The Adventures of Ultraman
Some people know, and assumedly love, Ultraman as the live action guy in the silly suit. The guy who'll bust a silly looking move while beating up the guy in the rubber monster suit and stepping on all the little model buildings. I'm really glad for them, but the anime version of all this is perhaps a little harder to explain.
Strangely enough this movie is connected to the movie `Ultraman II' that I have also reviewed. As far as I can understand ultraman, with optional `I' is the live action stuff. `Ultraman II' is the start of the anime version and thus we see how the lead gains his ultraman powers. One moderately interesting thing is that the `Ultraman II' tape had screen shots that actually only occur in this movie.
While introduced as a stand alone movie it would be much better to call this something descriptive like `Ultraman: The final battle'. This is not only because there's no introduction but also because within seconds we're into the endgame. The earth defence forces, with ultraman hidden within one of their elite teams, have become aware that a massive alien attack fleet is assembling on one of Saturns moons. A fleet so huge that the forces of earth are doomed to defeat and the people of earth to slavery at the hands of an evil galactic empire. Indeed a fleet so massive that not even Ultraman will be enough to turn the tide of battle.
And indeed things go very badly once war begins. It seems the only hope is either to find assistance from an alien race or an entire squad of Ultramans. Which is sort of convenient really, as earths ultraman is able to make contact with the people of planet ultra, and their powerful leader the ultramind, and ask their assistance. Being the people from whom Ultraman's powers derive there may be a chance that the earth can be saved and one of the galaxies most ruthless dictators defeated.
The first thing I must admit is that this was a struggle to watch. It's a fairly long movie at 90 minutes and I just don't really care enough. Why? Well it seemed to me that this was the epic conclusion to a long series I hadn't seen. In the first movie I saw Ultraman gain his powers and beat up a couple of space monsters. All of a sudden Ultraman and the team are in a final battle. Perhaps if I'd been along for the ride, and learnt who all these people actually are, it would have meant a lot more. Likewise if I was a fan of the live action I might enjoy this. Without either of these the best I could manage was a sort of `bemused'.
Then again the show has some problems other than my own general lack of interest. The main one is that the pacing and flow is really, really odd. It seems highly likely to me that this movie has been produced by hacking together a number of episodes from the end of the TV series. As a result there are some weird jumps and connections between events. It also means that the larger story lacks a lot of punch. There's lots of events but they all sort of jumble together without forming much in the way of a coherent story.
That said the story has large servings of cheese. It's really a little bit corny and over the top, even for Ultraman which has never been exactly deep and philosophical sci-fi. The earth being under attack by an alien horde is fine, happens all the time, but the ultra people are really hard to come to terms with. It's also surprising that, even though they're the ancestor of all human races, they're still pretty simple minded and their ships and powers are at the same level of humanity. The whole plot with the `ultramind' is sort of wacky as well.
Of course there is a reason why the ultra people are so weak, it's so that our earthly hero's can still be the deciding factor in the battle. It's silly, but there you go. Likewise the `ultra-crowd' are surprisingly absent for much of the action to keep the action focused on space combat. And the reasons why they don't just go in ultra-mode and stomp all over the pretty pitiful forces of the `evil empire' are never entirely convincing. Indeed you begin to feel sorry for the evil empire which has to rely on immense numbers to make up for a seemingly complete lack of power or skill. The old `horde of readily disposable forces' and `robot soldiers who cannot shoot straight' has never been so over-used.However the main problem is that this is meant to be an epic and awesome effects spectacular. Something that always shows the very worst of older animation such as this. The design is wonky, the special effects almost laughably dated and the spaceship combat is tedious beyond words. Especially because the repeated sequences, not so much a problem in a weekly show, really stand out when cut together into a movie. There's some reasonable hand to hand combat in the alien stronghold, but it still doesn't make much sense. The lack of character work, especially from the wooden main character, drags a lot of life out of the result as well. The voices were quite reasonable although giving the `ultramind' a bit of a mumble in his voice made him sound like a vague old guy rather than the potent oracle he was clearly supposed to be. The music went past without me even noticing it.
No reviews of this, uh, masterpiece from my regular sources. And I have a suspicion the tape is sort of rare even if they did get the urge to hunt for it.