Sunday 24 April 2022

Movie REVIEW: Ultraman Ginga S the Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors!

Ultraman Ginga S the Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors!

With the era of the New Generations Heroes finally upon fans, Ultraman Ginga S didn't just stop at 16 episodes. Only a few months later in March 2015 Tsuburaya Productions followed it up with a full-length feature film, kicking off a trend of each of succeeding Ultraman receiving a film following completion of their series (with the exception of 2020's Ultraman Z). Ultraman Ginga S the Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors didn't just see Ginga and Victory team up with fan-favourite Ultraman Zero, but also the return of all eight preceding main Ultra heroes from the Heisei era - Tiga, Dyna, Gaia, Cosmos, Nexus, Max and Mebius.

Etelgar & ArenaMusashi Haruno

Ultramen from across the multiverse have been trapped in mirrors by a new enemy - the Space-Time Demon Etelgar and his humanoid partner Arena. Believing all Ultras to be evil, Arena is determined to seal them for the sake of the universe and the pair set their sights on their next target - the Ultraman from the future, Ultraman Ginga.

Meanwhile Hikaru returns to the UGP after more travelling and is greeted by its latest two members - Sakuya and a rebuilt Mana. When Arena and Etelgar attack, Ginga and Victory launch into battle but their strength is not enough to defeat the demon. Under the guidance of Ultraman Cosmos' partner Musashi Haruno and training from Ultraman Zero, Hikaru and Sho must learn to be of one body to unlock even greater power.

Ultraman Zero meets Hikaru and ShoThe Heisei Ultras

With Ultraman Ginga S having represented a "return to power" of sorts for the franchise after Ginga's more restricted comeback, a proper scale theatrical feature was the perfect next step in Tsuburaya Productions' setting out their approach for Ultraman going forwards. And in terms of scale, "theatrical feature" is definitely the best way to describe Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors!. Much like the series itself, the film is a bold explosion of colour that rarely slows down on the action - featuring as many set pieces and Ultramen as it can cram into its (just over) one hour running time. But although all of this excess might make the film the perfect visual treat, it does have a side-effect on how well it's able to tell its story. In what might as well be the mantra for Ultraman Ginga as a whole, this film tries to do A LOT - too much in fact, there simply isn't enough time in that hour to adequately spread across all the different faucets of the plot. 

This applies to the villains most of all, who straight away have the least time to work with as they're both previously unestablished characters. The plot progresses it is revealed that for Etelgar has actually brainwashed Arena into thinking that Ultraman Ginga destroyed her home planet, and is now using her magic mirror powers to trap the various Ultras so that he can rule. At least that's what we can only assume his plan is, because the film isn't actually clear on that little detail. One villain being brainwashed by another and then the heroes having to save her is a fairly generic story to follow, so there's absolutely no reason for the film to skimp out on these finer details. What exactly is Etelgar's plan? Why is using the mirror so important when he's supposedly indestructible? Why specifically make Ultraman Ginga the one who destroyed Arena's planet other than simply because it's a Ginga movie? Similarly it's revealed that Arena's planet was never destroyed in the first place, but there's only minimal closure on her returning home at the end of the film. Both Etelgar and Arena (played by Go-Busters star Arisa Komiya) have the potential to be really good characters, but the film sadly only does the bare minimum with them

ArenaThe UGP

There's also some changes to the UGP worth noting, as Sakuya and Mana join the team as fully-fledged members. With the rest of the Victorians bizarrely absent from the story it's good to see Sakuya promoted to this arguably more prominent role, and perhaps as part of this there is an effort to integrate the more active UGP as a whole into the story. It's a little uneven and diverges into some strange little comedy skits about the characters facing their fears, but the thought was still there. Particularly as they get to go off and try and save the trapped Ultras whilst Hikaru and Sho are elsewhere. Mana on the other hand is a little less well-utilised, but given her development over the course of the series it's only fair she have a more limited role her in favour of other things. She still gets to sneak in at least one fight scene though, and that's what's most important.

Meanwhile in order to defeat Etelgar, Hikaru and Sho are "trained" by Ultraman Zero in the art of fighting as one. Despite having been some pretty tough training himself, Zero's cocky demeanour naturally doesn't make him the best of teachers - his lesson mostly involving handcuffing the pair together and throwing some rocks at them. Having two characters bound together to learn the importance of teamwork is about as cliche as it comes, but ultimately works here as the end result will be the pair sharing one body. It also leads to a some great little training sequences complete with a shirtless Sho that'll surely please a certain subsect of Ultra fans. It's no wonder Ultraman Zero became both a fan favourite and Tsuburaya's golden child given how delightful his appearances are, and as one of the more charismatic Ultras out there it really doesn't take much for him to steal the show. But despite this the film is able to pry the spotlight away from Zero and keep it on our starring Ultras, even if this challenge isn't as big of an obstacle as the story perhaps tries to suggest.

Hikaru & ShoUltraman Ginga Victory

The pair's training leads to them unlocking the power of Ultraman Ginga Victory, a form which marks the New Generation's (often overbearing) love for fusion forms. But whereas the fusion forms of later series are arguably of a different breed, Ultraman Ginga Victory is a somewhat symbolic moment for the series - showing just how far Hikaru and Sho have come in regards to working as a team. Admittedly the moment would be a little more triumphant had their friendship not been properly cemented in the series itself, but nevertheless it's the ideal final form for the pair. The suit itself a good fusion of the two - highlighting the more unique aspects of each one whilst also making them stand out with the combined colour palette. It's also interesting that while Ginga Victory has similar powers to Ginga Strium in that it can use the beam attacks of the Heisei Ultras, this isn't really much of a focus point - instead continuing to highlight their own unique abilities like Victory's UltLance monster limbs. The form's immense power is also used unintentionally to comic effect, it's debut fight primarily there to show off its strength but more importantly saving the audience from having to sit through Dark Lugiel coming back once again.

Zero faces BelialNexus vs Dark Mephisto

But the one thing that really stands out about Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors is the respect it has for the Heisei Ultras. With so many productions having previously (and going forwards) focused on the original Ultra Brothers and the Showa era, the Ginga S movie immediately stands out for showcasing them without their predecessors in sight (save for a small cameo from Ultraman King, Leo and Astra). Even Taro, a key member of Ginga's overall cast, is surprisingly absent. Though again them being trapped by the villain might not be an especially original idea, it works reasonably well for the setup of the story and leads to some fantastic visuals of all these characters lined up as it moves into the final act. Though there are some unfortunate issues like not all of the cast returning to voice their respective Ultras (leading to stand-ins that aren't even trying to be soundalikes), the film makes up for it in having each of the returning Ultras a face a significant foe from their series. While the reuse of Five King might not be quite as significant as the others, the idea of having Tiga, Dyna and Gaia teaming up to fight a fusion of monsters from their respective series' is still a clever one. It is a shame that the non-television Heisei Ultras like Neos don't get a part in the film, but sticking just to the main television heroes does make sense (and keeps the lineup to a nice round ten). Even if it isn't much, seeing these heroes - all of whom will be just important to some fans as the Showa Ultra Brothers are to others, in this fashion isn't just something special - it's something the franchise hasn't really done since.

And a nice surprise from that was elevating Ultraman Cosmos' role in film so that his host Musashi could feature as a supporting character. Taiyo Sugiura gives a great performance here - his appearance not dominating the story by any means but by acting as the perfect means to (re)introduce Ginga and Victory to the Ultraman multiverse. Again it stands out because a Heisei era character was chosen to do a job that could have easily been filled by the pre-established Taro, showing just how much this film wanted to pay its respects to that specific era. Looking behind the scenes it's also wonderful that Hikaru's actor Takuya Negishi got to act alongside Sugiura, having been a fan of Ultraman Cosmos as a child.

Ultraman Cosmos vs EtelgarMusashi transforms

What Ultraman Ginga S the Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors! lacks in complexity it certainly tries to make up for in spectacle, bringing these heroes of the Heisei era together in a film that rarely lets up on the action. While it's easier to criticise its shortcomings watching it via a home video release, seeing these visuals - particularly just as the franchise was returning to full strength, on a big screen would have definitely felt like something special. While perhaps not the best of the New Generation movie offerings, like Ginga S there's an infectious charm that just hard to deny.


M said...

Ultraman Neos was a fresh of breath air to me. I watched it after finished the New Generation Ultras and it was nice to see something more "old-school". The opening song is also catchy.

Greenorange1 said...

I Love this Movie it just had a lot of fun

Louis S said...

I remember seeing this dubbed in a movie theater here in Chicago as a double feature with Ultraman X The Movie back in January 2017. It was a fun time, but definitely prefer subs to dubs.

Dave said...

Great review!