Fantasia Film Festival: Shin Ultraman (シン・ウルトラマン) Review

Shin Ultraman

As much as I wanted to love Shin Ultraman, it’s not perfect. The movie walks a fine line between being a loving tribute to a pop culture icon and becoming The Last Airbender. Thankfully, they don’t cram everything from the 60s Ultraman series (even though the set of SSSP characters are different) into one movie as Last Airbender did. Nevertheless, Hideaki Anno splits the film into four distinct sections—featuring a new villain in each part. There is a thin plotline connecting them, but the film still feels like four Ultraman episodes in one movie. Thus, the narrative structure is non-existent due to the lack of cohesion between each section. 

While it’s true that Shin Ultraman has a similar tone as the original series, the focus on nostalgia ultimately causes the filmmakers to forget about the essentials. The narrative lacks the vital dramatic and emotional build-up to let audiences know what’s at stake if Ultraman were to fail.

Luckily, the disjointedness of the film doesn’t lessen the impact of the film’s central theme of hope. The hopeful belief is that humanity can unite and overcome their differences by sharing and working together as a team. Not by relying on Ultraman in a holy way like Superman in the Snyderverse. Instead, by working together on one common goal so humanity can avoid its downfall. Who knows? Maybe that common goal will eventually lead to mechas in Anno’s Shin tokusatsu universe.

Shin Ultraman is equal parts love letter and reboot, which makes it an accessible entry point for those new to this iconic character.

Nevertheless, if you grew up on Ultraman, you’re most likely here for the kaiju battles. The angles Shinji Higuchi uses perfectly capture the scale and scope of these giant creatures. In true anime fashion, the shots range from wide to close-up, with you never losing a moment of the battle. Higuchi also integrates the old-school sound effects from the series—a stark contrast to the modern-day visuals accompanying it. 

Also, instead of practical monsters, Shin Ultraman uses CGI that looks similar to the rubber monster suits of the Shōwa era. It adds a familiar element that fans will recognize while enhancing the battle sequences as well. Because if you think about it, these creatures are now much more agile because no actor is being weighed down by a heavy, vision-obstructing rubber suit.

Overall, Shin Ultraman is both a loving homage to Ultraman and a modernization of the character, which makes it an accessible entry point for those new to this iconic franchise. It’s a much different film than Shin Godzilla. However, Hideaki Anno understands what made Ultraman special and why he’s stayed an icon for so many years. Like T’Challa said in Black Panther, “in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” The hopeful spirit of the character is a reminder that no matter what our differences are, humanity can achieve great things when it works together instead of separately.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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