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Gantz II: Perfect Answer
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by Jay Seaver

"Certainly, at least a more than acceptable answer."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The "Gantz" manga is too large and sprawling to make into one movie; and even two may have been a stretch - the first half of this two-part movie covered roughly the first fifteen or so 200-page volumes that have been released in the US, and left plenty out. "Gantz: Perfect Answer" has the task of explaining what the heck was going on in "Gantz" and then wrapping the story up, which is one tall order. It gets the job done, and usually with enough style that the audience can overlook the bits that really don't make a lot of sense. (Note: Spoilers for the first "Gantz" movie will abound; if you haven't seen it, you might wish to do so and then come back later.)

After watching his friend Masaru Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) die in the last movie's climax, Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) has sworn to make things right. In the regular world, it means he and girlfriend Tae Kojima (Yuriko Yoshitaka) are looking after Kato's little brother Ayumu; when he's called by to a strange apartment by the mysterious "Gantz" entity to hunt down aliens for "points", he and fellow veteran Yoshikazu Suzuki (Tomorowo Taguchi) execute them with ruthless efficiency, protecting the newbies so that they can earn enough points to revive fallen comrades. As bizarre as this is, things are about to get even stranger - model Eriko Ayukawa has a black orb that is sending her on missions of her own, cop Masamitsu Shigeta (Takayuki Yamada) is digging into the strange pattern of deaths and reappearances around Tokyo, and Kato has apparently returned from the dead without anybody accessing the 100-point-menu.

There comes a time in many (if not most) continuing series where the focus inevitably turns inward. What starts out as a scenario that allows the storyteller to explore many ideas within a familiar framework becomes a focus on the details of the framework itself. Perfect Answer winds up in a sort of in-between place - although it never devolves into focusing on minutia, the new characters introduced have less room to breathe than Kato, Kei, and Kishimoto did in the first. Making Gantz and the aliens the focus of the story rather than just plot devices does tend to highlight that the series's video-game logic really makes no practical sense.

On the other hand, video game logic does lead to a some fantastic action scenes. The filmmakers don't have the budget to stage some of the massive set-pieces in Hiroya Oku's original comics, but while the movie can't compare to the comics for over-the-top spectacle, it manages quite well in thrills and high-stakes. There's a massive battle scene on a moving subway train where the aliens escalate to killing civilians that is both exceptionally well-staged for taking place in such a cramped space with so many extras and downright vicious, it's long, exhausting, and fantastic. The chase that follows a bit later is not quite so elaborate, but ratchets the tension up by being even more personal.

Both put Kazunari Ninomiya's Kei at the center of the action, and he's up for it. Kei is more mature in this installment, but Ninomiya doesn't play him as completely battle-hardened; he retains an amusing discomfort in social situations that don't involve killing strange aliens. Kenichi Matsuyama also seems to have improved as Kato; whether because of the material, he seems more involved and less of a pleasant but passive blank. Yuriko Yoshitaka does a nice job of investing Tae with more than just endearing dorkiness, and even Tomorowo Taguchi seems to have a weightier presence. Another returning cast member (whose name I probably shouldn't say because I enjoyed the surprise resurrection) gives the movie a great boost, which is needed, since the new characters this one is paired with don't get a chance to catch up with the returnees.

I'm not sure whether these movies were filmed simultaneously or back-to-back; in either case, director Shinsuke Sato manages consistent quality across the complete four and a half hour epic, handling both the big set-pieces and the down-time in between well. The feel of the film - halfway between the slickness of The Matrix and the crunchy solidity of a hard-R eighties action movie - is just right. Sato and screenwriter Yusuke Watanabe do a nice job of increasing the tension by dialing back the in-your-face weirdness here, and while there are some issues with the end (almost fittingly, it swings too far to both apocalyptic and victorious extremes at times), they've made something entertaining and accessible enough for both fans and neophytes to enjoy.

Given that the manga is (based on what's been released in the US) likely at least 5,000 pages of over-the-top action with dozens of characters and subplots, wrestling it down to two movies is no mean feat. "Gantz: Perfect Answer" is a satisfying finish to what "Gantz" started, and that would have been an easy thing to bet against.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22611&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/13/11 13:34:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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  DVD: 17-Jan-2012

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