Thursday, June 1, 2023

‘Shin Kamen Rider’ Review – An Emotional Reimagining of the Grandfather of Tokusatsu’s Origin Story

After reimagining two other larger-than-life Japanese icons, Hideaki Anno naturally sought out another tokusatsu juggernaut to complete his “Shin” trilogy. And after the success of both Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman, fans of the filmmaker and/or Kamen Rider were curious to see how the grandfather of tokusatsu television would be updated. The final product ends up being more low-risk than Anno’s past projects, but Shin Kamen Rider is also one of his most heartfelt works to date.

Kamen Rider is certainly no stranger to reinvention. Despite the many entries in this long-running franchise, Anno goes back to the very beginning for Shin Kamen Rider’s story. Much like in the original TV series created by Shōtarō Ishinomori, the Kamen Rider seen here is a force of good with a dark origin. However, the movie reenvisions the terrorist organization Shocker as SHOCKER (an abbreviation for Sustainable Happiness Organization with Computational Knowledge Embedded Remodeling), a kind of cult that seeks happiness for humanity. While Kamen Rider as a whole has never shied away from gray morality, Shin addresses the topic with the same force as one of the protagonist’s fatal punches.

There is no buildup in Shin Kamen Rider; it immediately starts in the middle of the story. So more often than not, the pacing becomes both a problem and a blessing. There are plenty of times where these explanations are crammed into an already busy scene. SHOCKER’s various sub-bosses, all mutant cyborgs like Kamen Rider, have undercooked personalities to begin with, and their times to shine aren’t as bright as they could be, all thanks to random infodumps. On the other hand, the audience never has to wait long to see another battle. Like in other tokusatsu offerings, Anno practically teleports the characters to the fight to avoid any lulls.

Now, it just wouldn’t be a tokusatsu story without some practical effects and stunt work, and there is a fair amount, but the movie requires heavy CGI to pull off its more gravity and logic defying sequences. The hero’s signature Rider Kick maneuver is taken to a height not seen in the classic series. Although the digital moments are not entirely convincing, they help augment the intentionally campy effects and suitmation. Similar to Shin Ultraman, Shin Kamen Rider excels when it comes to the action parts. Here, though, the fights are sanguinary. Takeshi Hongō (played by Sōsuke Ikematsu) paints whole scenes red with his disposable enemies’ blood.

The meaning of justice has always been on Kamen Rider’s mind. Takeshi’s decency is described as both a strength and a weakness, and his self-analyses after each battle are affecting. With this movie, Anno appears to be cycling through some kind of internal dialogue about the good versus evil quandary. And as overstuffed as this movie frequently is, the director/writer expresses the main character’s moral dilemma with sincerity and insight. Offsetting a great deal of the underdeveloped villains are leads who visibly grow with the story. Not only does Takeshi become a refreshingly vulnerable hero, his cold and rigid ally, Ruriko Midorikawa, eventually warms up. In this thoughtful overhaul of a vintage supporting character, Minami Hamabe steals the show with her poignant performance.

The movie might have been better suited as a miniseries due to its episodic and uneven format, and it doesn’t innovate the source material quite enough. Nevertheless, Shin Kamen Rider is a dream come true for Hideaki Anno, a lifelong fan of the heroic, bug-eyed cyborg. He honors as well as plays around with the mythology so that everyone can partake in his lifelong wish. It’s a varying adaptation where the best parts ultimately triumph over the flaws.

Shin Kamen Rider had a wide U.S. release on May 31, and an additional screening is scheduled for June 5.

kamen rider

The post ‘Shin Kamen Rider’ Review – An Emotional Reimagining of the Grandfather of Tokusatsu’s Origin Story appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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