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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Super Hero Wars GP: Kamen Rider 3

Super Hero Wars GP: Kamen Rider 3.

I can never figure out if I adore these films or absolutely hate them. It's definitely one of the two, and if you put me on the spot, I'd struggle to tell you which. I respect that Toei's improved its craft as far as putting together Kamen Rider crossovers (compare and contrast GP with Decade if you don't believe me) and that these films tend to be fun romps - but it also hasn't escaped my notice that come the last half hour or so, they tend to utterly dissolve into these coagulated messes of disjointed action. 

Also, how many times have we had time travel used as a plot point in these films now? Super Hero Wars Z had it, and now it's back in Super Hero Wars GP. There's only been four of these films, that's fifty percent of them. That's not even getting started on OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders, which not only has time travel but also has a functionally identical plotline to this film - the past is changed, Shocker takes over, et cetera.

Super Hero Wars GP sees the timeline altered by the appearance of a Kamen Rider who never existed, Kamen Rider 3, who defeats and kills Kamen Riders 1 and 2 shortly after their defeat of Shocker's Great Leader. As the timeline changes, the world is now run by Shocker, with most of the Riders having been brainwashed into becoming 'Shocker Riders'. Shinnosuke, part of an anti Kamen Rider unit in the police, turns on Shocker after seeing them use children as bait, and heads off on a trip with Gou and Kuroi - the human identity of Kamen Rider 3 - to find 'Rider Town', the secret lair of the Riders, where Kamen Riders 1 and 2 have apparently had their minds uploaded into a neural net. It isn't long before he's joined by Yuuto Sakurai - Kamen Rider Zeronos from Den-O - who is aware of the changed timeline.

Kamen Rider 3, who is basically a Heisei-fied Showa rider.

It's a very predictable film, one that does not so much foreshadow its plot twists as it does telegraph them loudly and colourfully for the audience, although it manages to do so in some pleasantly ominous ways. The moment when Yuuto emerges into Rider Town to find it beset by vast amounts of crows swarming overhead, harking back to the black feathers that drop from the sky around 3, was an impressively sinister moment even as it made it absolutely clear what was coming next.

That predictability isn't helped by the fact that it's a very old plot - group of people in a ruined world on a journey to a semi-mythical/folkloric/urban legend-y sanctuary, only to find out that it was a lie. That's a very old and well-used story, and the only real new spin put on it this time is the addition of Kamen Rider Karting. 

(The Kamen Rider Karting scene, incidentally, is the highlight of the film. It's wacky, ridiculous fun, and manages to be very nail-bitingly tense at the same time. It also leads into one of the best scenes in the film, the 'people rebel against Shocker' scene. It's a scene that's been done before - OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders had one, and this film is in many ways an improved copy of that film - but it's still very effective.)


But that's fine. I can deal with predictability, and I was not expecting a scintillating and original plotline when I tuned in these films. They are what they are: Thinly veiled excuses to get a bunch of rubber suits together for a punch-up, like a bar fight at Comic-Con. 

What I can't get over quite so easily is that the plot is, basically, a slightly adjusted version of Let's Go Kamen Riders - history has been changed, Shocker has taken over, set right what once went wrong, inspire the people to rebellion, featuring one Den-O rider or another. I realise it's a tempting proposition, in the same way that I've no doubt 'what if the Doctor never existed' stories are so tempting for Doctor Who writers and 'what if the Avengers never formed' are so tempting for Marvel writers - when you have the weight of an impressive history behind your franchise, 'time's been rewritten' plots start to become a very attractive proposition. But that film was, what, half a decade ago? Less? It's too soon to be recycling its plot.

Shin, that's like the antithesis of a proper uniform. You're still a police officer, man.

(It also weirdly doesn't make full use of the plot it has. It's a dystopian alternate future, but except Gen, who is now a cyborg monster called CheetahSnail, everyone is totally unchanged - the biggest change amongst the cast of Drive apart from Gen is Shinnosuke's wardrobe change, which gets swapped out for his regular suit about two thirds through the film, in what's supposed to be a dramatic moment but just falls kind of flat. C'mon, guys. Give me out and out evil Shinnosuke slowly coming around to the side of good. Give me criminal-on-the-run Gou. What are the Roimyudes doing in all of this? They're never referenced, bar when Chase shows up (and Shinnosuke recognises him, so there's clearly been some dealings with them), but what do they think of this whole Shocker occupation business?)

The film predictably falls apart in the last half an hour or so - pretty much everything from the end of the titular Grand Prix onwards is atrocious even by Super Hero Wars standards, just a sheer mess of action and cameos and nothing making sense at all, ever. The film also ends on a really bizarre note, by which I mean, it ends on Gou being dead. Properly dead, I mean. Gou, who is alive in the TV series. There's an explanation for that, but it's squirreled away in the Kamen Rider 4 net films where only people with significantly greater interest and patience than I will ever find it. 

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