Sunday 22 May 2022

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider: Beyond Generations

Kamen Rider: Beyond Generations

First came Heisei Generations, followed by Heisei Generations FINAL and Heisei Generations FOREVER. From there we moved into Reiwa: The First Generation, and now the Kamen Rider franchise is moving…beyond. After a year off, the winter Kamen Rider crossover movie returned at the end of 2021 in conjunction with the franchise's 50th anniversary celebrations. Kamen Rider: Beyond Generations sees the casts of Kamen Rider Revice and Kamen Rider Saber reunite once more (with the Saber gang having previously met Revi and Vice at the end of their own series) in a time-travelling adventure that looks at both the past and future of the Kamen Riders.

The year 2071Ryunosuke Momose

In the year 2071, the world has been taken over by devils – enslaving humanity and enforcing their rule with demonic copies of evil Riders. Their only hope is a man named Ryunosuke Momose, who is presented with a device named the Cyclotron Driver and told the key to saving the future is to travel back to the past and reunite with his son Hideo.

Back in 2021, the Deadmans have resurrected the demon Diablo – a relative of Giff that wields immense power. Just as the Kamen Riders are overwhelmed, Ryunosuke arrives and transforms into the powerful Kamen Rider Century! However Century's transformation is unstable, and the confusion of how Ryunosuke is travelling into the past to meet his son reveals a story that dates all the way back to 1971 and the capture of Takeshi Hongo – the very first Kamen Rider.

Diablo AwakensKamen Rider Century (Break form)

Although Kamen Rider: Beyond Generations may in the grand scheme of things be the crossover movie between Revice and Saber, as part of the franchise's anniversary celebration you could argue that it's aims are a little different - and that's clear in how much of the film is dominated by the introduction of Kamen Rider Century. Despite this being a character that will most likely never be seen again, Century is without a doubt the heart and soul of this film - both from the unique dynamic between its two 'operators' and how interwoven Ryunosuke is into the fabric of Kamen Rider's origin. A redemption story for the Shocker scientist who helped turn Hongo into a cyborg wasn't what I was expecting from Beyond Generations, but there's no denying it was able to pull it off with plenty of emotion. Forget all the demons and time travel - at the heart of this story is a boy who just wanted to ride the bullet train with his father, and the reversal of having the much younger Ryunosuke have to face up to an much older Hideo is a nice bit of time-twisting that keeps the dynamic interesting. Akiyoshi Nakao gives a great performance as the plucked out of time Ryunosuke but Arata Furuta really steals the show as an older Hideo still haunted by his father's abandonment. 

Backstory aside, Kamen Rider Century is a pretty great concept and visually exactly the kind of future I'd like to see Kamen Rider embrace. Rather than build upon all the forms and gimmicks that the franchise has carefully cultivated over the last 20 years or so, Century is a very back to basics approach - taking all the design cues that made the original Kamen Rider so iconic and recreating them with a retro-futuristic twist. From the simplistic Cyclotron Driver to the use of metallic blue and clear parts across the familiar grasshopper body, Century is a design that works perfectly both as an analogy of the franchise at 100 years old and one that could potentially carry a series itself. The addition of an incomplete berserker form only adds to its charm, showing how sometimes all a suit needs is a simple colour change to convey something else. Forget wishing for a Kamen Rider Shinobi show in 2022, if the franchise somehow manages to get all the way to 2071 and we don't get a Kamen Rider Century spin-off then Toei is missing a trick.

Ryunosuke and HideoKamen Rider Century

So much of the main story is taken up by the relationship between Ryunosuke and Hideo that arguably Beyond Generations forgets that it can do character stuff with the main cast as well. While the setting and whole Diablo storyline may very well be in Revice's wheelhouse, the majority of what Revice actually has to offer the film outside of Ikki, Vice and George feels like window-dressing. Admittedly its placement in the timeline of the series means some characters perhaps aren't as well developed as they would go on to be, but nevertheless Hiromi, Daiji and Sakura all have more to offer than they do here. Ikki is his usual busybody self which works well for getting him involved with the Momose family, but even in areas where the film could have mirrored their rocky relationship with his and Vice's it's really just the bare minimum. When Vice opts to travel to the future to see the devil-run world and leaves Ikki behind in the present, it's an opportunity to look at how the each one fares without the other and strengthen their partnership. But instead its just a few brief snippets which really just re-tread the same ground as the main series. Even the Deadmans, who set the whole Diablo plotline in motion, are really just a means to an end.

Amazingly the Saber cast have even less to add to the film, despite them going so far as to at least include all of the swordsmen in the production. Whereas crossover films like this usually have at least one sort of plot string to tie the two shows together, here it's literally just a case of the Saber cast gate-crashing the usual Revice proceedings. With the two casts having previously met during Saber's epilogue episode, it doesn't even have the luxury of having the two leads meet for the first time and properly acknowledge each other. To its credit the sheer size of the Saber cast does result plenty of scope for different fights and team-ups, but it would have been nice for them to have more plot relevance than Touma and co. just chipping in every so often with their usual motivational speeches.

Saber, Blades, Revi & ViceThe casts of Saber & Revice

Diablo himself is not the worst villain a Kamen Rider movie has had, but again it doesn't actually feel like the character has a whole lot to do. Which is strange because he's integrated into the plot very well - not only creating a scheme that sees the Riders spread across the world and time itself, but also creating further links back to Shocker's plans for world domination in 1971 and Ryunosuke himself. But while all this is a great for creating this nice web of story beats, it really doesn't seem to do a whole lot for the character himself. Diablo recognises Ryunosuke but there isn't some sort of link there that makes their reunion that much more personal, and being all-powerful actually just makes him that little bit less interesting to watch for the majority of his fight scenes. Nevertheless it's a a great suit design though, really emphasising the demonic aspect of Revice's villains and as such actually feeling a little more consistent than most of them.

One aspect Beyond Generations does pull off flawlessly though is its creation of the original Kamen Rider series. This is largely due to the inspired casting of Maito Fujioka, son of the legendary Hiroshi Fujioka, as a younger Takeshi Hongo. Not only does Fujioka nail both the look and mannerisms of his father, but the entire sequence itself oozes love for the series that started it all. From the carefully recreated Shocker Headquarters to the Rider 1 fight sequence (complete with a kaijin dummy being thrown off a cliff), Beyond Generations is keen to make Hongo's inclusion a centrepiece of the film despite Hongo himself having very little to do with the overall plot. While in some respects it is good to not have the film overwhelmed by his inclusion, it's a shame that his appearance is so limited – not only to create a stronger connection between the three time periods established in the film but also because Maito Fujioka is just so damn good in the role. Hopefully this won't be the last we see of him in these crossover productions.

The birth of Rider 1Takeshi Hongo

Other anniversary elements in the film come from the appearance of the Devil Riders - demonic copies of evil Riders that Diablo uses to enforce his will in the year 2071. While there isn't really any explanation as to why exactly the demons use Riders to this, ultimately it doesn't really matter because getting to see all the evil Riders together in one big scene is always a lot of fun. It's great to see how much the roster has expanded in the last couple of years, and even more amazing to discover that the Kamen Rider 4 suit is somehow still alive and kicking. To combat against them future George has taken his Kamen Rider collection to the next level, creating a militia of avatar clones that the Riders who travel to the future take control of. Again it's all a bit poorly explained but ultimately there just there as a crowd-pleaser, and is particularly interesting in the way it mixes not only different Riders but completely different forms and power levels as well. It's bizarre to see the likes of Hyper Muteki Ex-Aid alongside ace form Blade (which Toei still haven't bothered to make new clear parts for), and makes for some really interesting line ups that you probably wouldn't see in any other scenario. 

The Devil RidersLegend Riders Assemble

Kamen Rider: Beyond Generations is a serviceable film, but ultimately has very little to offer both the casts of Revice and Saber. Its main appeal lies in the story of Kamen Rider Century – one that has some interesting developments but is also weighed down by many of the other story elements. As such while it certainly offers 90 minutes of solid Kamen Rider entertainment, it never quite reaches the level of the various Generations movies that have come before it. That all said, it's probably hard to be a Kamen Rider anniversary movie involving time travel when the perfect Kamen Rider anniversary movie involving time travel already exists.


Anonymous said...

One weird thing that really bothered me about the section where the riders who get sent into the future is that they get their asses kicked. Like i get that they were just supposed to hold off the villain riders for a while, but i wish they at least were able to defeat some of the villains. And one other thing that bothered me is that they switch Rider forms off screen the next time we see them, and Touma is in the Ichigo suit. Like, no fanfare, no big reveal, no grand entrance. Just gets thrown through a wall the villains and we missed most of the action. This one bothers me allot more honestly because the film had been paying tribute to Kamen Rider Ichigo that its so weird that Touma is just suddenly in the suit with no fanfare.

Anonymous said...

A shame you gave this one a 3 because i think this is one of the better Generation films. Yeah Saber is just kinda there, but that doesnt mean the moments they have aren’t great.