Tuesday 29 November 2022

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia

Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia

As the end of a Kamen Rider series approaches, the time of the summer movie is upon us. With more and more of these films featuring events that tie directly into the main series, the show becomes a careful balance of having to still be understood on its own terms whilst also making the movie feel like a vital part of the story. Double-billed with the Avataro Sentai Donbrothers movie, Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia takes the Igarashi siblings on a side story following the defeat of Giff and in the lead up to Karizaki's debut as Kamen Rider Juuga. The Toei Tokusatsu Fanclub special Birth of Chimera was also produced as an introduction to the film's story and characters.

The Igarashi FamilyIgarashi siblings to the rescue

When the plane taking their parents on holiday is mysteriously hi-jacked, the Igarashi siblings travel to the forbidden Area 666 in a bid to rescue them. There they find a trap laid for them by Azuma – another immortal being created by Giff tasked with monitoring and judging humanity. As Azuma attacks the siblings and turns their own demons against them, the scientist Masato Soutomi reveals their plan to steal and clone their Giff cells.

Meanwhile, also on the tail of Azuma's group is Nozomu Otani – a young man who lost both his parents and best friend because of Azuma's schemes. As the Igarashi siblings face their greatest crisis, the family must come together to reveal their greatest power and save both themselves and the other kidnapped passengers.

AzumaDemons gone bad

A Koichi Sakamoto-directed film is always going to give you at least one of two things – over the top action sequences and/or a whole lot of bare leg shots. Thankfully Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia is much more of the former and less of the latter, taking a particularly interesting stance when it comes to pacing. Inspired by the likes of Escape from New York, Sakamoto launches in with a film that kicks off with a hijacked airliner and just keeps upping the ante from there. From the Igarashis skydiving down into Area 666 and transforming mid-drop to the impressive fight scene that follows (highlighting many of Revice's transformations that had been largely forgotten by the main series by this point), Battle Familia goes straight in with the action and leaves the finer details of the story for later.

Some of these ideas are a little short-lived though, with the turning of the Igarashis' demons easily something that could have carried emotional weight throughout the entire film. It's a simple yet extremely effective concept, particularly because it allows the less active Lovekov to take a new villainous form and stand alongside Vice and Kagerou – both of whom have previously had bouts of antagonism/moral dubiousness in the series. Sadly though following its resolution the demon members of the Igarashi seem to fall the wayside, which is a shame given how widely encompassing the theme of family could have been. The title of the film is Battle Familia after all.

Genta & Yukimi IgarashiKamen Rider Igarashi

With so many big plot beats happening so quickly into the film one might think that the early appearance of the movie exclusive form wouldn't come as a big surprise, but nevertheless the arrival of Kamen Rider Igarashi still comes as a bit of a shock. First and foremost it's just about the best idea for a movie exclusive form Kamen Rider Revice could have had – family is above all the most important thing about the series and the way the power up comes about, as sudden and unexplained as it may seem, works perfectly for creating this three-in-one combination of the Igarashi siblings. As garish as the suit may be, it's a really fun combination of the Revi, Jeanne and Live suits that has that distinct "movie form" feel in that it's special enough to make its mark here but not necessarily come across as "better" or "more powerful" than Revice's actual final form. It is a shame however that its appearance in the film comes and goes so quickly, as it would have been good to have that feeling of unity at the film's climax again. While Live and Jeanne fight alongside their father (and it is great to see Kamen Rider Destream in action again), Ikki's battle happens completely separate.

Kamen Rider Igarashi isn't the only surprise the first half of Battle Familia has either, because not long afterward we're also treated to Kamen Rider Geats making his (at the time of release) first onscreen appearance. Often with these pre-series cameos it can feel like the Rider's personality and/or mannerisms haven't been quite pinned down yet but the Geats we see here is a pretty good match to how he appears in the series, even if the dialogue does largely feel like a run-through of his various catchphrases. His debut also does a great job of showing off both the gimmickry of the Desire Driver and Geats' own Magnum and Boost abilities, albeit with a slightly different transformation sequence. If anything the biggest issue about the cameo coming so early into the film is that Geats leaves such a good impression that it's hard to get back into the remaining Revice content that follows it.

Kamen Rider GeatsChic

The trouble about having so many of these big moments in the first half of the film though is that it inevitably leaves the latter portion with very little to work with. After a barrage of memorable scenes and key action sequences, Battle Familia suddenly finds itself working backwards to provide character context that usually would have come much earlier – bringing the story to a grinding halt. With all its spectacle moments long behind it, everything begins to feel a rush to wrap up the movie. Other moments, such as Hana and Go donning their Deadmans outfits once again purely because they're working with Orteca, have little weight to them and feel like they've been done purely for the shock factor they would have had in the trailers.

But undoubtedly the main thing that lets Battle Familia down is just how reliant on the Birth of Chimera special the story feels. Whereas the Igarashi family element is strong enough to stand on its own, nearly all of the new characters feel like non-entities even with the additional context of the special. While a good movie should only ever use supplementary material to enhance the experience, Battle Familia races through the movie-exclusive characters' backstories at a rapid speed – expecting the viewer to care about them either through two or three sentences exposition if they haven't seen Birth of Chimera or entirely through it if they have. A figure like George's own demon should have huge ramifications for Revice given how prominent a character George is, but Chic barely feels on the film's radar – a means to flesh out Azuma's plans beyond a simple judgement of humanity. When the film reveals Chic's identity, it's a treated like a case of "oh this happened elsewhere" than a big moment. Similarly Nozomu/Kamen Rider Chimera fails to leave much of an impression either, which is rather surprising since he's technically the one the special was named after. As if being sandwiched between Igarashi and Geats' debuts wasn't enough, Chimera's appearance is reduced to single throwaway fight scene. Meanwhile Nozomu's quest to avenge his parents (and best friend) feels criminally supplementary. Again everything we learn about him in the film is built upon some very brief flashbacks pulled out of Birth of Chimera, sucking out much of the emotion they originally had. There are some great moments he shares with Genta and Yukimi as well as a little side story featuring a heavily pregnant hostage that try to give back some of that weight, but ultimately it's very easy to lose the character in amongst everything else going on. The ironic thing is that in my Birth of Chimera review I called it "not necessarily essential viewing" but in reality it is pretty essential to have investment in these characters. 

Nozomu OtaniKamen Rider Chimera

That all said, Azuma is the one exception to this. The fact he's played by tokusatsu legend Kane Kosugi (who has now been a Sentai member, an Ultraman AND a Kamen Rider) probably has a lot to do with it, but it certainly helps that his backstory is something that's already familiar to the world of Revice. Being cut from the same cloth as Hideo Akaishi his general character is already clear, but even in his villainy Azuma comes across as a far more tragic figure than his main series counterpart – with time running out on his immortal body due to Giff's recent demise. Kamen Rider Daimon is perfectly good suit design for a movie Rider but it really is the out of suit stuff that sells the character, particularly with his final showdown with Ikki climaxing with a surprising non-transformed fight sequence that has just as much energy as the flashier ones. It's also an opportunity for Ikki's personality to shine through as well – reaffirming his busybody nature as well as looking at Azuma life and experiences beyond his current misdeeds.

Kamen Rider DaimonAzuma & Ikki

Kamen Rider Revice the Movie: Battle Familia is a curious film, almost perfectly mirroring the main series in that it delivers all its big moments in the first half only to drag its heels in the second. While that lesser half still has plenty of promise, the glossing over of key story elements simply because it happens to have a prologue episode makes it feel like something of an incomplete product. That said, the first half really delivers when it comes to action and the strength of the Revice cast continue to make their story a pleasure to watch even when it's noticeably lacking.


M said...

I'm curious to see your review of Black Sun

CPF said...

Honestly? It feels like some of the plot points of the movie - like Azuma and Chimera's whole background - feels like it would have worked better in the tv series rather than what we actually got in the show. And vice versa, it feels like Akaishi would better fit the role of the movie villain, given how things ended up with him.

Oar said...

I wouldn't say Birth of Chimera is essential, if only because Chimera himself feels like such an afterthought even with the added context.

The big takeaway for me when it comes to this movie is definitely the really fun climatic fistfight between Ikki and Azuma. Daimon's not a particularly amazing character or anything, but what they did with him here I think definitely at least puts him above the average toku movie villain.