This year’s Kamen Rider Movie War was mostly a fun endeavor with some brutal and bloody battles. But it ends in one of the worst possible ways it could ever end. More on that later.
The annual Movie War crossovers can always be mixed bags, but usually enjoyable in their most basic ways. The more recent films have favored a singular story involving the two Rider seasons over the earlier three act format. And I generally like that one story format more. It helps to make the film a true “event” and a crossover where the characters of both series actually interact with each other.
Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pac-Man vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Riders is a unique entry into the annual crossover as it’s part-45th anniversary celebration and a special crossover with the iconic Pac-Man character, also owned by Bandai. In that sense, this film is sort of split into two halves though not in a jarring, abrupt way.
It is a pleasant surprise to see how well Kamen Rider and Pac-Man were woven together for what is essentially the first half of the film. Though seemingly random at first, the combination fits with Ex-Aid‘s video game theme and it provided for some spectacular action extravaganzas. Certainly not as much of a clusterfrak of explosions and CGI as previous films, the Pac-Man scenes, including the decisive battle in a 3-D Pac-Man environment, were very well done. And the fact that “ghosts” are Pac-Man’s ultimate opponents worked with Takeru and Ghost as the other main Rider season of the film.
The second half of the film focuses more on the Next Genome Institute, the main antagonist Michihiko Zaizen, their involvement in Emu’s operation six years ago and the race to cure Takeru and Akari of their advanced Game Disease before they die.
Michihiko Zaizen used Pac-Man merely to find a host (young game developer Togo) of a specific Bugster virus necessary to his plan to revive and continue his research into evolving to a new, powerful lifeform. This was after he and his team was sucked into the game world when Parado emerged from Emu during the operation.
Emu, Takeru and the rest of the gang race to stop the mad doctor and eventually receive help from familiar faces Shinnosuke, Haruto and godKota.
Of the non-headlining Riders, Shinnosuke was integrated the best into the overall plot. Having that relationship with Takeru helped. But this was also more police work for him than most Drive episodes. The call to pregnant wifey Kiriko also drove home a nice point about the risks of working in law enforcement. Any of the films involving Shinnosuke and Drive have really done a better job at highlighting and depicting those aspects of his character (police work, relationship with Kiriko) than the series, to be quite honest.
Haruto’s introduction wasn’t the most seamless, but being the “oldest” veteran Rider helped make his return welcome and fun. While we saw some epilogue-ish bites for Shinnosuke, we didn’t get any of that with Haruto, which is a shame. He was almost just here to provide that extra help. But at the same time, his appearance served as a reminder that maybe Wizard is the most well-rounded one of the non-apocalyptic recent Rider seasons. Drive and Ghost suffered from plenty of missed potential and dropped balls. Wizard did as well, but I felt very satisfied with its finale which is a lot more than I could say with the two most recent seasons.
And speaking of the apocalyptic recent season, it’s a shame they apparently couldn’t get Gaku Sano to come back for even a cameo at the end or just doing the voice acting instead of recycling old lines. Though it would have been interesting to see what they would have done with Kota had they been able to get Gaku Sano since Haruto barely had much to do anyway. What more if Kota actually got more time than he did.
For the Ghost portions of the film, it did feel very repetitive. The entire cast showed up, but barely had anything to do. They were all there to basically stand by Akari’s bedside. Even Makoto-niichan and Alain, literally, got tossed aside.
And of course, as I mentioned right at the start of this review. The final scene was just bad. Takeru dying for the 100th time?! It almost felt like a running joke or gag: Kill Takeru and bring him back to life. That final scene should’ve had some emotional weight to it, especially using it to give Emu some doctoring to do. But it fell completely flat.
Everything was going perfectly fine for most of the film. Takeru and Akari on the verge of death would’ve been enough without that contrived ending. It was so bad, it almost tainted my pretty positive response to the movie up until that point. They should’ve just left well enough alone and went straight to the epilogue scenes.
The film though basically introduces backstory for Ex-Aid which was hinted at in-series and merely glossed over. The film does help provide a bit more context and reference points for Emu’s backstory as well as Kuroto and Parado’s shadowy actions in the early part of the season. This is in spite of more than a few continuity errors between the contemporary events in the film and the series.
At the same time, the rest of the Ex-Aid cast, other than Poppysuna, also had little to do. Parado didn’t even show up until the end.
Still, the film was enjoyable. I think my favorite aspect is just how brutal and bloody it was. Sentai and (especially) Kamen Rider theatrical releases and V-Cinemas are usually a little more violent and gory. (Hello Kamen Rider Chaser!) But everyone had it rough this movie. The Riders were all bloodied and bruised. Akari had giant blocks fall on her. And of course that opening massacre was just insane.
The big battle scenes were also all very well done. Some nice, fresh choreography and special effects. Most of the film was fight and battle sequences. And interestingly, I had no problem with that. It was all cool to watch, though of course more solid writing would’ve been great too.
Overall, Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pac-Man vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Riders was a fun, mostly enjoyable outing. Maybe a little above average in terms of entertainment compared to recent Movie wars, for me. And seeing Haruto and Shinnosuke, in person, again was a nice, simple treat.