SHIN ULTRAMAN (シン・ウルトラマン) (2022)

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Cast:  Masami Nagasawa, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Akari Hayami, Daiki Arioka, Takumi Saitou, Kenjiro Tsuda, Issei Takahashi, Koichi Yamadera, Koji Yamamoto
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: PG
Released By: Cathay Cineplexes
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 15 September 2022

Synopsis: With the emergence of giant, violent monsters known as “S-Class Species,” the Japanese government has formed the SSSP to study and formulate how to defeat them. During one such monster attack, the SSSP is shocked to gain a new ally in their fight against the monsters: a silent silver giant who they name “Ultraman.” Yet, what are Ultraman's true goals? Why is he helping humanity against the monsters? And how does this all connect with SSSP veteran Shinji Kaminaga and his sudden personality shift after rescuing a child during Ultraman's first appearance?

Movie Review:

After the success of Shin Godzilla, Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno returns to resurrect another familiar decades old fantasy character, Ultraman, the kaiju fighting superhero that hailed from a technologically advanced planet.

A slight improvement over the incredibly talky Shin Godzilla, Shin Ultraman opens with the SSSP (S-Class Species Suppression Protocol) hot on the heels of an energy-sapping kaiju in the countryside of Japan. But before the SSSP and the army manages to do anything other than tapping hard on their laptops, Ultraman appears from the sky and defeats the monster.

And before you get a chance to take another sip of your Coke, another Kaiju appears to attack a nuclear plant. And as expected after a round of furious battle, Ultraman defeats the monster and fly off with its limping corpse to space. Hooray! So far so good for a movie that takes its roots from the original 1966 TV show.

Thereafter, we are introduced to the members of SSSP which includes team leader Tamura (Hidetoshi Nishijima from Drive My Car), nerdy physicist Taki (Daiki Arioka), biologist Yumi (Akari Hayami) and analyst Asami (Masami Nagasawa from Kingdom), we learned that Ultraman has took the form of SSSP strategy officer Shinji Kaminaga (Takumi Saitoh from Ramen Teh) who has earlier sacrificed his life to save a young boy.

Instead of continuing its kaiju-bashing antics, Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno once again takes a dig at modern Japan bureaucracy although this time, there is less focused on the government and political figures. Still, there are some sharp subtle references to Japan’s overreliance on America and the European Union and a laugh-out-loud joke about why Kaiju only attack Japan.

Unfortunately, the story starts to waver by the end of the first hour as an intelligent alien being named Zarab (disguised clumsily in a trenchcoat) kidnaps Shinji while forcing the Japanese government to sign a peace treaty with him not knowing that the latter is planning to take over planet earth. Then this is follow by another alien named Meflias (Koji Yamamoto) whom you guessed it, plans to take over the world because homo sapiens simply is not worth saving. But Ultraman having a heart of gold (assuming he has one) decides once again to save mankind from the powerful Meflias and his powerful Beta system only to have Ultraman’s superior, Zoffy to interfere in their battle.

There’s so much discussion and talk about saving humanity between Ultraman and Zoffy towards the end that it’s seem like a cost effective way for Toho and Tsuburaya not to bust their budget. They can of course pull it off for a 20 minutes long TV episode but it just looks ridiculous for a full-length movie. In short, Shin Ultraman basically loses its momentum which they had impressively built earlier with endless lengthy exposition. Homo Sapiens are worth saving and yes we get it! Can we see more of Ultraman bashing Kaiju?

Despite being all CGI, the filmmakers utilise some good old-school action movement from the men-in-suits days to create the brawl between Ultraman and kaiju. The once painstakingly built miniature landscapes and buildings in the background looks stunningly believable except it’s also built on computers. Even some of the sound effects and music cues came from the old TV episodes making it a real nostalgic affair.

For the younger generation who grew up on Hollywood version of Godzilla and Mecha/Kaiju from Pacific Rim, Shin Ultraman is naturally a tough sell. Indeed there are two battles in the beginning that are worthy for the masses however the monster flick don’t quite rise to the occasion given the increasingly preaching of global crisis, humanity and stifling bureaucracy matters.

Movie Rating:

(Old timers might love the “new” and improved Ultraman but might be hard to win over new ones)

Review by Linus Tee


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