Thursday 2 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Everyone should know by now that the end of Kamen Rider series is never the last we see of its characters. Besides the various crossover movies that will keep bringing back characters for years to come, for the past five years or so each series has consistently received one or more V-cinema sequels focusing on some of the other Riders that appeared. That trend has followed through to Kamen Rider Build, which puts the spotlight on fan-favourite Ryuga Banjou in Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z. The film enjoyed a brief theatrical release at the beginning of 2019 before arriving on Blu-Ray a few months later, with a special edition bundled with Cross-Z's new Muscle Galaxy Fullbottle.

After defeating Evolto and successfully merging the world, Sento Kiryu and Ryuga Banjou are the only one with memories of the Sky Wall or the Pandora Box. But as they begin to rebuild their lives in this brand new world, a new enemy emerges from the white Pandora Box panel. After identifying itself as Evolto's older brother Killbus, the alien begins his own plans to utilise the power of the Box and destroy the planet.

However Killbus isn't the only one that's survived. When the fate of the world lies in the hands of Banjou, he finds an unlikely ally in his greatest enemy. Evolto has also returned, and Killbus' resurrection of the Pandora Box also results in others regaining their memories of the former world.

For the most part Kamen Rider V-cinema releases have to be fairly limited in scope. Acting as an epilogue of sorts to their respective series means that the overall threat has been extinguished, and so unless they dive into prequel/side story territory they're usually more about mopping up any remnants that are left over. Unfortunately because Kamen Rider Build ended a lot cleaner than previous series, NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z hasn't been left with a whole lot to work with. So rather than come up with something new and find a clever way to work around these limitations, the film goes about systematically undoing every finite part of Build's ending in this most convenient ways possible. Any impact that ending had is lost in the first 15 minutes or so, and by the end of film the victory the team had achieved is left hollow and meaningless. A hero's work may never truly be done, but NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z is less taking the band-aid off and more just ripping open the wound.

Let's start with Killbus, as Kamen Rider takes a leaf out of Dragon Ball Z's book and casts its villain as the stronger, eviler brother of the main series' greatest threat. But while Cooler is just a dumb bit of fun that is mostly ignored by Dragon Ball canon, Killbus just messes around with Build's in the most unsightly of ways. Suddenly Evolto isn't meant to seem all that bad in comparison to his brother who's obsessed with nothing but destruction, and the way the film seems to paint Evolto's stealing of the Pandora Box to "protect it" as some sort of heroic act just comes across as flat out bizarre. Killbus takes every complaint about Evolto being a less interesting villain as time went on and double downs on it, as if the writers' are trying to prove a point about how much worse it could have been.

He's not alone either, since the film also brings Evolto back in a reluctant hero role to face off against his brother. While the way he's resurrected makes sense from what we've seen of the character and how he's able to control his cells, the fact he's resurrected proper is the biggest way the film spits in the face of the show's conclusion. It could have easily been a temporary resurrection that ends with his powers dissipating in film's climax (especially as he merges with Banjou for his Cross-Z Evol form), but instead we have the cast not only willingly help make him stronger again but also allow him to leave Earth at the film's end. Much like the oversight of leaving Phoenix continually get stronger as he repeatedly dies in the heart of the sun in Kamen Rider Wizard (how I wish that would be addressed one day), letting the villain that very nearly tore the planet apart to run around freely "regaining his strength" seems like a pretty big mistake. It raises the question of whether Shugo Moto had any idea he'd be writing any more Build after he completed the series proper, as he clearly felt he'd written himself into a corner with that ending.

All this talk of villains and it's easy to forget that it's Kamen Rider Cross-Z's who’s the main character, given that it's his name in the title. But unfortunately this film doesn’t feel like a decent exploration of development of Banjou as a character either. He does some things and has some fight scenes, but as far as moving the plot forward goes it always feels like there’s someone else in the driving seat instead. Even Yui, the new character created solely for this film, feels severely underused and her relationship with Banjou is very by the numbers. It is fun however how the film manages to cycle through nearly all of Cross-Z's numerous forms (even Charge gets a look in!), eventually culminating in his new one exclusive to this movie - Cross-Z Evol. It's a form that both visually and thematically works really well for Banjou, combining elements of two of Build's best looking suits with an even better colour scheme.

The only real silver lining here is seeing all of the main Build cast back in action again. Having Kazumi, Gentoku, Misora and Sawa eventually regain their memories is the one part of Build's ending that was going to be inevitably undone, and despite being surrounded by so much other nonsense one of the few things that the film handled pretty well. Even though Build himself is conveniently out of action for the film it's great to see the gang back together, with Grease and Rogue picking up that brilliant dynamic they'd developed by the end of the series. Similarly as frustrating as it is to see Evolto resurrected so easily, the villain's trademark snark is just as enjoyable as ever. Almost as enjoyable as seeing the Blood Stalk suit make a welcome return, one of Build's best bits of costume work that was forgotten about all too soon when Evolto's plan rolled into motion. The visual direction of the film doesn't fall too far from the high bar set by the series proper either, with some great looking action scenes and set pieces present.

Kamen Rider Build had an ending. A somewhat divisive one that brought along with it both questions and moral implications, but an ending nonetheless. But as the Kamen Rider juggernaut is one that can never truly end, Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z is an exercise in undoing that ending in the laziest way possible. The film is just one plot convenience after enough, relying on some new toys and the strength of the cast to see it through. While it'll always be a pleasure to see the Build cast return in one way or another, this cynical and regressive cash grab definitely isn't the best way to do it.


Anonymous said...

Great review ! Are you gonna do one about the Rogue Miniseries ?

Alex said...

Oooh yes, thank you for reminding me I actually need to watch that!

Stephen Cassat said...

I honestly thought that Cross-Z wasn't necessarily bad, just boring. The movie overall for me would be 2.5/5.

Unknown said...

Não acho