film takes the relatively mainstream concept -- good versus evil -- WAY too far, and the end result is that the main premise of right vs. wrong is pigeonholed with an all-too-predictable message for the art-house set in the conclusion. Hint: if your point can be made in a few sentences, what's the purpose of a 140+ minute film?
That aside, CASSHERN is the kind of film that's easy to enjoy. The visuals are, pardon the pun, to die for. The hero is well worth the worship. The mind-blowing effects push the technology envelope far beyond anything else to come out of Japan previously (so far as I'm concerned or have seen). Of particular note are the wildly frenetic fight sequences that harken back to the outstanding premise (man versus machine -- or 'manufactured man') of the film.
In the conclusion, perhaps it's better when all that glitters isn't gold; if it were, CASSHERN would've been a mother lode too big to tap.