Friday, 8 September 2017

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Chou Super Hero Taisen

Chou Super Hero Taisen

If there’s one thing that tokusatsu fans seem to almost unanimously agree on, it’s that the Super Hero Taisen films aren’t that great. While both the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai franchises often excel at smaller crossovers, when the two come together it’s less of an excuse to tell a really good story and more to just cram as many characters/suits on screen as humanly possible. After taking a break last year to make way for the brilliant Kamen Rider 1, the now annual film series is back sounding louder than ever in 2017 with Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Chou Super Hero Taisen. After previous two instalments Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen and Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3 were almost entirely Rider focused, this film marks the first proper crossover on the two franchises on the big screen since 2014’s Super Hero Taisen Z.

Xevious AttacksKamen Rider True Brave

When the 1982 video game Xevious launches an full-scale attack on the real world, Emu turns to the video game “Chou Super Hero Taisen” for help – a world where Rider and Sentai clash led by Kamen Rider True Brave, a game version of Hiiro Kagami. For them to help, Emu must first win the game and earn the power of the Kamen Sentai Goriders. To do so, he forms a team with game versions of Momotaros/Kamen Rider Den-O, Kamen Rider Zolda, Beet Buster and AoNinger.

As Emu fights, the CR and Super Sentai members join forces to uncover the origin of Chou Super Hero Taisen. While Poppy and Naga Rei of the Kyurangers discover a young boy named Eito also living inside the game, Amu of the Zyuohgers uncovers the link between him and a case the real Hiiro has kept secret for the past year.

Team Ex-AidEito

With Toei insistent that the majority of their crossover films must take some sort of “versus” format (even if it’s in name only), there’s always the problem of how you get two lots of superheroes to fight both conceivably and believably. Chou Super Hero Taisen gets around that by dropping them into the one place will no one will ever question the logic behind it – a fighting game. Certainly there later comes the question of how exactly a child could have programmed a game with all these heroes, but with the video game-themed Kamen Rider Ex-Aid currently in the spotlight the idea fits perfectly. So much so that Bandai/Toei could have easily made an actual game out of it, as the five-member team concept has so much potential. Though many of the teams aren't properly highlighted (it's well worth looking up all the ones listed in the match-ups scene), the film does have a lot of fun with putting them together and the character selection segment for Team Ex-Aid is genuinely hilarious. It's really wonderful to see Momotaros, Jin and Shuichi back. Yakumo less so, but to his credit he works great within the team and his inclusion was worth it just to set up an obvious (but definitely obligatory) Magi Yellow/Beet Buster joke.

Speaking of games Toei use their Bandai affiliation to good effect here by introducing classic Namco arcade games Xevious and Galaxian as the invading forces from the game world. Though not the only time actual games have been used in the context of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, their implementation helps makes the show feel that little bit more "real" while at the same time giving off an added layer to that retro gaming vibe the show has going for it.

Emu picks his teamKamen Sentai Gorider

Chou Super Hero Taisen also thankfully takes a leaf out of Super Hero Taisen Z’s book and focuses on a much smaller cast that doesn’t necessarily include the usual major players. While it’s a shame that the film is almost entirely led by the Ex-Aid cast (or more specifically, Emu, Hiiro and Poppy – Taiga is present but largely absent for the main story), it does throw out a few surprises in terms of Super Sentai characters. Though present for the obligatory misunderstanding fight at the very beginning Lucky is actually absent for most of the runtime, with the Kyuranger quota filled by Naga and, to a lesser extent, Balance. As well as the BN thieves being two of the best characters in Kyuranger, Naga’s lack of emotions works perfectly alongside both Eito’s same infliction as well as Hiiro’s stoic disposition. Meanwhile it’s just Amu properly representing the Zyuohgers, which is great considering she was one of the more undeveloped characters in the show itself. What she gets here doesn't really add anything of real value to her in terms of development, but it's always nice to see how Sentai characters outside of their usual teams.

Of course, all that set-up goes out the window when the film gets to the halfway point and writer Shoji Yonemura pulls out the same old tired tropes yet again. Turns out that the Chou Super Hero Taisen element of the film (the part all the advertising has focused on and is actually interesting) only takes up a tiny portion of the runtime and the Goriders are even more poorly implemented here than they were in their own four-part special. Given that they didn’t really fit in there either, that’s quite an accomplishment. Forget Riders and Sentai teaming up to fight against rogue video games, because there’s only one villainous faction ever allowed to get the spotlight in these films. That’s right, Chou Super Hero Taisen turns into yet another brawl with Shocker. Other than Kamen Rider Taisen (which featured the interchangeable Badan Empire) this means Shocker have been involved in every Super Hero Taisen film so far, as well as of course featuring prominently in Kamen Rider 1 too. Being the first and still most prominent evil organisation in Kamen Rider naturally Shocker will continue to crop up every now and again, the at this point without a break their impact possibly couldn’t be any lessened.

Naga, Balance and AmuBrave goes Galaxian

From here on out Chou Super Hero Taisen just feels like the same spectacle over substance the rest of the films suffer, only with a dash less "hero pretending to be evil" than usual. Not even cool like nods to previously considered non-canon shows like Power Rangers Dino Force Brave/Kyoryuger Brave or Kamen Rider Amazons can save it. In fact scenes like the Amazons fight actually make it worse, as the usual savagery of Alpha, Omega and (in his debut appearance) Neo is neutered in the most forgettable of ways. That said there are still some moments to enjoy - even if it's just for cool shots or mindless entertainment value. As pointless as the Kamen Sentai Gorider may be they still have their moment of summoning a selection of Sentai mecha from across the years, and the big climax is a nice little mecha fight finale featuring two KyurenOhs and a giant-sized Maximum Mighty Action-X Ex Aid. Even the new monster design for Shocker's Great Leader deserves praise, with his spider-motif not only calling back to the very first Kamen Rider kaijin but also making a nice evil twist on the Riders' traditional bug motif. Amidst the colour chaos of it all the Eito part of the does still manage to reach a satisfying end, which partly feels thanks to Hiiro's involvement and just how well that character works in emotional storylines.

Shocker's Great Leader returnsTwo Kyurenohs and a giant Ex-Aid

Yes Chou Super Hero Taisen is another lousy film in a series of lousy films, but at least this one seemed to have somewhat good intentions. There are the makings of a good story in there somewhere and the cast is very well chosen, but tearing all that down is the same old poor implementation, meaningless fight scenes and predictable plot twists. And in the end, even the very best cameos and 80s video game references can’t save it from those. One day Toei might be able to create the perfect full-scale Kamen Rider/Super Sentai crossover film, but judging by their output so far that still seems like a pretty long way off.

2 comments:

horaciosi said...

"One day Toei might be able to create the perfect full-scale Kamen Rider/Super Sentai crossover film" Yeah, when they stop letting Shoji Yonemura be the writter

Alex said...

This is also true.