Netflix movie review – Ultraman: Rising is a wholesome take on the Japanese superhero

Netflix movie review – Ultraman: Rising is a wholesome take on the Japanese superhero A still from Ultraman: Rising. Photo: Netflix
  • A baseball star returns to Japan from the US and inherits the Ultraman role in a tale that charms with its warm-hearted simplicity

4/5 stars

Inspired by one of the most iconic superhero franchises of all time, Ultraman: Rising is a new English-language take on the towering alien protector, from first-time director Shannon Tindle.

Tindle is best known for his story and character work on animated fantasy Kubo and the Two Strings; his new adventure follows young baseball star Ken Sato (voiced by Christopher Sean), who returns to Japan after living and playing in the United States for the past 20 years.

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Sato must reconcile his heavily scrutinised celebrity status with his role as Tokyo's ultimate protector, after reluctantly inheriting the role of Ultraman from his ageing father.

As if playing for the Giants while battling extraterrestrial giants wasn't challenging enough, Sato inadvertently adopts a 10.7-metre (35ft), fire-breathing baby monster that is being hunted down by the heavily militarised Kaiju Defence Force.

Produced by Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects house responsible for Jurassic Park, Avatar and The Avengers, in collaboration with Tsuburaya Productions, original creators of Ultraman, Ultraman: Rising wields enough kaiju-stomping, flying giant robot action to delight hardcore fans of the genre.

The Japanese-American co-production also has an inclusive, family-friendly tone that makes it the perfect gateway experience for young newcomers.

When Sato is introduced, he is riding high on a wave of stateside success, but that is soon quashed by his overbearing father (Gedde Watanabe), who insists he continue the family's superhero legacy.

After defeating the dragon-like Gigantron, Sato is left holding a bizarre, egg-like object, which hatches, revealing a pink, baby creature that takes him to be its mother.

Sato has no choice but to care for the beast, even as his baseball form continues to dip, an ambitious journalist hounds him for a scoop, and the bitter, vengeful head of the KDF bays for their blood.

Tindle, a lifelong Ultraman devotee, was inspired to make the film after the birth of his first child, and beneath its shiny armour beats a warm-hearted tale of parents and their children, complete with all the emotional baggage that brings.

Arriving on Netflix the same month as Godzilla Minus One - a profound allegory burdened by insurmountable anger and grief - finally crashes onto the platform, the wholesome simplicity of Tindle's film provides some much needed levity and respite.

Ultraman: Rising may also feature towering behemoths laying waste to densely populated urban centres, but not for many years has such a spectacle felt so playful or fun.

Ultraman: Rising will start streaming on Netflix on June 14.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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