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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Henshin!?!


Directed by Takao Nagaishi
Written by Toshiki Inoue

Masaya Kikawada as Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1
Hassei Takano as Hayato Ichimonji/Kamen Rider 2
Rena Komine as Asuka Midorikawa

From the opening credits:

An organization that manipulates society from the underworld.
The soldiers they create [remodeled humans], have superhuman abilities that they use for their dark operations.
They keep their feelings and identities secret no matter what.
Thus they wear a [mask] (kamen) ----------

Synopsis:(Spoiler Section --read at your own risk)
College student Takeshi Hongo is abducted into terrorist organisation SHOCKER (Sacred Hegemony Of Cycle Kindred Evolutional Realm), where he was experimented upon to become a remodeled human agent for said organization. Brainwashed, he became an assassin for the group and successfully carried out his first mission. Later on when he was instructed to assassinate witnesses of his first mission, he found his lost humanity inside him and rebelled against SHOCKER. That was because he discovered the witnesses were the reporter Asuka Midorikawa, whom he has a crush on and interviewed him prior to being abducted and her fiancé Katsuhiko Yano .

The ensuing debacle led to Hongo being labeled as a traitor and ended up with him killing another remodeled human agent to avoid punishment. Yano was presumed to have died in the incident but was actually taken by SHOCKER to be turned into a replacement agent in Hongo's stead. Yano acquired a new identity as Ichimonji Hayato, the second Kamen Rider.

Hayato was willing to kill Hongo as a rival in order to win his fiancé back. That all changed however when SHOCKER decided to make the reporter into a remodeled human agent of theirs too. This forced the two Kamen Riders into a reluctant alliance to save the woman.

Honestly speaking I am very torn about this movie. I kind of love and hate it in a way. From what I have gathered, the general reaction from fandom seems to be the same way and my feelings about this is not even influenced by that.

This movie is basically a remake of the first series that basically became a huge franchise. Stylistically and visually, I really loved this movie for actually updating the original and for the lack of a better term "making it cooler". One major difference from the original TV series is it's obvious attempt to take itself seriously and totally and consciously avoiding the "campy" aspect of the series. In that regard, it tried to add elements and changes from the original. I wouldn't say they needlessly did those as I was quite fine with many of them but in retrospect they could have executed it in much better ways in my opinion.

The lack of the term "henshin" (literally translates as "transform") being used by the heroes is something I can easily accept for the remake compared to most fans who cry hypocrisy and that the movie was blatantly ashamed of its own genre of being a superhero movie. I have no problems with it in the fact that it fits the context of the movie, because the characters weren't really transforming either, they were just suiting up. The concept here is unlike in the series, even though they have become remodeled humans (basically cyborgs), they just still look like normal humans, just stronger, faster and basically I guess physically better. It's just kind of jarring for a long time fan of the franchise like me to not hear henshin being uttered, when the movie is basically based on the series that made the word famous and actually being used as a sub-genre descriptor in Henshin Heroes (literally meaning transforming heroes) for Tokusatsu (Japanese Sci-fi).

The concept of the remodeled humans needing blood transfusion lest they run the risk of the body rejecting their cybernetic parts and dying was a concept I really liked, however they botched it all up by not tackling and completely ignoring it after being introduced. I was honestly scratching my head why they even bothered with it since they really didn't even used the damn thing.

The plot that lead to the final scene, telling the origin of the two remodeled human agents that fought with the two Kamen Riders was totally hokey and disjointed in timeline. Initially confusing to the audience until they figure out that it is some poorly executed attempt of a Pulp Fiction (the movie) type presentation.

All in all it is a decent action movie with enough visual cues and candy for long time fans like me to geek out and latch on to and even impress first time viewers of the franchise. The only concern will be the retarded structuring of the story and seemingly disdain for the campiness of the original series by the movie, when in itself it just ended being what it didnt want to be, a goofy yet entertaining superhero movie. The Kamen Rider Black TV series still beats it as a more serious and darker interpretation of the series.

I still recommend this to first time viewers, as half of the possible issues I have with this movie is based more on my familiarity with the property. New fans will probably enjoy it better, not as a serious flick but more of popcorn fare type entertainment. I mean the action scenes are still top notch and dynamic. The story about average, the structuring of the narrative is probably only the weakest part of it.

Here's the Japanese theatrical trailer thanks to Tokyo and YouTube to give you guys an inkling of what I'm talking about:


Anonymous said...

Shocker - organization that manipulates three fingers via the underpants.
i have not seen this movie and the review makes me feel like i should watch the series from the beginning to appreciate the material (despite the fallacies). if it was on TBS or something i'd catch it, but i have to read a slamming review for me to look for it

addison said...

Nook is that you? What fallacies?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I have the same issues with American superhero movies. What makes the comics enduring is taken away to reach a larger audience really irritates me. I wish more studios had the guts and sense to realize you don't have to change everything to make it something.

Anonymous said...

damn it, why didn't this save the first time!

sorry, not fallacies, but short comings in the movie. if i see a movie like that i want to see people changing into dino-bots or something instead of jumping in when it's just cyborgs. Cyborg w/ Jean Claude Van Damme is the best cyborg movie ever!


Anonymous said...

I've never seen anything about this but I know you reccommend it a lot on the board. If I ever see sans internet, I will check it out.

Also, If I were a woman I would totally have you baby. ;)

Anonymous said...

I still haven't seen this. Its right here in front of me, but I just haven't sat down to view it yet. It does sound like a bummer though for them to introduce a need for blood transfusions and then just drop it. That really could have opened up some interesting ordeals for the riders.

Eddy Woo said...

I believes first timers may have some problems in understanding the storyline.

addison said...

krfans, perhaps you're right. However, I've shown the movie to 3 friends who aren't even into toku and they all enjoyed it. Trust me, I'm quite the savage as a critic, I have however learned to step back when it comes to genre entertainment. I will not waste effort critiquing toku in the same vein as I would works that I do consider high art or those that aim to be. To do so would be an exercise in futility.

Many fans of niche entertainment have fallen in the same trap, as if trying to be pseudo-academic with their entertainment of choice somehow elevates it.

KR: The First is eye candy entertainment even if tries not to be. It is quite a disappointing movie, especially for the fans of the franchise. All my points about this movie are already stated in the article entry above, so I wont bore you by repeating it.

Thanks for your time in posting and hope you enjoy my blog more in future installments.

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