Kouta’s peaceful life on his new planet is rudely disturbed by the Megahex, a cybernetic lifeform who aim to assimilate every other race in existence. When the fight moves to Earth, Kouta is mercilessly annihilated, leaving the fate of the planet in the hands of the Kureshima brothers. Meanwhile, Shinnosuke and the rest of the Special Crimes Unit clash with a Slowdown-using master thief known only as Ultimate Lupin, who has set his sights on the most valuable treasure Tokyo has to offer: The title of ‘Kamen Rider’…
Aqua X Kamen Rider Gaim: The Last Stage of Advance
With The Golden Fruits Cup still lost in limbo, Movie Wars Full Throttle is our long anticipated reunion with Kamen Rider Gaim, and what better way to celebrate than to kill the titular character off five minutes in? … Wait, what? When Kouta’s idyllic new world is attacked by the
Borg Megahex, an advanced race of space communists bent on assimilating every other life-form in the universe, the guy who just spent 47 episodes trying to prevent humanity from losing its free will is rightfully pissed off, though as if taking a page out of his ‘good friend’ Mitsuzane’s book ends up luring the Cybermen Megahex to his former home planet. Whoops. Oh, and Mai gets kidnapped, because what this movie definitely needed was a reminder of the dirt-worthy treatment she got at the end of the TV series proper. The Megahex obliterate Kouta just in time for Takatora to look up and realize the burden of saving the world is once again his. To further complicate the matter, there’s only one Sengoku Driver left. And it belongs to Micchy.
Yes, boys and girls, this movie was — as you might have guessed — not written by main Gaim scribe Gen Urobuchi. Jin Haganaya, the writer of the series ‘finale’ is once again the one in charge, and given the contents of both that episode and this movie, he seems to have been charged with the ungrateful task of doing what Urobuchi staunchly refused to do: redeem Mitsuzane. With Kouta out of the picture and Mai in dire need of a white knight, everyone’s favourite sweater-wearing mullet-bearing failboat finally gets to put on his hero hat and save the love of his life. Way to invalidate his entire character arc there, Toei. Being the relentless optimist I am, I don’t think that Micchy is beyond redemption, but this wasn’t really vindicating him as much as it was confirming that he was right all along. That he deserved to ‘save’ Mai and that doing so makes him a good guy. Rather than making Micchy accept that Mai will not love him back and having him move on, Movie Wars Full Throttle instead affirms the patriarchal troll logic that twisted his mind throughout the series, putting Mai in actual need of saving and pushing Mitchy forward as the only person who can. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the little brat wrote the bloody thing himself.
Luckily, there’s still a lot to like here. The other half of the Gaim bit is dedicated mostly to Takatora, whose character development throughout the show has set him up for a big chance to ‘get it right this time’ way better than it has his brother. While the Megahex resurrecting Professor Ryouma might have had more to do with the character’s popularity than with actual storyline reasons, it gives the movie the opportunity to give Takatora that final confrontation with his former friend that he never really got in the show. For a movie based on Kamen Rider Gaim, Full Throttle is surprisingly action-heavy. Misuzane and his brother forgo any real character development and spend most of his screen time squaring off against the Megahex or one of their mooks. Luckily, a combination of Takayuki Shibazaki’s cinematic directing — None of Drive‘s annoying jitter-cam here, thank you very much — and wise use of an improved budget makes for some great fight scenes. While Kouta’s Dragonball Z-esque opening brawl with the Megahex suffers from some hilarious perspective issues, the subsequent fights boast some impressive co-ordinated fight choreography without any obligation to show off all the toys one more time.
With its high-octane action focus, relatively simplistic morality and the swashbuckling humour present in the crossover bit — more on that later — Movie Wars Full Throttle is the closest Gaim will ever get to being a traditional Kamen Rider show. While it’s fun to see Kouta, Mitchy, Kaito — who per obligation comes back to life because there is no death in Kamen Rider movies — and Takatora in such an unabashedly heroic context for once, it does take away what made the series so special in the first place. Unsurprisingly, for fans of the Gaim Riders, their bits in Full Throttle rank amongst pretty much every other movie or special they have been in: entertaining, but hardly essential. The Drive bits, on the other hand…
- I’m still a bit bummed that the crossover movies no longer feature a cameo by the Rider from two seasons ago, like Megamax and Ultimatum did. Then again, I don’t think anyone wanted to see Haruto again.
- Given Ryouma and Kaito’s behaviour, it is safe to assume that the Megahex were in fact capable of resurrecting their actual persons, rather than making a copy or a clone. Knowing this, it’s rather odd why they would opt to bring back Kaito of all people, likely the very last person on earth who’d ally himself with their ideals.
- On the other hand, Ryouma showed himself uncharacteristically loyal. He, for one, seemed to welcome our new cybernetic alien overlords.
- There was a distinct lack of ‘NEVER GIVE UP’ in this movie, just saying.
Zigg X Kamen Rider Drive: The Challenge from Lupin
Whereas the Gaim segment of this movie attempts an epic, weighty plot to match its source material, the Drive segment is nowhere near as ambitious. Instead, what we’ve got here is a delightfully barmy romp that feels free to throw in all the movie specific cliches but presents them freshly enough that that’s not really a problem. Drive is just inherently better suited to the consequences-free atmosphere of the crossover special, given its naturally goofy atmosphere.
It helps that for the first time in quite a while the movie-exclusive isn’t phoned in and actually might be the most enjoyable aspect of the entire affair. Japan’s long-running love affair with the ‘Phantom Thief’ character is well documented by now but this movie does what toku does in it’s best moments and just turns the silliness up to 11, resulting in the dashing Ultimate Lupin (as opposed to rubbish regular-ass Lupin). Yuji Ayabe plays the role deliciously over the top, chewing the scenery at every available opportunity and mocking our heroes with aplomb. Lupin has his own distinct style as well, what with his outrageously blinged-out costume and unique film-strip attacks. The results are a villain who’s ridiculous yet highly engaging, and if his antics stray a little into pantomime territory then it’s hardly unusual in this rubber-suited world.
The romp is also made fun by some technical work that’s noticeably superior to the TV show, such as the really rather fun car chase with approximately one million explosions. Direction is notably superior as well, with long panning fights rather than the jittery handicam work which characterised much of the early part of the series. In fact, coming back from latter-day Drive, it’s alarming how little re-adjustment needs to take place. In retrospect this feels like a prototype of where the series needed to go – looser, funnier and more action packed than the stilted first dozen or so episodes. It’s entirely inconsequential of course (attempts to add pathos through the destruction of Mr. Belt are hilarious rather than moving) but it’s a hell of a fun way to spend half an hour with the crew.
- As with many crossover movies, Mach makes his official debut here, but it’s slightly underwhelming. He doesn’t get actively involved and his demeanor seems very different, much cooler and calmer than his initially boisterous personality.
- In a move which I’m sure is intentional, Lupin’s Rider form has distinctive facial markings which make him look like he has a classic curled mustache.
- Gen once again proves he is actually something of a secret badass by riding on the side of Lupin’s truck.
Movie Wars Full Throttle
The Gaim half was middling, the Drive part was great, but it’s only in the final fifteen minutes, after Shinnosuke and Kiriko stumble into Zawame City and Kouta is resurrected through the power of friendship, however, that Full Throttle truly starts to shine. Taking over from Haganaya, Drive scribe Riku Sanjo interprets dorky do-gooder Kouta and snarky Shinnosuke as a buddy cop duo, poking fun at the eccentricities of each others’ costumes and having a blast cruising through space in the Tridoron and taking the fight with the Megahex back to their homeworld. With some excellent physical comedy — Kouta and Shinnosuke are by far the most endearing Rider team-up since the holy trinity (quadrinity?) of Shoutaro/Philip, Eiji and Gentaro in Megamax — and some surprisingly solid (read: not atrocious) CGI spectacle at the end, Full Throttle reaches an explosive finale. It’s a bit of a bummer the supporting characters don’t get to share in the fun, but if anything, their absence shows that the two shows’ leading men can easily carry a movie on their own.
Aqua’s pretty much nailed it bang on with this one. Sure, there’s some spectacle on offer, and the Roidmudes forming the cavalry and fighting alongside the Beat Riders in one giant cross-continuity team up is a great thing to see, but really this crossover is ruled by the two leads. Which really it should be, since it’s their names on the banner. The script does a delightful job of bringing Kouta down from his godly position and back to his goofy do-gooder self, and Shinnosuke’s fish-out-of-water act combines perfectly. The two share some really good, funny chemistry, partially because the script makes them as clueless about pretty much everything as the audience is. Furthermore, even though we get the expected blizzard of sub-par CGI as a finale, it actually works because everything moves at such a breakneck pace, and the things happening are just SO stupid, that we get swept along for the ride. There’s even a brief moment of beauty in the ending, as we see Kouta and Mai get to be regular folk again for their last goodbye. Definitely the best Movie Wars of the past few years.
- Did Kaito die again, or did he just vanish after the Megahex were defeated? It’s a pretty good shot either way.
- I cannot help but think that these end credits are ripping off The Avengers, but they looks pretty awesome! The ending song is sung by Mitsuru Matsuoka, who does the Drive Team, together with Ryouma Takeuchi (Shinnosuke), Rio Uchida (Kiriko), Taiko Katono (Chase), Tomoya Warabino (Heart), Shouta Matsushima (Brain), Gaku Sano (Kouta), Yutaka Kobayashi (Kaito) and Yuumi Shida (Mai). Somewhat ironic, since only the former two are in this movie for longer than five minutes.
- Our adventures with Gaim are not over just yet, as another round of Gaiden straight-to-DVD specials has been announced, this time featuring Zack and Professor Ryouma. Besides, they still owe us The Golden Fruit Cup and the first two Gaiden features…
- Drive was pre-empted this week by the US OPen golf coverage, but regualr coverage will resume next week.