Shin Ultraman Is Everything I Wanted It to Be

Image provided by Cleopatra Entertainment

It’s no secret that I’m a huge kaiju fanatic, but you might be surprised to know that I’ve never been a big fan of the Ultraman franchise. It’s not that I don’t like these films. I just never got around to watching them (I’ve only seen a few episodes of the old Ultra Q and Ultraman TV shows), so they’ve been a big blind spot in my kaiju history. So naturally, when I first heard about the new reboot Shin Ultraman around a year or so ago, I knew I had to check it out. It was the perfect opportunity to finally get into this franchise, and I jumped at the chance to review it. I had really high hopes for this movie, and after getting the chance to watch it, I’m happy to report that it does not disappoint.

Shin Ultraman was directed by Shinji Higuchi, and it stars Takumi Saitoh, Masami Nagasawa, Daiki Arioka, Akari Hayami, Tetsushi Tanaka, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Hideaki Anno, and Bin Furuya. It’s set in a world where Japan has recently come under attack by several kaiju, and up until now, the military has been able to defeat them all. But one day, while they’re fighting a particularly difficult monster, a giant silver humanoid descends from the sky and kills the creature without breaking a sweat.

Then, the mysterious giant leaves just as suddenly as he arrived, and after the encounter, the people dub him “Ultraman.” Nobody knows anything about him, but soon enough, he becomes mankind’s only hope for survival against a larger-than-life enemy that threatens to destroy the entire planet.

Right from the get-go, Shin Ultraman had me absolutely hooked. For starters, the kaiju fights are fantastic. The monsters and the titular hero are brought to life with a mix of CGI and traditional tokusatsu (or suitmation) techniques, and that combination works really well. Granted, the effects don’t look quite as realistic as the CGI in the American MonsterVerse films, but they’re way better than what you’ll see in, say, the old Godzilla movies.

A kaiju roaring
Image provided by Cleopatra Entertainment

In particular, I really appreciated the way these monsters move. As much as I love the tokusatsu style, I have one big issue with it. Since rubber suits are super restrictive, it often prevents the kaiju from moving in ways that look natural. Instead, they usually move like, well, people in rubber suits, and that’s always bothered me a bit. But thankfully, this film manages to avoid that problem. These monsters move like real animals, so I was able to suspend disbelief entirely and just immerse myself in the story without being hindered by the lack of realism.

Similarly, the fight choreography and creature designs in Shin Ultraman are also really cool, so as far as the kaiju go, this movie runs on all cylinders. The monster scenes are just an absolute joy to watch, so if you’re a fan of this subgenre, I think you’re really going to like them.

That being said, you shouldn’t go into this film expecting to leave your brain at the door and just enjoy a bunch of cool fight scenes. There are several times when the kaiju take a backseat to people sitting around and talking, and if you came just for the action, you might even get so bored that you’ll check out entirely.

But if you want a good story to go along with some great monster fights, this is the movie for you. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I can’t go into any specifics, but suffice it to say that Shin Ultraman will keep you on your toes from beginning to end. It’s just a really engaging narrative with likable characters, so I couldn’t look away for even a second.

A kaiju roaring
Image provided by Cleopatra Entertainment

Nevertheless, I do want to give one caveat about the characters here. When the movie begins, it throws a lot of people at you, so it can be tough to keep track of who’s who. At first, they seem to just blend together in a generic, indistinguishable mass, but don’t worry. As the story progresses, that will all sort itself out, and by the time the credits roll, you’ll actually become pretty attached to the major players.

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my one big issue with Shin Ultraman. As much as I loved the film overall, there was one thing about it that bothered me quite a bit. It feels like three stories mashed together into one, and I think it would’ve been better off focusing on just one of them. Granted, these three stories are all really cool, but the movie never gets to develop any of them as much as I would’ve liked.

In particular, the final battle is really undercooked, and that’s a shame. It could’ve been an amazing finale, but instead, it feels more like a CliffsNotes recap. It ends the story on a weaker note than it deserves, and that could’ve easily been avoided if the film had just told a more streamlined narrative.

But in the grand scheme of things, that one issue is far outweighed by everything Shin Ultraman does right, so I still give this movie two big thumbs up. Without exaggerating, I can honestly say that it’s everything I wanted it to be. It has likable characters, great monster action brought to life by awesome visual effects, and a really intriguing story, so if you’re a kaiju fan, I highly recommend that you check this film out.

Shin Ultraman is set to hit VOD on July 4, and then it’ll come out on Blu-ray and DVD a week later, on July 11.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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