(aka Great Decisive Battle! The Super 8 Ultra Brothers )
This is, without question, the most unique of all the Ultraman movies.
Admittedly, that’s a curious thing thing to be saying about a movie franchise which has produced so many surprisingly dissimilar films. But I really think they outdid themselves this time, creating a film which is utterly unlike what came before, yet which is really a love letter to the fans old and new.
Three young boys in 1960s Japan fall in love with a brand new TV show: Ultraman. In the presence of a mysterious girl they’ve never met before, they each make a wish: one wants to become a spaceship pilot; one wants to design that ship; the third wants to become a major league baseball star. However, none of these dreams came true, even if all three came surprisingly close to their goals.
But one day, years later, an upside-down city appears in the sky and one of the three, Daigo, begins to have strange dreams about a new Ultraman he’s never seen before, and about four of his family’s friends — Shin Hayata, Dan Moroboshi, Hideki Gô, and Seiji Hokuto — whom he now thinks may be four of the mightiest of all the Ultramen.
Then Mirai Hibino — the host of Ultraman Mebius — gets pulled into Daigo’s dreams. Daigo tells him how to defeat a Kaiju, which he remembers from the TV show! Mirai then is drawn into our world and reveals that, while Ultraman is only a TV series in Daigo’s universe, in Mirai’s universe, the Ultras are real — and so are the deadly Kaiju (giant monsters) who are about to invade Daigo’s world.
And that’s when the first monster arrives.
Will Daigo be able to wake up the four Ultramen? Will the monsters be defeated? Can the three young men reclaim the dreams they abandoned?
Alternate realities seemed to flourish during the Ultraman Heisei and Millennium eras, which saw the coming of Ultraman Tiga and Dyna (both of whom appear here) and the grittier reboot Ultraman: The Next and the Ultraman Nexus that followed.
But here we are in yet another universe, neither Taiga’s, Noa’s nor that of the Showa Ultramen, with a set of Ultramen who aren’t the ones been cheering for years.
Another strange twist is that all four Showa Ultramen are married to the female leads from their series — and that [spoiler!] a whole series of new weddings break out before the end! Not only is this unprecedented but in a series whose main themes have long been courage, faith and brotherhood, we suddenly get a film about family, responsibility, and children. Even though there is no gore and the violence is cartoony as usual, this is a surprisingly adult film, in the truest sense of the word.
Perhaps the finest moment comes when Daigo watches the four Showa Ultramen perform a rather embarrassing Karaoke Hawaiian song with their former co-stars (i.e., “wives”) and then decides that they can’t possibly be Ultramen!
Meanwhile, there’s a tremendous amount of fan service going on, with old characters making cameos, many in their original roles (although you won’t recognize most of them). I’ll confess that it made my day to see Jun Majome, the hero of Ultra Q (my favorite Ultra series even if there are no Ultramen), whose news interview sounds like the opening monologue of one of the original episodes (and, you’ll note, he’s played by the original star, Kenji Sahara and not Toshio Shiba, who played Jun in the excellent Heisei era reboot).
There are some curious questions raised here that just make the world of the Ultramen far more complex that it ever was before” who is the little girl with the red shoes? Is being the host of an Ultraman somehow inherent? Can it take place without any actual Ultraman involved? How can anyone become an Ultraman in a universe without Ultras? Are the original Ultramen somehow using their parallel universe bodies instead of their true host’s? And what exactly will they find in the M 78 Nebula?
And what place do these new Ultramen have in the Ultraman universe?
Despite all these questions (or perhaps even because of them) I enjoyed this one thoroughly. My usual gang of Ultra fans, however, were more impatient with this one as there is more talk than in most Ultra films. A lot more talk. I’m sure the subtitles didn’t help, but the truth is that this is a film that spends more time on story, on world building, and on the characters than in any other Ultra film. The battles with giant Kaiju are all there — and quite good — but it takes a while to get there.
This is really a film for the adult fans, for those who remember every detail of those shows from the Halcyon Showa days. But it was made with a great deal of love and was far better than the film that preceded it, Ultraman Mebius and Ultra Brothers (even if it also suffers from poor CGI in places — and not just in the few clips of the battle scenes borrowed from the previous film).
Yes, it’s true, I love its insanely absurd sequel, Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends – The Movie, far more, but this objectively a far better film.
It even shows just how important those of us in the audience really are…
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