“Ultraman” is one of, if not, my favorite franchise of all time.
Now, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it so allow me to explain. Basically it’s a 1960s Japanese science fiction television series about a giant super hero from space who secretly takes on the form of a human in order to fight giant monsters and alien invaders. The franchise has been running fairly strong for decades, especially in Japan, but is extremely niche outside of Asia.
Fortunately though, the brand new film “Shin Ultraman” managed to get a limited release here in the US and I was able to finally see this film on Jan. 11, long after its premiere in Japan during May.
“Ultraman” is one of the largest franchises out there. “Star Trek” and “Marvel” fans can shove it, because “Ultraman” has a significantly larger amount of shows and movies to the point where I literally can’t count them all. Fortunately this new film is a pretty great entry point since it’s meant as a remake of the original series, and it’s not as campy as the older shows.
So how is the actual film? The plot follows the SSSP, a group of scientists who specialize in dealing with giant monsters. One day, a strange being from space shows up called Ultraman, and he helps deal with one of the monsters. He takes on the form of one of the SSSP members and begins helping them deal with monsters. However his presence ends up bringing more trouble, specifically alien invaders. So Ultraman has to of course protect mankind.
The story is a bit more complex than that, especially when the different aliens start showing up, but I kept it brief.
One thing that might take some getting used to is the plot structure. Essentially the film is made up of four or five smaller stories. However, the film does a decent job of weaving each story into one cohesive narrative. Plus, this is clearly intentional since the film is based on a TV show. This structure also allows the action to keep on coming, while balancing out the human storyline.
Speaking of them, the characters are all fun. The guys who made this film are the same ones behind “Shin Godzilla”, and that’s a film often criticized for its boring characters. Here, though, they’re all fun. Each one has a few distinct quirks. It also helps that the film is fairly silly. I may have been one of the only people in the theater laughing, but trust me, there’s some funny stuff in this.
My only gripe with the characters, and frankly one of my only issues with the film, is that our protagonist, the guy who can turn into Ultraman, is oftentimes not present. There are reasons for this that I won’t get into, but it just feels off. Though the scenes he gets are very good, especially his interactions with the aliens and the SSSP member who talks like Pixy from “Ace Combat Zero”.
But what about the action? The monsters? It’s all great. Most of the fight scenes are short, but they feel impactful. It’s not just two opponents exchanging a million blows, each action is deliberate and it makes the fights feel … just really good.
What might not look so good is the effects. Look, this isn’t “Avatar 2” the CGI can look obvious at times, however the film makes up for it in the cinematography and sheer style. While the film is CGI, the fights feel like guys in suits, whenever Ultraman is flying around he looks like a stiff toy like in the original show. It helps make the film feel distinct from other action movies nowadays. It also helps that Japan has the balls to put their CGI fight scenes in the daylight, and not at night with rain to hide the imperfections.
I could keep going on about how great the cinematography, music, and themes are, but this newspaper is only so big. I worry about rating films I just saw in the theater, especially ones that I was super excited for, since I loved movies like “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom” when they came out, but as time goes on I grow to strongly dislike them. However, with “Shin Ultraman” as the days go on I get more and more excited for the eventual Blu Ray release. So if you happen to see “Shin Ultraman” at Walmart or Best Buy, maybe even on some streaming service, give it a chance.
I give this film nine chainsaws out of 10, buddy!
Connor Keating is a Halstead sophomore in general studies.