Friday 12 August 2016

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Ghost & Drive: Super Movie Wars Genesis

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Ghost & Drive Super Movie Wars Genesis

Just as the latest Kamen Rider is beginning to find his footing, his predecessor returns for one last goodbye as part of a Movie Wars crossover which has been a franchise staple for the past seven years. This time it's the turn of Kamen Rider Ghost, reuniting once more with Kamen Rider Drive in the time-travelling Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Ghost & Drive: Super Movie Wars Genesis. Other than boasting a "super" along with the typically lengthy title, Movie Wars Genesis throws one big format change into the works - making it a particularly notable entry in this popular series of crossovers.

Ryu Tenkuji meets Takeru and Shinnosuke
Daddy discipline

When first division police officer Shinnosuke Tomari is asked to investigate mysterious going ons that cannot be explained by science, he encounters Takeru Tenkuji and Mysterious Paranormal Insitute during a fight against a Ganma thief. Following a brief misunderstanding between Kamen Riders Drive, Mach, Ghost and Specter, the two groups settle and begin to learn more about each other. All of a sudden a space/time portal appears, sucking in both Takeru and Shinnosuke and transporting them back to 2005. Here the two find themselves in the care of Takeru's father Ryu - mere days before his untimely death.

However what they also discover is a Ganma plot to awaken a Leonardo da Vinci Eyecon, and a young Akari is right at the centre of it. Meanwhile in 2015 Specter and Mach have their own problems, as the space/time rift causes the resurrection of Roidmudes Heart, Brain and Medic - led by  none other than the Da Vinci Ganma himself. What unfolds is a battle across two time periods, as Ghost and Drive battle in the past to defeat the Ganma and fix the present.

The Da Vinci Ganma with resurrection Roidmudes
A renaissance of villainy

Regular viewers of the Movie Wars series will notice that the biggest change when it comes to Movie Wars Genesis is that the Rider 1 segment/Rider 2 segment/Crossover format has finally been done away with in favour of a feature-length story that features the casts of both series'. While it still may have two stories running parallel, the film happily jumps between the past and present where appropriate to keep the story flowing. This new approach highly benefits the crossover aspect of the film, tying the two Riders together early on whereas previous movies kept them strictly apart until the last half an hour or so. What does perhaps suffer in the process is the epilogue element of Kamen Rider Drive, which has less time to focus on where the team have gone on after the show as they're immediately thrust into the plot of Ghost. That said, Drive is perhaps one of the better shows this could have happened to due its rather conclusive ending and the fact that the timeline will be continued further in the forthcoming Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Mach/Kamen Rider Heart movie.

Makoto, Chase & Gou
Biker gang

This revamped format definitely works just as well in execution as it does in theory, with the casts of both Drive and Ghost almost immediately showing excellent camaraderie that develops beautifully. For all of their flaws in their own series (again, a discussion for another time), the cast of Kamen Rider Ghost have constantly proven themselves to be a welcoming bunch and welcome the cast of Drive with open arms. This doesn't just apply to the five Riders either (yes, thanks to space/time shenanigans Chase also makes a welcome return) - the extended casts also work wonderfully together. Before Kamen Rider Ghost got bogged down all its problems it really started with a bang, and Movie Wars Genesis really highlights what made those early episodes so exciting - the warm welcoming cast along with a more restrictive approach to form changing and over the top comedy. For all the complaints you may read about Onari, his antics here seem tame in comparison to that of Jun Honganji - whose shared scene with Edith feels like one of the strangest dialogue-based ones Kamen Rider has had in a while.

Villains are also handled well too, with the idea of a Da Vinci Eyecon/Ganma tying nicely into Ghost's overall themes. The presentation of the three Renaissance Ganma is good enough to portray them as a threat more notable than the usual Ganma, but without having to rely on the gimmick of a poorly placed movie Rider to up the ante. Not so well done are the reappearance of the Roidmudes, who only feel like they're here to remind the audience that this is supposed to be a Drive film just as much as it is a Ghost one.

Edith meets Honganji
A scene surely only a select few will truly understand

Unfortunately Movie Wars Genesis is so preoccupied with its overall plot that it's abundantly clear that the writers didn't stop and think about the finer details. The movie is riddled with errors and general inconsistencies - some simply there to get the movie flowing without necessary information and others that just downright ignore previous continuity from both Drive and Ghost. Immediately the most glaring of these is the fact that the two Riders don't recognise each other, despite having clearly met in Drive's epilogue episode. From there you have the head-scratching issue of why exactly the Drive Driver is just randomly in a bush outside the Daitenku Temple in 2005, where the Shift Brace and Zero Drive shift car came from (as they weren't lying there with Mr Belt, and he wasn't exactly being co-operative), why Ryu Tenkuji's death is so different to the one that's been constantly flashbacked to in the show (and even in this very film) and finally how/why did he even "summon" his son from the future in the first place? When not treated carefully time travel can create a number of headaches (even Surprise Future wasn't immune to this), and Movie Wars Genesis comes with an abundance of them. The absence of a present day Krim Steinbelt for the majority of the film is also a huge loss, with his relationship with Shinnosuke being one of Drive's biggest successes. That relationship is completely lost throughout the 2005 sections, and their true union during the film's final act is fleeting at best.

Type Tridoron with Toucon Boost
Red and Black

As well as playing about with the overall format, Movie Wars Genesis also plays its movie exclusive suits in an interesting way as well. Usually the powers displayed in the Movie Wars films are a new (often repainted/retooled) "ultimate" form for the returning Rider, and an exclusive power-up for the current Rider that may or may not eventually find its place as part of the series itself. In Genesis Kamen Rider Ghost doesn't receive a brand new form, with the film instead acting as an early sneak preview of the Toucon Boost suit that later debuted in episode 12 (here under the name Tousan Damashii). This isn't the first time this has happened, with Kamen Rider OOO's TaJaDor combo making an early appearance in Movie War Core and Wizard's All Dragon form appearing in Movie Wars Ultimatum. Meanwhile Drive actually receives a weaker power-up here - Zero Drive, a form that precedes Type Speed but is presumably more powerful than Proto Drive (which was in action during the Global Freeze a year earlier). Zero Drive's appearance ties nicely into the time travel aspect of the film, while the early appearance of Boost generally adheres to its creation in the series. The inclusion of less powerful forms is a nice change of pace, illustrating how Kamen Rider movies don't always have to be about the introduction of more powerful forms or bigger attack spamming.

The Renaissance Ganma
Of course it always comes down to the big CGI fight

Movie Wars Genesis is a film that raises several questions and inconsistencies, but definitely has its heart in the right place. The altered format not only improves the crossover element of the film considerably, it offers a less predictable and more unique viewing experience that will hopefully carry forward into future Movie Wars instalments. As a farewell to Kamen Rider Drive it could have perhaps done better, but it manages to perfectly capture the excitement of Kamen Rider Ghost's early episodes and provide a satisfying crossover that brings out the best in both casts. Though far from the best the Movie Wars series has to offer, Movie Wars Genesis is an enjoyable if often confusing entry that at the very least doesn't fail to entertain.

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