Thursday 15 December 2016

Movie REVIEW: Ultraman X the Movie: Here It Comes! Our Ultraman

Ultraman X the Movie: Here it Comes! Our Ultraman

2016 has been another big year for the Ultra Series. Just as 2015 celebrated the 50th anniversary of Ultra Q and the franchise as a whole as well as Tsuburaya Productions making the leap into worldwide simulcasting with Ultraman X, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the original Ultraman series and the 20th anniversary of Ultraman Tiga (which at the time was the first series in over 15 years). The celebration of these two milestone birthdays and the send-off Ultraman X deserves comes in the form of a feature-length film, entitled Ultraman X the Movie: Here It Comes! Our Ultraman. Although the movie is not available through Crunchyroll like the series, it will however be receiving limited English-dubbed screenings alongside the Ultraman Ginga movie in the US in 2017.

Ultraman vs the Baltans
Now THIS is how to open an anniversary movie!

Taking place sometime Ultraman X and Xio’s victory of Greeza, the team are now enjoying a brief period of peace. Following Daichi’s return from monster observation in Australia, he and Asuna are called to investigate a mysterious pyramid in the Baranji Ruins. Meeting up with archaeologist Tsukasa Tamaki and her son Yuuto, the group discover the temple was built in honour of the legendary Ultraman Tiga. However when fame-hungry celebrity Carlos Kurosaki removes a mysterious stone from the temple, it awakens the powerful monster Zaigorg.

With even Ultraman X unable to stand up against Zaigorg, Xio faces its greatest challenge yet as the monster begins a worldwide rampage. Only through joining the lights and fulfilling the temple’s ancient prophecy will they be able to succeed, uniting X not only with Tiga but also the legendary hero of light himself – Ultraman.

The ancient Tiga statue
Ultraman Jonias and the Temple of Doom

Although Here It Comes! Our Ultraman serves as a “final” adventure for the Ultraman X crew and resolves the main plot thread left over from the series, in terms of story it can’t help but feel a little anticlimactic coming off the back of the series finale. With Greeza being the monster that caused X to lose his physical body and set the whole series in motion to begin with it would perhaps have been more fitting to have that as the conclusion rather than this more straightforward story about disturbing ancient relics. Leaving things the way they were in the show does however open up a brand new dynamic for the film, where X can freely communicate with the other members of Xio as well as Daichi himself. It makes for a nice change of pace to experience an Ultraman where the hero’s identity isn’t a guarded secret anymore, and it allows X’s more light-hearted and cheeky personality to shine through. The addition of Tsukasa and Yuuto to the cast is well implemented – as easy as it is to complain about bad child actors there’s always something fitting about having a child play a big part in these stories. But luckily there isn’t anything bad to say about the acting here, as the film delivers a typically superheroic message about selflessness, family and the power of light over darkness.

Destoroyah 2.0

But while the general plot may be a bit by the books the stakes have been raised when it comes to the action. Tsuburaya Productions’ incredible craftsmanship shines through once again in terms of both costume and set design, as Zaigorg rampages through all variety of wonderfully realised miniature sets. Here It Comes! Our Ultraman’s finale also almost takes place exclusively at night, setting it apart visually from X’s usual range of fight sequences while at the same time showing off all the light-up parts of the various costumes. The rest of Xio all play a big part in the battle scenes too, and even with the slightly silly-looking Muskettys hold their own in a way any good Ultraman science patrol should. Ultraman X was the undisputed victor of 2015’s tokusatsu offerings when it came to spectacle and this movie continues that, resulting in a film that’s a practical effects marvel that’s never dull on the eyes.

The anniversary elements of the film are handled well – enough to make Ultraman and Tiga’s appearances in the film special but not so plot-heavy that they take away from this being primarily an X film. While Tiga’s appearance seems only very loosely tied to his own series, Takami Yoshimoto’s role as Tsukasa is some great casting that ties together both the original Ultraman and Tiga – Yoshimoto having previously appeared as Rena in Tiga while also being the daughter of Susumu Kurobe, who of course playing Shin Hayata in Ultraman. Meanwhile Ultraman is appropriately treated like the stuff of legend, first appearing in a brilliant fantasy-like scene battling an army of Baltans before properly arriving in a moment of very real reverence. Of course these aren’t the only Ultras to return either – Zero, Max, Ginga, Victory and Nexus all make an appearance too, having previously appeared in the Ultraman X series as well. Again the way this is handled makes the film feel special in the sense that it’s an anniversary, but without the bloatedness similar projects can suffer from when they try to cram too many characters in. 

The Beta Spark armour
Specium Zeperion much?

Another notable disappointment is that Ultraman X’s key gimmick almost seems lost for the majority of the film. While the cards themselves get good usage through the Muskettys and both Exceed X and Cyber Gomora make appearances, X’s various power ups from the show are inexplicably absent. This is likely due to the film not having to do the hard sell on toys like the show did, but with the gimmick being such a big part of X’s initial draw it is a little saddening to see it mostly forgotten about (although in the film’s defence the show was a guilty of it too once Exceed showed up). However some of this is made up for with the appearance of the Beta Spark Armour - a movie-exclusive armour combining the powers of the original Ultraman and Ultraman Tiga. As well as looking fantastic it also utilises the anniversary element of the film excellently, with the weapon cleverly combining Ultraman’s Beta Capsule and Tiga’s Spark Lens.

The other cameoing Ultra Heroes
Don't forget about us!

While in terms of narrative the Greeza battle does feel like a more fitting finale for Ultraman X, that isn’t to say Here It Comes! Our Ultraman isn’t an excellent movie. It works wonderfully both as an X movie and an anniversary tribute to its predecessors, celebrating 50 years of this iconic Japanese franchise. Although Ultraman X will be appearing in the Orb movie and likely have other cameo appearances in the future, this is goodbye to a series that has arguably helped create a new generation of Ultraman fans worldwide. And although the “Our Ultraman” title may primarily refer to the original, because of this it’s fair to say that for many it could be just as applicable to X as well.


Anonymous said...

This might sound rude, but may I ask where you watched this? I've been looking around but all I can find are RAWs, Thai subs or Indo subs...

Alex said...

Not rude at all! TV-Nihon have it subbed :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks a lot!

Lolingstar said...

The film may have flaws, but it was a neat way to conclude the series.

Also, I almost cried when they used their theme in various parts of thw movie because it was a sign of X's last hurrah :'(

Terry the Censor said...

This played in a Toronto theatre in February along with Ultraman Ginga S: Showdown! Ultra 10 Warriors!!

Pretty amazing seeing Ultraman on a big screen.

Alex said...

Aww I bet it was! I'd have loved to be able to make one of those screenings!