Review by Sean Boelman
The Shin Japan Heroes series is a group of films written — and in some cases, directed — by Japanese filmmaker Hideaki Anno (the creator of the beloved Evangelion franchise) that revive classic Japanese pop culture icons with a modern twist. Although the newest entry, Shin Kamen Rider, is arguably the messiest yet, it’s also an absolute blast and boasts just the right amount of nostalgia.
The movie follows a motorcyclist who is kidnapped by a secret organization and turned into a grasshopper/human hybrid, but sets out on a quest to take down the organization by eliminating its insectoid agents one-by-one. Although the film doesn’t take quite as intelligent of an approach as Shin Godzilla or Shin Ultraman, fans of Kamen Rider will still be delighted.
For those who are not familiar with the Kamen Rider property, this movie might end up feeling somewhat overwhelming. Although a bit of exposition gives the audience the basic knowledge they’ll need to understand what is happening, a familiarity coming in will help with some of the characterization. Granted, this movie is made by a fan for fans, so it’s unlikely that anyone will have this issue.
Much of the film’s success rides on the performances of Sosuke Ikematsu and Minami Hamabe, who have tremendous chemistry together. There’s no denying that the story is absolutely ridiculous, yet Ikematsu and Hamabe manage to keep everything grounded on an emotional level. The supporting cast is more hammy — and fittingly so — but Ikematsu and Hamabe really shine.
It’s not surprising at all considering the amount of Augs that Kamen Rider encounters in this film that the pacing feels somewhat rushed. It’s structured almost like a video game — as we follow alongside the hero as he knocks out each boss with increasing difficulty before reaching the final challenge. Still, the set pieces are consistently super enjoyable and creative.
That being said, the movie is frequently undermined by its special effects. To an extent, the film is clearly meant to have less-than-stellar effects, paying homage to the tokusatsu origins of the series. However, other effects — like the CGI — are distracting. Anno also decides to make the film uber-violent, which is unfortunate because the blood is not realistic at all.
The cinematography of the movie is also less than impressive, with many of the shots even seeming like they were shot on a low-quality camcorder. Nonetheless, there are plenty of things in the film that look absolutely amazing. The production design and costuming do an exceptional job of modernizing the classic iconography of the IP.
Shin Kamen Rider is as much fun as one could possibly hope for from a reboot like this. Although it’s messy and a bit all over the place, the action sequences are enjoyable, the lead performances are on-point, and it captures the spirit of the franchise perfectly for an audience of fans who have since grown up.
Shin Kamen Rider is screening in theaters as a special event, with encore screenings on June 5.