“Do you still remember your childhood dream about a silver shooting star? The dream still remains somewhere in your heart unbroken. The year 2005, it took us 39 years to come across the shooting star again…”
With that introduction, say hello to Tsuburaya's new Ultraman for mature audience- Ultraman: The Next .
Being a sucker for anything Ultraman-related, I was pretty excited with the direction Tsuburaya has taken lately. First, it came out with the Ultraman Nexus series in 2004 which has an actual storyline with less monsters(unfortunately didn't do well in Japan because children couldn't appreciate it) and now this movie.
The movie premiered on 18 December 2004 across Japan and I was hoping that it could perhaps make its way here to the local cinemas too. Unfortunately that didn't quite happen but heck... At least Speedy chose to release it in VCD. I was on my way to the car park at Cheras Leisure Mall last Sunday and the video shop was showing it on TV. I just knew I had to get my hands on it!
Now, there are 2 language versions of the movie: Malay and Japanese/Cantonese and of course I took the Jap/Canto version(Actually I couldn't care less about the Cantonese dialogue as long as they give me the chinese subtitle). As usual, it comes with 2 VCDs...
However when I opened the cover, something else was inside too.
Looks like the people at Speedy and KFC did not do their homework on the movie - any parent who buys this movie for their young children is unknowingly wasting their money. There are far too much drama and talking that the kids are going to fall asleep watching it.
Like I said earlier, the target group here is the adults, people who grew up with the Ultraman mythology. So the movie flows more like a sci-fi than and kiddy stuff. In fact, the hero doesn't turn into the gigantic warrior using any special device. Instead, he has to go through a seemingly painful mutation before changing into the silver giant. Speaking of the giant, this Ultraman looks nothing like his predecessors.
First and final transformation- the initial transformation reminds me of the Bio Booster Guyver
It looks like he's wearing an armour instead of a suit, which kinda tells you he's serious about kicking a$$es! There's only one monster in the movie, dubbed The One by the scientists. It is a beast that is capable of mutation- transforming from a human, to a small beast, and subsequently into more powerful forms as it absorbs other lifeforms into its body.
At the centre of the movie is the hero Shunichi Maki. Unlike previous Ultraman hosts who were young, single and (almost!)carefree,this guy really has a tough life. Maki was a middle-aged F15 pilot who left the air defence to spend time with his family; his 5-year-old son is suffering from a congenital blood disease that threatens to kill him before he turns 7. He's a man who just wants to be with his wife and son as they go through this difficult moment, but fate has chosen him to be Earth's hope against a monster that was going to destroy the planet. For more on the movie, do check out www.ultramanlah.com which has an archive on the movie. There you can find an excellend review plus an article where the director Konaka Kazuya talks about the movie.
I enjoyed the movie because it gives me a new twist to the Ultraman story- a story that doesn't make you laugh at its silliness. Rather it makes you empathise with the struggles of a father who's trying to do the right thing and be with his son at the same time and the pain of a scientist who must kill her loved one who has turned into a monster.
Hopefully, there'll be more such feature films coming in future.