Tuesday 14 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

The Super Sentai summer movie is a funny little event. Though the films are rarely long enough to be the dramatic action pieces Kamen Rider summer movies strive to be, they are an opportunity to break away from the main story and have a little fun with the setting and/or characters. For Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film Toei saw an opportunity to stretch the Arsene Lupin references even further, as the two teams meet 'Herlock Sholmes' – a detective that battled wits with the legendary thief in Maurice Leblanc's original novels. This film was released as part of the usual Super Sentai/Kamen Rider double bill alongside Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One.

The great detective Herlock Sholmes has arrived in Japan to assist the GSPO in apprehending the Gangler, as well as investigating the identities of the elusive Lupinrangers. However Sholmes' arrival is interrupted by the Gangler Wilson, with both the Patrangers and Lupinrangers on the scene. Just as a second Gangler intervenes in the fight, Lupin Red and Patren #1 are transported away by a portal created by Wilson.

As the two rivals work together to escape the Gangler dimension, the remaining Patrangers and Lupinrangers also call a truce to save their missing comrades. But just who is the mysterious white Gangler, and how does Herlock Sholmes factor into this case?

As per usual it's a shame that the Super Sentai summer movies have such a limited amount of time to work with, because there's so much more than could have been done with En Film. Bringing Herlock Sholmes into the story was a stroke of genius, but other than the name check very little is done to tie him back to either Leblanc's original version or the cultural icon he was rather blatantly based upon. Doing very little detective work comedian Naoki Tanaka is wasted in the role, and what could have been a nice little mystery element to the story is blown very early on as the film makes it abundantly clear that Sholmes isn't who he seems. Ultimately there'll always be the argument that this is a kid's film and given the length it needed to be signposted pretty hard, but when it becomes that obvious so early on it turns a fair portion of the running time into just sitting there waiting for him to be exposed so things can move forward.

So what does make Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film worth watching, other than the fact Jackpot Striker's involvement in the series finale makes it somewhat essential viewing? Well despite its tendency to focus on the Lupinrangers the show always did a good job of creating likeable characters, and though the series was never really short of moments where the two teams put their differences aside it doesn't make this one any less enjoyable. Noel fans are going to find themselves sadly disappointed as he’s pushed aside for almost the whole film, but it does means more time spent with Keiichiro and Kairi working together. Though there’s nothing especially character developing here, it’s always a joy to see those two characters interacting. It’s just a shame that the same can’t be said for the other four members of the teams, who despite calling a truce don’t have that much in the way of direct interaction in the film.

From a consumer point of view new toys are always fun, but from a story point of view its hard not to be cynical even when you’re so used to the way Bandai have a stranglehold over these shows. There’s absolutely no getting around the fact that Jackpot Striker is written into this film (and apparently Lupinranger vs Patranger as a whole) just to be a get out of jail free card. Its initial appearance is far from natural, and its Collection Power takes convenience to a whole new level. That said, the spectacle that comes from it just can’t be faulted. Lupin Tricolour is a dumb, colourful suit that wonderfully harkens back to the likes of JAKQ’s Big One, and looks great working alongside the previously established Patren Ugou. Meanwhile Lupinkaiser Rex is a wonderful bit of added movie flare, almost wholly reliant on CGI but fast-paced and different enough from a standard mecha battle to work for a one-off movie appearance.

This undoubtedly proves that if there’s one thing you can never fault Lupinranger vs Patranger on though it's visuals, and like the series this movie really delivers when it comes to providing memorable action sequences. Even before the full story has come into effect the film opens with the two teams fighting Podermen (as well as each other) across a shipping container yard, as sprawling camera shots giving both a unique perspective and a sense of scale ideal for the big screen. It's hard to top an opening like that, but moments like the two reds battling Ganglers inside Don Dogranio's mansion (something that never happened in the series itself) do not go unnoticed. The end fight against both Sholmes and Wilson proves equally as enjoyable though, and even the over-reliance on CGI doesn’t take away from the sheer spectacle of the subsequent mecha battle. Most interestingly of all the film has plenty of moments clearly intended for 3D viewing, but unlike many others these don’t detract from the overall visuals. Between that and the great suit work the series has always had, there are much uglier things to spend half an hour with.

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film may be a frustratingly simple film at times and full of missed opportunities, but its strengths lie in a different place. The Herlock Sholmes element may be underutilised to the point it renders any mystery it hoped to have non-existent, but it makes up for it with some great character moments between the two lead characters and a continuation of the show's high quality spectacle on a bigger platform. Lupinranger vs Patranger as a whole might have been a disappointment, but as a standalone piece this is an excellent reminder of its better qualities.


Anonymous said...

Great review ! From a fan from Brazil ! Ever since I found your blog I simply "Bing-Read" every one of your review ! Your are the best !

Peter Schaaff said...

great review and beautiful pics - thanks for sharing. Need to see that movie asap!