Thursday 4 May 2023

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Geats x Revice: Movie Battle Royale

Kamen Rider Geats x Revice: Movie Battle Royale

In 2016 the traditional Winter Kamen Rider crossover film between the current and previous series dropped the "Movie War" tagline it had used religiously since 2010, moving into a new format with the more succinct "Generations" tagline. Now in 2022 it's mixing things up once again with a semi-return to that classic title, bringing it forth into the Reiwa era with Kamen Rider Geats x Revice: Movie Battle Royale. In addition to bringing together the casts of Kamen Rider Geats and Kamen Rider Revice, Movie Battle Royale celebrates the 20th anniversary of Kamen Rider Ryuki – bringing some familiar faces from that series into the mix as well. The film was written by both Yuya Takahashi and Hanta Kinoshita (the head writers for Geats and Revice respectively), and was directed by Takayuki Shibasaki.

The Igarashi family relaxNew enemies approach

One year after they saved the Earth from Giff, life has continued on for the Igarashi family. As welcoming their newest member Koshiro into their lives, their demons also join them as part of the family. However Ikki is saddened to have no memory of Vice. Whilst on vacation, the family are attacked by aliens looking to extract Koshiro's inner demon to harness Giff's power. After being hospitalised in the attack, Ikki is somehow able to pull forth his own demon partner once more.

But defeating these new enemies is only half the fight. As Koshiro's demon is passed on to former Game Master Colus, the Desire Grand Prix is transformed into the Devil Desire Royale. Its opening round pits Geats, Tycoon, Buffa and Na-Go against the Igarashi family, with the appearance of Kamen Riders Ryuga, Ouja and Knight also complicating matters. A new Rider also steps into the fray with eyes on becoming the newest Desire God. Can the Igarashis return Koshiro's demon to their brother before it's too late? And who will be next to claim the ultimate prize of creating their ideal world?

Game Master ColusGeats vs Revi

Prior to 2015's Super Movie Wars Genesis the Movie War series had a very distinct three act format where each series would have its own mini-movie of sorts before the two came together in the final act. Since then the films moved into a proper full-length format where it was one ongoing narrative that featured the casts of both series. Movie Battle Royale mixes things up yet again, pairing a Kamen Rider Revice-focused prologue alongside a longer main storyline featuring both casts. While there is an initial feeling that the film has returned to the more fractured storytelling of the early Movie Wars, the prologue format works quite well for giving Revice a decent epilogue prior to launching into a full crossover. Viewers will be all too familiar with the status quo for Geats, so it's good to take a little time out to see how things have changed for the Revice cast in the year away.

Many older fans will agree that Kamen Rider Revice as a whole started on a high but ended on a low, in which case this opening 20 minutes or so has the pretty tall order of getting you hyped for Revice again. In its defence, the cast of the show was never the problem – which is why the opening scenes of seeing the Igarashi family and how everyone else is getting on are enjoyable. After all the hardships the Igarashis went through it's nice to see them enjoying a much-needed vacation while also welcoming a new family member into their lives, while the extended cast are also getting on with their lives rather comfortably.

The trouble is that as soon as the conflict is set up, all of the issues Revice had become all too familiar again. Starting off we have two new villains that are only tangentially related to anything going on in this movie – they're aliens whose planet were previously destroyed by Giff that act as glorified deliverymen to Colus for the later part of the movie. Besides being entirely forgettable, it's a reminder of just how silly and convoluted Revice's plot became once they revealed Giff as an alien. Meanwhile Koshiro's involvement in the plot, or more specifically his demon's involvement, is little more than a gimmick. As an older fan it's easier to cast aspersions on what is essentially just a baby Vice puppet, but that alone isn't a particularly interesting concept to begin with. That said it is nice to see so many of the Riders themselves return for the movie, with even George getting in on the action as Kamen Rider Juuga ahead of the Juuga vs Orteca TTFC special. But the main goal of this prologue (aside from setting up the story that is) is for Vice to return following his "death" at the end of the series. The film does a good job of making his return believable whilst also not dwelling on the details too much, and the relationship he has with Ikki – as well as how Ikki has been without his partner for the last year, is a solid plot point that runs throughout the film.

Ikki and ViceRevice joins the DGP!

Thankfully things pick up considerably once this prologue is over, as the Geats cast is introduced and the film takes the now conventional ongoing crossover format. Using Koshiro's demon as a macguffin with Desire Royale is a pretty basic plot setup, but it works well for creating a Rider vs Rider setup that both has weight to it and can be easily resolved. Prior to this though we get some fantastic fight sequences of the two Rider casts facing off, particularly the Revi/Geats showdown taking place on a moving trailer. Despite the differences in their respective series the Revice cast are able to integrate into the world of Kamen Rider Geats very well, particularly with Ikki and Vice using their own Desire Drivers to combine both their own powers and those of the Raise Buckles.

A lot of that success comes from just how well the casts of Revice and Geats have been integrated. Whether it’s Sakura and Neon bonding over their love of vlogging or Keiwa and Daiji recognising each other's resolves, careful attention has been made to find links between the characters and make their interactions interesting. Even a brainwashed Tsumuri works well randomly having George as her fellow Navigator and DGP co-host. Of course all of this can be said for Ace and Ikki too, whose relationship goes all the way back to the cameo appearance the former made at the very end of Revice. Not always is it a great nod to continuity when little things like this are remembered, but it provides the perfect impetus to resolve the in-fighting between the two casts that the story had previously set up. The two are able to get along great while each staying true to their own resolves, with Ace particularly showing how much of a good person lies behind his DGP persona. This all also ties in with the limited time Vice has left, and whether or not Ikki or not will be able to remember him when he disappears once more. Despite the mechanics of the DGP allowing them to easily do so, it's interesting that the decision was made not to wholly reverse Revice's ending as many other shows might have – keeping the same emotional weight its finale tried to have whilst also giving it a more positive outcome.

Neon and SakuraKamen Rider Seeker

It's a shame that the same can't be said about the villains of the piece though, who prove to be just as forgettable (albeit slightly less ineffective) as the ones from the Revice prologue. In theory there's a lot to like about Kamen Rider Seeker – his design is fantastic, with the reindeer-like antlers on his helmet going great with the heavy-duty industrial armouring he gets from his Powered Builder form. Likewise his Fortnite-like powers (going so far as to even build the "final stage" for the film's climax) are all the more evidence as to where Geats' production team were drawing their ideas from when devising the series. Kaima Todoroki, the man behind the suit, also has a relatively interesting backstory – a professional fighter and former Desire Grand Prix champion living for his father's approval. But it all just feels so boring in the film itself – with so much else going on there isn't really any opportunity to delve into Todoroki, resulting him just coming off as another short-lived DGP entrant rather than one that has movie prominence. His relationship with his father is just background context rather than anything meaningful. Colus isn't much better either, talking a big game as the new Desire Royale Game Master but failing to deliver anything more than a few villainous monologues. If anything all his role in the movie does is further highlight Girori's abilities, with the movie acting as a good lead-in to his final arc in the series itself. While it's true that there's never much time to explore villains in Kamen Rider movies (particularly crossover ones), Movie Battle Royale is one where they feel especially lacking.

Undoubtedly though one of the biggest draws of Movie Battle Royale is the return of the original Rider vs Rider series – Kamen Rider Ryuki. Admittedly it hasn't been away all that long considering we had Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki back in 2019, but having the series return for a Geats crossover is just too perfect. While it sadly isn't the full 13-Rider reunion many would have hoped for, the film does at least see Takamasa Suga, Satoshi Matsuda and Takashi Hagino reprising their roles as Shinji Kido (Ryuki/Ryuga), Ren Akiyama (Knight) and Takeshi Asakura (Ouja) respectively. Kamen Rider Ryuki is a firm fan favourite and it isn’t hard to see why, with the Riders looking just as good now as they did 20 years ago. Geats does a great job of highlighting its Riders' individual motifs whilst also sharing a common suit type but seeing it alongside the cleanliness of the Ryuki Riders just shows how well that series pulled it off, while the Contract Monsters are just as wonderful to see as ever.

Buffa vs OujaRyuki Riders return

That all said, it's a shame that the Ryuki Riders don't feel more integrated into the film's actual plot. The Riders themselves are largely there to bulk out the roster for the Battle Royale (and for George to have some more Kamen Riders to fanboy over), while the characters' involvement and motivations are mostly kept under wraps. For Riders like Ryuga and Ouja it isn't exactly deep – one just wants to destroy and the other just wants to fight. But a character like Ren requires a little more than just a wish for destruction, and the film isn't prepared to give it at the expense of the core story line. Ryuki's appearance during the climax and subsequent fight with Ryuga is wonderful, but we don't find out what's actually been going on until the end credits. This explanation takes the form of Shinji meeting with Keiwa (and later some reminiscing with Ren), and it is perfect. Much like the dynamic between the Revice and Geats casts its two characters meeting that have very similar ideals, so much so that you could easily base an entire story on it. So for it to happen in the closing minutes of the film is just criminal. Geats and Ryuki was a crossover that needed to happen, but judging by this it's a shame that it couldn't have been its own movie rather than simply being tacked on to the Revice crossover. Granted there is the Hyper Battle DVD coming up, but given length it seems unlikely that'll utilise the crossover to its full potential either.

Kamen Rider RyukiShinji Kido returns

Kamen Rider Geats x Revice: Movie Battle Royale had every potential to be the best team up film the franchise has produced. It offers a satisfying epilogue to Revice without completely undoing its ending, acts as a great supplementary piece to Geats and the camaraderie between the two casts is superb. Most significantly of all, the parallels between Geats and Ryuki are just too good to pass up. But as seems to be the case for most things Revice-related the finished product is just a little undercooked – recognising the potential it has but not really capitalising on any of it to full effect. So while in a perfect world this could have been the best, in the real one we'll just have to settle for "very good".

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