Shin Ultraman (2022)

Director: Shinji Higuchi

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Starring: Takumi Saitoh, Masami Nagasawa, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Daiki Arioka, Akari Hayami, Tetsushi Tanaka, Kyusaku Shimada

Reuniting after 2016's Shin Godzilla, screenwriter Hideaki Anno and director Shinji Higuchi have delivered another big-screen reboot of a tokusatsu series, this time focusing on Japan's popular figure Ultraman. The film opens with an onslaught of information, as giant creatures invading leads to the Japanese government forming the SSSP, an anti-Kaiju task force formed to neutralize further threats. When they're faced with an invisible monster named Neronga, everybody is surprised when a giant silver humanoid appears to stop its rampage.

Arriving onto the team is intrepid new recruit Asami (Masami Nagasawa), searching for the truth while wishing to be seen as an equal. SSSP are focused on identifying the mysterious figure they've codenamed "Ultraman", unaware that he's actually inhabiting the body of their mysterious co-worker Kaminaga (Takumi Saitoh). The character relationships ensure this team remains engaging, as they each get a moment to shine amidst the repeated extraterrestrial threats.

It's fascinating to see how people in this world are affected by such sudden changes, with giant monsters being accepted similarly to natural disasters, while others are so used to the unexpected that superpowered aliens appearing leaves them unfazed. A key focus in this interestingly developed world are governmental politics, stemming from attempts to protect the people yet showing how hopelessly inept these figures are. Through it all, the best act they can commit is to leave humanity oblivious to impending danger. The makings are here for satirical fun in the vein of Armando Iannucci, yet it instead tests ones patience as it's unfortunately rather boring.

There's more fun found in the fights, capturing a larger-scale version of what was depicted on shows like Power Rangers - and its Japanese inspiration, Super Sentai. Between the different enemy tiers, each waiting until their predecessor's loss to appear, it resembles a few episodes stuck together to reach a feature-length runtime. When there are many in-jokes and cameos which pay respect to the original series, this will likely be embraced by franchise fans, although this newbie to series felt there was less to grab onto than one wished.

Shin Ultraman played at the New York Asian Film Festival