New big screen version of the long running Japanese TV show was the hot ticket at New York Asian Film Festival this year. Everyone wanted to see the film that broke records in Japan, myself included.
I'm an early Ultraman adopter. I was watching the show from its first appearance in America in the late 1960's. I was such a brat about it that I was allowed to eat my family dinner on a small table while it was on before returning to the table with everyone else when it was over.
The film is essentially the origin story with Ultraman fusing with the body of a human killed trying to save a child during a giant monster attack. Ultraman takes out the kaiju and then goes back to the man's day job as a member of the forces fighting the giant monster. Along the way some aliens aliens try to take over the world and other try to destroy it because humans are potentially too powerful to be allowed to live.
To be honest my inner three or four year old was bouncing off the wall during the first part of this film as all the scenes from the trailers involving giant monsters played out. Then as the film continued on my inner three year old was getting fidgety as the giant monster gave way to three more story lines each running about 25 minutes - about the length of a TV episode.
And that's the problem, this isn't a big screen feature, but four episodes of a TV series strung together. Its shot like a TV show with lots of close ups and direct lifts from the various series. It moves like a TV series with introductions and conclusions every 25 minutes. It's not bad but I was hoping for an honest to goodness BIG screen film with a singular two hour story.
As it stands now the film has four parts:
Part 1: The Origin- Kaiju attacks
Part 2:Alien tries to make a deal to take over the world while making Ultraman look bad
Part 3: New alien tries to sell the humans new technology because he knows they will abuse it and wipe themselves out
Part 4: Ultraman's people realize humans are dangerous and set out to destroy the world-but Ultraman is wounded and human's have to save themselves.
The movie isn't bad but the film is so front loaded with craziness the pacing in the rest disappoints. I mean most of the stuff in the trailers is the opening half hour. While things happen in the remaining 90 minutes it's not as exciting.
Don't get me wrong I genuinely like the film, but the excitement I had from the trailers, and from being a life long fan kind of fizzled. I wanted a huge epic film that transcended the TV series, not the TV series on the big screen. Hell I would have been happier had it not in episodic in structure.
Watching the film with my brother we both had a grand time (more so because the low res screener made it like watching old tapes of the show) and we both came away wanting to see this on a big screen down the road, but neither one of us could quite justify going again to the NYAFF public screening at an extra cost and train fare (even with the director in attendance), it's good but not that good.
Definitely worth seeing (especially the first 40 minutes), but not worth selling the children or the planet for.
ADDENDUM- Before anyone emails me about my issues with the film with the directors intentions know I spoke with Shinji Higuchi and Tomoya Nishino about 2 hours before the NYAFF screening and he addressed some of the issues above. However what he said did not effect how I feel about the film. I will say more when the interview posts.