Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Movie REVIEW: Ressha Sentai ToQger the Movie: Galaxy Line SOS

Ressha SentaI ToQger the Movie: Galaxy Line SOS

There aren't many places where you can call something only 30 minutes long, but every year the Super Sentai franchise manages to get away with it. Released as part of a cinematic summer double bill with the accompanying Kamen Rider movie, sadly Sentai always seems to get the short end of the stick while the Riders get the full blown movie treatment. In 2014 it was the turn of Ressha Sentai ToQger with Galaxy Line SOS, hitting the silver screen alongside Kamen Rider Gaim: Great Soccer Battle! Golden Fruits Cup!

Lady, conductor of the Galaxy Line
She's a Lady alright

When the space-faring Galaxy Line (which passes by the Earth every 25 years) is shot down by the Shadow Line hunter Count Nair, it's conductor Lady turns to the ToQgers for help to return the line to where it belongs. But it seems her time away from the Earth has changed something in Lady, as she no longer believes the planet has enough imagination energy to power up the Galaxy Line and get it back on track.

As Right and the others attempt to prove her wrong, they also face further attack from Count Nair - who is determined to take down the ToQgers along with the Galaxy Line. With new animal-based powers granted to them by the Galaxy Line's Safari Ressha, the ToQgers are determined to get Lady and the Galaxy Line home just as they will one day return home themselves.

Count Nair
Putting the "big" in big game hunting

That ever-so-short running time will forever be a problem for Super Sentai films, so ultimately the best way to measure their success is usually in whether the film can feel like something more than simply an extended episode of the show. That's all they are really, but 2013's Gaburincho of Music definitely proved this can be done. If they're also able to connect with the show is also an added bonus, as that way it feels like it is adding to that specific show's overall experience and not simply a throwaway adventure for the big screen. Sadly Galaxy Line SOS does not connect up to the ToQger television series in any way whatsoever (be it by cameo or even just an offhand mention of the film's events), but it does manage to still feel like something a bit more special than your average ToQger episode. Lady, Count Nair and the Galaxy Line are all great additions to the world of ToQger - leaving a lasting impression to the audience even if the show chooses to never mention them again.

The Safari Ressha powers of the ToQgers completely steal the show though, once again proving that ToQger can make something great out of a complete joke. They may not look like much, but you'd be surprised at how great a fight sequence involving ToQ #5 in a giant panda costume can be.

Safari-powered ToQgers
You can never keep the animal out of the Sentai

Galaxy Line SOS still falls victim to the usual problems of a Super Sentai summer movie though, especially when it comes to the story's pacing. Things seem to happen just for the sake of effect, rather than having the bearing on the story you'd expect them to. For example, when the Galaxy Line crashes to Earth the Lion Ressha is separated from the other four Safari trains - something Lady points out on more than one occasion. What you might expect is some sort of hunt for the missing trains, but as soon as the Line gets back into space they're all found easily off-screen (despite quite clearly being BLOWN off the rails) and you're left wondering why the Line was even split up in the first place. The movie also pushes Right into the forefront more than any other ToQger - with him coming up with the idea to fix the Galaxy Line, executing it and then going up into space to deliver the "moral" of the film to Lady. All while the rest of the team are getting beaten by the villain's henchman. Red-focus is nothing out of the ordinary for Super Sentai, but with the series able to balance it's team a little better (up until the end anyway) it shouldn't have been too much to hope this film could manage it too.

Safari GaOh lion mode
GAO!

As is the case with most Super Sentai movies these days, Galaxy Line SOS also marks the one and only appearance of another set of trains in mecha form too (gotta sell those toys after all!). The Galaxy Line/Safari Ressha also have the ability to transform into Safari GaOh - a giant mecha train line which can then further transform into a recoloured ToQOh with claws, a lion chest and a new robot head. After the minipla model kit turned out to be the best one in the whole ToQger range I was really excited to see how Safari GaOh would turn out on screen, but what we do get is both fleeting and disappointing. Both the combination and individual trains are completely CGI, which is underwhelming if not completely expected for a one-shot deal. The lion mode gets some pretty great action in a very short timeframe, but in all honesty the robot mode may as well be completely non-existant. It shows up for about 30 seconds (maybe less) for the final move, and is nearly impossible to  get a good look at. As far as flashy finishers go you can't get much better than turning into a giant robot, but every time I look Safari GaOh I think it could have been so much more. Who would have though animals and trains would have worked together so well, especially when they're just altered versions of the Rainbow Line trains? Throughout the ToQger series I kept hoping that the Galaxy Line would pop up somewhere just as the movie-exclusive mecha often do, but alas it never came. 

Safari GaOh robot mode
Blink and you will most definitely miss it.

Galaxy Line SOS is no Gaburincho of Music by any means, but it the same calibre of Super Sentai movie - hindered by its flaws, but still somehow managing to feel like more than just your average episode. A tighter plot, better use of it's exclusive mecha and connectivity to the series would have elevated it further, but despite that this is still one of the better summer movies. We may never get feature-length Super Sentai summer movies, but ever so slowly what we do get is beginning to truly prove it's worth.

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