Small Screen Quarantine – Gantz:O

Speaking of not paying actors…

A placeholder for now… have to start putting together an itinerary of sorts. I’ll finish this one at another time.

So, having had a few hours of sleep to think on this, I’m not sure if my thoughts are fully clear. The sleep didn’t exactly help. An hour and a couple miles this morning out in the Northern Canadian wind that’s swept down didn’t sweep away the cobwebs. There were no people out on foot that I saw. There are usually a few at this hour, but who can blame anyone for staying indoors and sleeping late? There’s really no place to go except back to bed. I’ve got things to do though that don’t technically include asking these questions but maybe they’re important too. That remains to be seen. I’ll hammer out some thoughts and do what needs to be done to get where I need to be. The questions may be in some way connected to how much human interaction is truly necessary and maybe interacting with humans and real, organic life on screen counts.

There are easier answers to easier questions. Do you need real actors to make a good film? That’s obviously going to depend on two factors. Firstly, how well do you employ the actors in the film and have you put in the writing and direction, enough to make them fully human and capable of connecting with an audience. Secondly, in relation to animation and CGI, how good is the screenplay and have you made the characters whole and real enough to make them readily identifiable and connectible? It’s the same question for both. Have you created a real story with real people, no matter if they’re actors or 3-dimensional representations of actors?

Framed in this context, GANTZ:O is easily as good and complete a film as several of the Marvel movies and better than some. It doesn’t matter if it’s real people populating your movie or not if you’ve done the work. Film is not entirely a passive medium. There can and will be an emotional interplay between audiences and characters on-screen if you’ve put the effort in to making that happen. Humans are hardwired to connect to visual representations of people onscreen and it doesn’t seem to matter if they’re humans up there or not. Neither Gantz:O nor Avengers: Infinity War did very well in this respect but the reason I say you don’t always need to pay actors is that Gantz:O did a better job of this than the other. Not a great job but it was there. They managed at least some degree of empathic connection. Infinity War fell far short of this and in fact, the only time I really connected with human emotions in Infinity War was with Thanos. I don’t know if that was intentional but I seriously doubt it. Infinity War was the more cartoonish of the two films. Sad.

GANTZ:O also told a better story, not by much but it was there. It’s an interesting premise in which recently deceased humans are uploaded for “games” into a cycle of reincarnation in which they must score enough points fighting monsters that are threatening Tokyo and Osaka in order to move up the ladder to eventual release. Upon scoring 100 points Gantz offers three options:

  1. Gather better weapons for the next cycle of the game.
  2. Resurrect a player that’s been killed.
  3. Have their memory of the games erased and be cycled back to their former lives.

The first surprise to me was learning that members of the Osaka team, a hardnut bunch, had opted for better weapons, a choice that would cycle them back into the game to fight on higher levels. Kato, the protagonist of the film observes with amazement that they seem to get off on the danger and adventure. They are cold and mercenary with little motivation but the thrill of the hunt. They are driven by nothing but those thrills. That’s more readily identifiable as a real-world thing than most of what you see in a good number of action films employing humans. They make choices and remain in “game cycles” because it’s all they know and they are good at it and they enjoy it. Some people can’t imagine doing anything differently than how they’ve always done it. They aren’t motivated much by love or any sense of responsibility to the lives of others. They’re looking for neither redemption nor resurrection.

Kato, on the other hand, is driven only by the drive to get back to his younger brother who has nobody else in the world, and a moral code that demands risking everything to do right by other people. He can’t comprehend living any differently. You live and die a certain way because it’s right. There are no other options. To say any more would ruin the film for anyone reading this but I’ll just go back to what I said a few minutes ago. Gantz:O, using no human actors at all to tell the story, did a better job of connecting on a human level than Infinity War, and any number of action films. It came closer to portraying 3-dimensional beings. It still wasn’t a great film, but it was good enough to stick in my head overnight.

It was a whole story, despite not being a great story. The premise was pretty spectacular and could have fleshed out into a better movie, but it wasn’t bad at all. Some of the monsters were absolutely stunning, in true anime/manga fashion. My favorite was a grotesque conglomeration of writhing, naked women – that was a “holy shit” moment in the movie. The collective army of attackers seemed culled from a bestiary of semi-Freudian and biblical nightmares. There was no shortage of imagination in the catalog of horrors. These factors alone raised the movie from a 3 of 5 to a solid 4, at least for me.

Overall though, I guess another thing I’m saying is that for anything that CGI adds to a film, it all comes at a human cost. It requires another level of imagination. To multi-layer it over a cast of real people creates cognitive dissonance. The brain knows it’s a cartoon, whereas if the film is already a cartoon, it’s easier to suspend the sense of disbelief. No amount of effects though is going to compensate for lazy, shoddy writing.

The common sub-theme in Gantz and Infinity War – forces in the world/universe that create and level the playing field, or a force, or a God who is neither benevolent or malevolent but demands choices and sacrifices. That’s for another time though.

Okay, time to hit the road. I’m out.

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