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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

‘Shin Ultraman’ Review – Beloved Japanese Icon Gets Retooled With Fantastic Results

Rebooting a vintage superhero for modern audiences is never easy, but Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno were not only up to the challenge, they pulled it off with zeal and respect. With Shin Ultraman, the creative duo behind Shin Godzilla carve out another considerable and clever update of a beloved Japanese icon. The towering, humanoid superhero from another galaxy doesn’t receive a significant physical makeover in this new big-screen adventure, however his origin story is retooled with fantastic results. 

Ultraman has never been off the air or out of the public eye for too long since his debut in 1966; Earth’s utmost extraterrestrial guardian has, in some form or another, been featured in a number of TV series, films, anime and video games. And to say Japan is well aware of Ultraman’s presence is an understatement. He is as famous as he is ubiquitous. Shin Ultraman, on the other hand, is something that will make even the most unconcerned non-fan stop and pay attention. Higuchi and Anno’s creative reunion is indeed a fresh and innovative take on the heroic alien, but not at the expense of what makes Ultraman so appealing to begin with. 

Anyone who prefers the classic Ultraman series and their spiritual precursor, Ultra Q, to the more recent properties will have a lot to feast on in this film. Right from the outset is a montage of familiar kaijū whose cameos will stoke nostalgia and wonder. Well-versed Ultraman fans will find delight in keen references and astute inside jokes. Is that (Shin) Godzilla? No, it’s Gomess! And why do certain kaijū look so alike, with only minute differences and names to distinguish them? Sure, it’s all utter fan-service, but every bit is accomplished without making an obnoxious wink at the audience. 

The film then moves on to its stunning introduction to Ultraman himself. As Japan deals with this sudden rash of giant monster mayhem, an unexpected savior arrives out of nowhere. These early skirmishes between two random kaijū and the red-and-gray colossus are maybe the film’s highlights; they are hard to surpass as far as sheer excitement, mystery and energy goes. The brawls seen on TV are spirited, yes, but the big budget of Shin Ultraman allows for fancier and more seamless battles. The kaijū themselves should go over big with the film’s built-in fans who enjoy the diverse bestiary inherent to this franchise.

Shin Ultraman dispenses with the kaijū action sooner than anticipated. The story now shifts to the quirky yet likable humans at SSSP (S-Class Species Suppression Protocol), the Japanese government agency in charge of these kaijū (or S-Class Species) threats. The focus from here on out is on those foreboding encounters with other extraterrestrials apart from Ultraman. Officials ally themselves with the likes of Zarab and Mefilas, whose timely appearances don’t induce as much suspicion as someone might expect from a nation already on high alert from unearthly invasion. While Shin Godzilla was a political film, Higuchi and Anno are more frugal with their satire and commentary here. Talks of serious militarization and nuclear attacks are undercut by inept, cartoonish authorities.

Now, having CGI rather than suitmation seems to go against the very nature of tokusatsu, a genre built on practical effects, but here the use of extensive digital techniques makes the kaijū and aliens look downright otherworldly, not to mention uncannily lifelike. Higuchi’s experience with storyboarding is apparent all across the action scenes, and the motion-capture work is so fine-tuned that Ultraman almost passes for an actor inside a tangible suit. The traditional practices of miniatures and optical animation, direct callbacks to the old days of tokusatsu, help this film feel like the best of both worlds. It’s a wonderful example of how to do retro-modern storytelling.

Cynicism is inevitable when old IPs are dusted off and revamped for today. However, Shin Ultraman was not made by someone who’s only looking for a fast buck, or someone who has no affection for the source material. No, this film is a best-case scenario for these kinds of creative undertakings — it’s one that others would do well to learn from. Higuchi and Anno, who understand the ins and outs of their subject, deliver a visually striking and, at times, affecting love letter to Ultraman and his creators. The film preserves his unique spirit and legacy, all the while proving modernized superhero reboots work when placed in the right hands.

Shin Ultraman screens in select U.S. theaters on January 11 and 12.

ultraman

The post ‘Shin Ultraman’ Review – Beloved Japanese Icon Gets Retooled With Fantastic Results appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3746168/shin-ultraman-review-beloved-japanese-icon-gets-retooled-with-fantastic-results/

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