Thursday 16 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

An end of an era deserves a proper send-off, and after 20 series' worth of memories it's finally time to say goodbye to the Heisei era of Kamen Rider. After hastily jumping the gun titling the previous film Heisei Generations FINAL, Toei have decided to round off the Heisei Generations trilogy of films with the more inspiring sounding Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER. Like the previous films in the series the film serves as a crossover between both the current and preceding Riders, in this case Kamen Rider Zi-O and Kamen Rider Build. However as part of the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration it also includes appearances from all 20 Heisei era Riders, with particular reference to Kamen Rider Kuuga, Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider W.

(This post is also part of a cross-promotion with - please visit the site and discuss your thoughts on the movie at the dedicated discussion thread there!)

Something is happening to the memories of the Kamen Riders. As Sougo Tokiwa and Myokoin Geiz struggle with memory loss during an encounter with Another Den-O, Kiryu Sento and Ryuga Banjou are confused to find their former comrades with their memories of their original Earth intact as they face off against Another Double. This is all the work of the Time Jacker Tid, who announces a plan to destroy the legacy of the Heisei Riders and rule the planet himself.

Just as Sento encounters a young boy named Shingo, Sougo is approached by Ataru – a high schooler who claims to have the ability to draw out Kamen Riders. As Riders team up to put a stop to Tid, they discover the full extent of how the pair are linked to the Time Jacker's schemes.

Given that large scale crossovers have been a pretty common occurrence in Kamen Rider for some time now, the novelty of having every Heisei Rider appear in Heisei Generations FOREVER wouldn't cut it the same way seeing them all side by side in Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker did back in 2009. As the swan song of the Heisei era takes a rather different approach when it comes to celebrating the past 20 series of Kamen Rider, directly targeting the fan experience rather than the content of the shows themselves. Just as it deals with time travel between now and the dawn of the Heisei era back in January 2000, Heisei Generations FOREVER goes meta and plays with Kamen Rider as a show that continued to inspire over the past 19 years. It doesn't always work quite as smoothly as the film hopes, but it's a bold take absolutely fitting of a film as significant as this.

Early Zi-O’s grasp of time travel was often questionable so it’s best not to put too much thought into just how the Build team’s appearance works here in correlation with how their arc in the Zi-O series was left. All you need to really know is that they’re here, it’s set after the events of Build and that the two teams are already somewhat familiar with each other. The characters work particularly well together, as Sougo’s more emotionally and instinctually-driven heroism is a good match for the Sento’s more methodical approach. Likewise disciplined Geiz and hot-headed Ryuga are similarly well-matched, particularly given the pair’s difference when it comes to personality and comic timing. The film does a good job of working the rest of the Build cast into the story without completely undoing the show’s ending (instead that’s a job for Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z), and it’s always nice to see Rogue and Grease back doing their thing. Especially when the anniversary nature of the film allows a certain Kazumi joke we’ve all been thinking to finally be made.

Even the film’s unique characters are particularly strong. Tid might be fairly single-minded in his villainy but it’s nice to encounter a Time Jacker whose intentions are made clear, even if there’s unfortunately no interaction with his series peers. Heisei Generations FOREVER also leans heavily into Den-O lore on top of Zi-O’s own version of time travel, referencing both singularity points as they were known in the series as well as introducing a new Imagin in the form of Futaros. But key to the whole story are Shingo and Ataru, who as Rider fans themselves represent the audience more closely than ever. It’s a nicely done story with some very touching visuals, and both actors sell their respective characters extremely well.

The revelation that in their world Kamen Riders are fictional takes the film down an interesting path, but given the shaky foundations of Zi-O’s time travel bringing in meta-verse ideas comes with its own questions. It’s presentation isn’t quite as simple as “Kamen Rider is a television show”, so when analysed closely some of the finer elements either aren’t explained or don’t hold up to scrutiny. It also results in a particularly slow style of storytelling that builds up to these revelations, relying on very limited Rider action in the interim. However there isn’t exactly much in the way of suspense since all the big revelations are very clearly signposted, so waiting for the film to get to explanations so it can move on can be a bit of a slog. It’s moments of existentialism are well worth the wait though, particularly with Build handling similar themes albeit on very different terms.

Another issue is the amount of returning cast members the film has. The Build's cast return were a given, but a lot of Zi-O's charm (especially during those ropier early episodes) was the amount of returning characters the series had to celebrate the occasion. Despite the appearances of three Another Riders in this film, in terms of cameos the film only really celebrates one of their respective series. Given that said cameo is none other than Takeru Satoh (an actor who seemed long passed his days in Kamen Rider) reprising his role as Den-O's Ryotaro Nogami (appearing along with both Owner and the Imagin crew) this is certainly nothing to scoff at, but even his appearance feels strangely done as we don't see him outside of being possessed by Urataros. Kuuga's involvement in the film is purely based in it being the first Heisei series, and Kamen Rider W's is much less obvious. Masaki Suda (Phillip) was originally offered to appear the film in a similar vein to Satoh but ultimately had to decline, so what’s left is a slight detour to Futo City so that Sougo can pick up the Double Ride Watch from the Master of Fumen in a very quick scene. Zi-O has proved that you don't always need the main star to come back to perform a fitting tribute, but it's a shame that none of the other core cast members, or anyone from Kuuga for that matter, couldn’t be brought back to fill that Suda-shaped hole.

But as frustrating as these complaints are it's hard not to smile when all 20 Riders finally appear on screen, culminating in an explosive (if CGI heavy) finale that Kamen Rider films have always excelled at. Imagery such as an onlooker transforming back into a child fan at the sight of Kuuga pull at the heartstrings, illustrating perfectly just how the franchise brings out the inner child in all of us. They aren't quite as effective as similarly presented scenes in OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders, but they still get the job done. The introduction of two new power ups for Zi-O also nicely encapsulate just how much Kamen Rider has changed over the years. While the Double Armour proudly displays the show’s gimmicks in gaudy fashion much like many of the other Rider Armours, the Kuuga Armour is sleek and harks back to a much simpler time. Both have their merit, and though the Kuuga Armour could have perhaps done more in the film it’s still great to see them both here.

Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER is a clunky and often frustrating film, but its heart is always in the right place. It's clear that the filmmakers wanted to tell a different kind of story to round out the Heisei era, and though it could have arguably done far more to send it off in style their love for Kamen Rider consistently shines through. Takeru Satoh's long awaited return will undoubtedly be its main talking point for many, its ability to evoke a certain sense of nostalgia and fondness for the franchise are what really make it stand out. Though the weakest of the three Heisei Generations films, it's undoubtedly the most ambitious.


Anonymous said...

Favorite Heisei Generations Movie ? For me it's Final !

Alex said...

Final, without a shadow of a doubt.

Layton13 said...

In my opinion, this was the second best generations movie, with the first generations being the best. Final just had too many issues that make entire plot points stupid and frustrating that it didn't really deliver like the rest, still a good movie.

Ang Peng How said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Schaaff said...

Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed the great pics ;)