5/25/16

ULTRAMAN SAGA - REVIEW


Released in 2012, Ultraman Saga was a Japanese superhero movie set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities are being invaded by Godzilla-style monsters as a team of big robot-controlling tough gals and the last remaining giant heroes try to defend what's left.

Mixing CGI, colourful anime visuals and dudes in monster/Ultraman costumes, this is a modern precursor to Pacific Rim with a proudly retro look and feel. It is a sequel to Ultraman Zero: The Revenge Of Belial, released two years prior, and stars familiar faces from the series as well as members of the J-pop group AKB48 because pop stars make excellent actors, as we all know. The good thing about this one is you don't need to know anything that happened before because, fear not, the film is packed with flashbacks and exposition so it's all pretty self-explanatory. Hell, even without the subtitles I'm sure any non-Japanese speaker would easily figure out the plot: monsters bad, everyone else good.

The aforementioned pop stars initially do a decent job as Team-U, the monster attack team who fight the Kaiju in mech-suits, even if their robots run like they're tripping on their own shoelaces. It's when they're required to show more emotion later on that the film gets rather tiresome. Tonally, Ultraman Saga is all over the place, which is to be expected from anything resembling anime, but it's a shame the over-the-top robots vs monsters vs giants dynamic and the space-set action devolves into an over-sentimental and clumsily comedic soap opera about a reluctant hero and his defunct predecessor. Whenever the monsters show up, the film picks up but the second act is still sluggish.

While the design of the monsters is admittedly awesome, one of them being a land shark with a drill for a nose, it would have been cool to see a few more and I would have gladly sacrificed every scene involving some whiny kid for a couple more battles or at least some scenes showing what has become of the rest of the world. Ultraman Saga, you've guessed it, is mostly nonsense and is as predictable as a Power Rangers episode. Having said that, it is endearing in how ambitious and earnest it is: fans of the Godzilla movies and this type of cartoonish Japanese sci-fi should enjoy parts of it.

Ultraman Saga is an uneven and goofy effort with enough charm to make it watchable. The fight scenes are entertaining and the costumes are enjoyably retro but the characters are just too one-dimensional to pull off the more emotional moments.

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