Thursday 19 December 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease

It's been over a year since we saw Sento Kiryu save the world and defeat Evolto, but Kamen Rider Build is still going strong thanks to a selection of V-Cinext (formerly V-Cinema) releases. After first being introduced to the show's brave new world in the Kamen Rider Cross-Z movie, the second instalment in the Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD series focuses on the third of its Riders to be introduced. Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease reunites Kazumi Sawatari with Akaba, Aoba and Kiba – the trio of farmers turned soldiers known as the Hokuto Three Crows. As is typical for V-Cinema releases the film also debuts a new final form for Grease, with the DX Grease Perfect Kingdom transformation device bundled in with its physical releases.

Kazumi & the 3 CrowsKeiji Uraga

After being spurned by Misora, Kazumi and the Three Crows decide to go on an adventure and find themselves on a remote island. Meanwhile back in Japan, the Government are attacked by the terrorist group Downfall – led by treacherous UN officer Simon Marcus and Keiji Uraga, a disgruntled scientist experimented on by Shinobu Katsuragi. With his memories of the old world returned, Uraga vows to become ruler of the world with the powers of the White Pandora Panel.

Using a concentrated version of Nebula Gas known as Phantom Liquid to nullify their powers, Japan's Riders are helpless against Downfall's Phantom Crushers. With only Grease and the Crows left able to transform, Kazumi is the country's last hope against the seemingly unstoppable Kamen Rider Metal Build.

Kazumi SawatariA Phantom Crusher

Say what you want about the ending of Kamen Rider Build, the important thing is that it had exactly that – an ending. Beyond all the ethical and philosophical questions the merging of two parallel earths raises, Build's finale was built upon the idea of returning the world to a time before the Sky Wall and the corruption brought about by the Pandora Box. It was a fitting end to a series that had been so staunchly anti-war and returned Kamen Rider to its darker roots of questioning where its heroes' powers came from and what they implied. But then of course the Kamen Rider Cross-Z film came along, spitting in the face of this ending and restoring Build's world to one of untapped peril. The Pandora Box existed once more, Evolto was still alive and most of those involved in the earlier conflict had regained their memories and powers. It's the kind of mess NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease was never going to be able to recover from, so the only thing it could do was tell an entertaining story without further erasing the aftermath of Build's original ending. Thankfully Grease certainly doesn't tear apart the playing field in the same way that Cross-Z did, but sadly still manages to have its own set of issues in regards to its setting.

The aftermath of Killbus' rampage in Cross-Z has now led to most of the characters involved with the Pandora Box having regained their memories of the old world. Whereas before this seemed to mostly involve the main Build cast, it now also extends to characters like Takumi and Shinobi Katsuragi, the Crows and of course new villain Keiji Uraga. This implies that more and more people have slowly regained their memories, which in turn makes it feel like much less of a "merging" of two worlds took place and rather Build's original world has essentially asserted dominance over the parallel one. One could argue that perhaps the writers didn't put quite as much thought into it as that (and it certainly feels like that given the amount of rewinding there's been in these V-Cinemas), but these complaints have been there since Build's finale first aired and these films seem to have done very little to silence them. Did Sento's actions effectively result in the "deaths" of billions? Without a clear understanding of just how the merging worked we'll likely never know, and these films clearly have no interest in clarifying that.

Sento at workThe Hokuto Crows return!

But what makes even less sense about Grease in particular is the rampant remilitarisation that seems to have taken place in this new world. While the Pandora Box may have been the source of the problem, technology like the Guardians, Full Bottles and even the Rider System are implicit in Build's original conflict. It makes some sense that Sento and the gang would still have their Drivers, but the film opens with the Japanese Government making preparations in the event of another incident. While a strictly pacifist route isn't going to work either, the only things different is that there's no longer a Sky Wall and Japan has been unified. More to the point, why do the Crows – three characters that were specifically revived in the world where they're no longer weapons of war, have the ability to turn into Smash again? The whole set up of the NEW WORLD films just seems to fly in the face of Build's clear political messages. So even if the story themselves are enjoyable enough, the circumstances behind them just don't feel right.

With that all said, the slightly more down to Earth story feels fresh after two subsequent alien threats and is perfect for a self-contained film like this. In some ways a terrorist storyline feels perhaps more suited to a Kamen Rider Rogue spotlight, but then again Gentoku's already had plenty of those so a Kazumi spotlight was long overdue. It's also great to see him alongside the Crows again, especially as this time we as an audience are able to properly see them from a protagonist point of view. While there's still the supernatural presence of the Pandora Panel, the greater focus on character feels like a return to Build's more grounded roots. Even if it doesn't quite attain the heights of those early episodes, the attempt certainly doesn't go unnoticed.

What does let the story down though it’s the sheer amount of contrivances it relies on, as well as re-treading old ground without really doing anything new. One of the most common complaints about Build was how as it went on it began to rely more and more on gimmickry and space magic, and there's certainly a fair bit of that here used to get the story going. The concept of Nebula Gas concentrating into a stronger liquid form is great, but the execution and explanation of how Grease is able to retain his powers is painfully trite. All they are really are is a quick excuse to stop the rest of the cast saving the day, and there were undoubtedly far better ways that the film could have gone about it.

A clean shaven GentokuKamen Rider Phantom Build

The upside to all of this though is getting to see the Build cast once again, who always give it their all and manage to make even the most disappointing of stories somewhat bearable. Kouhei Takeda puts in a particularly great performance, channelling his time as Otoya Kurenai on Kamen Rider Kiva to give Kazumi the duality of both a badass fighter and hapless romantic. Though the Crows don't really build upon the roles they previously had in the series it's nice to see them again alongside Kazumi – with him essentially leading a team the way Sento previously did in the series. Speaking of Sento, all of Build's main cast get the opportunity to shine without taking the spotlight away from Kazumi - with the film even making some unexpected steps like bring Utsumi back as Mad Rogue and properly cementing the Hyper Battle DVD—exclusive Prime Rogue into the canon. It even manages to throw in some interesting moments for characters like Katsuragi just for good measure. The only real weak links here are Misora and Sawa, who despite both having prominence in the feel do begin to feel like their ultimate fates are simply to be paired off with male characters. Though it makes sense for this to be part of Misora's story given the lead, to do it to them both in the same film isn't an especially fitting end for either.

Then finally the one thing Kamen Rider Build never disappoints on is the action. Much like the Cross-Z movie Grease makes full use of its lead character's abilities, offering a great selection of fight sequences as well as the chance to see the short-lived Grease Blizzard in all its glory once again. The introduction of Grease Perfect Kingdom is very well-handed, and the form itself a beautifully coloured monstrosity that's both bizarre and yet seems to fit the show's arsenal perfectly. But despite those strengths it really is the bad guys that get the best look, as Downfall coming out swinging with both Metal Build and the Phantom Crushers. Metal Build deserves applause simply for the sublime (but likely unintentional) Bandai Tamashii Nations pun, but taking Build's most fearsome form and making it the villain of a Grease/Crows film is an inspired move. That simplicity only manages to get even better with the introduction of Phantom Build at the film's climax, a combination of the two suits that feels like it was destined to come as the apex of Build's weapon-like antagonists.

Kamen Rider Grease Perfect KingdomDoing what an idol-loving potato farmer does best

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease is certainly an improvement on its predecessor, but it's still the same brand of unnecessary sequel that begs the question of why Build ended like it did if this was inevitably going to follow. The only upside to all of this is that now that said ending has been well and truly tattered anything else going forward might feel more natural. The cast are a joy as always and the visuals never disappoint, so as a standalone film there is fair bit to enjoy here. The only thing left to do now is hope that the Kamen Rider Zi-O writers have a much better plan for overcoming finite endings for its V-Cinema releases, because they're about to face a very similar problem.


M said...

What is your favorite V-Cinema Movie ? Mine is the Ex-Aid Another Ending Trilogy as a whole.

Chengkeng said...

The movie was good, it also had a average villian.... I would rate the movie 4 in a half stars

Stephen Cassat said...

Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease is somewhat of a miss for me. I'm not saying I don't like it, in fact I do. Grease is always awesome to watch, and it was a nice touch to see all the Build cast in the final fight.

Some areas could have been better such as the villain. I personally didn't like him as much just because he was bland.

Overall, not a bad movie, it just needs a little work.