Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection

Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection

Tenth anniversary movies have become a big thing for Toei in the past few years, with multiple casts on the Super Sentai side of things returning for their milestone reunion. While it hasn't been quite as regular for Kamen Rider, some series still have plenty of story to be told should the opportunity arise. With Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger receiving a tenth anniversary movie last year, it seems only fitting that this year should be the turn of its Super Hero Time block partner. Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection brings fans the long awaited conclusion to Kamen Rider OOO's story - with nearly all of the cast returning to witness Eiji Hino's reunion with Ankh. Its release was accompanied by two net movie prequels (The Creation of Birth X and The Resurrected Core Medal), while the film itself was written by Nobuhiro Mouri and directed by Ryuta Tasaka - both of whom recently worked together on Saber + Zenkaiger: Super Hero Senki.

(While I usually try to keep these reviews light on direct spoilers, there's just so much to unpack in this film that spoilers will be abound. You have been warned!)

The Return of the KingA long awaited reunion

Ten years after his death, Ankh mysteriously reawakens to find a very different world. The Ancient King OOO from 800 years ago has resurrected, reviving the Greeed and plunging the world in an apocalyptic nightmare. While Hina, Goutou, Date and the Kougami Foundation are all fighting back against the Greeed, Eiji is nowhere to be seen. That is, until he pulls Ankh out of the battlefield and then quickly disappears.

Learning of the situation from Hina and the others, Ankh vows to find Eiji who in turn will help bring the King's reign of terror to an end. But when the group finally find him, he's not quite the Eiji they expected. Just who is the mysterious new Greeed Goda? And what has happened to Eiji while Ankh was gone?

Ankh catches upGoda revealed

From Movie War Mega Max all the way up to Heisei Generations FINAL, the reunion between Eiji and Ankh is something that's long been hinted at in the years since OOO's finale. Following Blade's apparent resolution in Kamen Rider Zi-O, Ryuki's continuation in its Rider Time spin-off and the little bits of supplementary material Kamen Rider 555 has been getting in recent years, it remains one of the last big lingering plot threads the franchise had to tackle and there was no better time to do it than at the show's tenth anniversary. But after so many years comes a certain degree of fan expectation, and it feels like a lot of Rider fans (myself included) had built up the idea that Eiji and Ankh's reunion was going to be a happy one. And understandably after ten years we all agreed they deserved it. However Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection is a lesson in not perhaps not putting too much weight into expectations, with the story going in a very different direction to how many hoped. This is just the first of the film's many talking points, but not necessarily one that works to the film's detriment.

Eiji Hino is dead, and that's the harsh truth both the cast of OOO and the audience themselves have to come to terms with in this film. But while from a fan perspective it is sad not to see these characters get the happy ending they deserve, this tragic turn of events gives the film so much more to work with in terms of story. Conceptually there's so much good material in Core Medal of Resurrection that's both engaging and completely fits with the characters and world of Kamen Rider OOO. Eiji's heroic sacrifice and his passing the torch onto Ankh, the creation of an artificial Greeed designed around Eiji's immense desire – these are the kind of ideas that a continuation of the series would thrive upon. With Eiji's time fleeting the emotion and urgency in his reunion with Ankh becomes that much more poignant, as well as cementing the character as the true hero we all knew him as. Removing him almost entirely may feel like a nasty bait and switch, but replacing him with a twisted inverse of everything he stood for (in his own body no less) is a bold move that the film would have definitely been much lesser without.

Ankh and GodaEiji and Ankh

Rather the problem with all these great ideas in the film is that they're exactly that – ideas. Nearly every concept in this film is half-baked, presented as a series of things that present plenty of intrigue but need far more fleshing out to work cohesively both as a movie and the (current) endpoint in OOO's story. So many things happen just for the sake of them happening that the line between a decent story and obvious nostalgia bait is entirely. The post-apocalyptic setting, the return of Ancient King OOO and the resurrection of the Greeed – these are just a few really important elements that are presented without context. Tokusatsu has never been adverse to just doing things for the sake of it, but on a project like Kamen Rider OOO's tenth anniversary it's disappointing that a little more backstory couldn't have been applied. It's almost as if the film wants to have its (birthday) cake and eat it – providing fans with all this payoff they've been waiting for but without really putting in any of the legwork to justify them.

Part of that problem comes from just how short the film is. Granted that running time is an issue that seems to plague most tokusatsu films, but Core Medal of Resurrection tries to lay out far too much that is really feasible for a 58-minute production. Plunging the audience into the thick of it much like Ankh is may seem clever from a narrative perspective, but in reality there's just no time to dedicate to how the Ancient King OOO came back or how (or even why) he's plunged Japan into a state of chaos. With another half an hour or so the film might have just had enough time to make all of its ideas work, but for whatever reason clearly that wasn't meant to be.

Hina and AnkhGotou and Date

What Core Medal of Resurrection lacks in story clarity though it does however attempt to make up for in terms of characters – at least where it counts the most anyway. There's no denying that this is Ankh's film more than anyone else's, him not only coming to terms with coming back to life but now also the prospect of life without Eiji – the one who showed him that life was worth living in the first place. Ankh continues to put up his nonchalant façade but his true feelings show throughout the whole movie, culminating in an extremely emotional exchange with the real Eiji at the end of the film. The relationship between Eiji and Ankh is truly the heart of the series, and despite all its flaws Core Medal of Resurrection never forgets that for a second. Both Ryosuke Miura and Shu Watanabe put in perfect performances, with Watanabe also pulling double time as Goda – the antithesis of Eiji in almost every way. Although the film doesn't put quite as much effort on Ankh's resurrection as expected, there is a poetry in the simple way it's handled - with one life passing to another. Plenty of characters have died in Kamen Rider before, but few have been handled with as much weight as this. 

Screen time for the rest of OOO's supporting cast is a little more mixed, but to the film's credit it does make sure that everyone who was important to the series appears. Although she doesn't have a huge bearing on the plot itself Hina carries a lot of the film's emotional weight – coming to terms with events much like Ankh is. With the rocky relationship they had over the course of the series in mind, having them come together to be supportive of each other is both a touching and fitting way to close the curtain on these characters (for the time being at least anyway). Supporting Riders Shintaro Goto and Akira Date appear in disappointingly limited capacity, primarily as part of the freedom fighter group OOO's supporting cast have created in this new world. Again the limited running time doesn't really allow for much in the way of side plots, so anything they achieve in the film is also the achievement of the rest of the cast. Of course Kougami is still around and just as boisterous as ever – the benefactor that's the cause of just as many problems as he helps to solve.

The human GreeedAncient King OOO

But getting off worst of all are the villains of the film, or rather the ones that already had a place in OOO's overall mythology. On the one handing bringing the Greeed back without explanation is fine if they have a place in the story, after all they're a huge part of Kamen Rider OOO and to do an anniversary film without them just wouldn't feel right. But the truth is they don't really add anything to the film at all – making a minimal appearance as King OOO's lackies before being unceremoniously ditched by him only halfway through the film. The only one who even gets to even get to have a proper fight sequence is Uva, with the other three having mere minutes of screen time overall. King OOO isn't much better either – built up as this significant part of OOO's history but in the end just acts as the means to an end. There's no motivation or characterisation here, just another faceless villain who's only just there to give the film a set up. While it's great to see Mouri shaping the story with pre-established elements of OOO, there's just so little weight to them that they may as well be newly created characters.

With a cleverly integrated gimmick that allows for so many unique forms and combos, Kamen Rider OOO has always had an edge when it comes to visuals. Yet this is another area where the film really struggles, given how ugly and/or slapdash a lot of the new suits created for it come across. While suit design may be an entirely subjective thing and Toei clearly didn't have a whole lot of money to spend on the film, it's rather sad to see clever new things done with the OOO gimmick for video games like Memory of Heroez while the tenth anniversary celebration is left with such basic retools. Like the resurrection of the Ancient King OOO, the addition of brand-new Core Medals to the OOO lore should have been something exploding with creativity, but instead all we really see here is the repeated butchering of the poor old Tamashii combo suit – both for King OOO's powered up form and Kamen Rider Goda. That said even that is a step up from King OOO's first form, where Toei repainted the helmet, slapped a jacket from Kamen Rider Ghost's Great Eyezer on him and called it a day. Meanwhile Kamen Rider Birth X feels at least somewhat creative with its implementation of artificial Core Medals into the Birth System, but it's so underplayed in the movie itself that you could remove it entirely and it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever. There's more fanfare about Birth X in the net movie prequel than there is here, which is quite the feat given that the net movie is both five minutes long and shows the suit for all of two seconds.

Kamen Rider GodaBirth and Birth X

Thankfully some of this can be forgiven by the appearance of Tajador Eternity – one of the film's main saving graces and a design that will definitely go down as one of OOO's very best. Though the changes to the base Tajador suit are relatively simple, the colours both accentuate the detail of the suit all more and emphasise the bond between Eiji and Ankh. There have been endless debates about what should be considered OOO's final form for years, but with the arrival of Tajador Eternity it's no longer even a question. If the values of Kamen Rider OOO could be summed up as a single suit, it would be this one.

In terms of action the film is decent, but doesn't really play much into the fun of the show's primary gimmick. Even more disappointing is that the Shauta and Sagozo combos got the short end of the stick and don't appear whatsoever. While there is admittedly so much else going on, including just a few of the combos (particulary Gatakiriba and Latoratah) is just playing favourites. But while there's nothing expressly disappointing about the fights themselves (in fact quite the opposite when it comes to the Tajador Eternity showcase), there is a strange emptiness to them. Not just the action either – so much of Core Medal of Resurrection feels empty, with lots of wide-shot scenes with little (be in characters or otherwise) in the background. Though it somewhat works for the post-apocalyptic landscape the film is trying to convey, it does make you wonder how much these productions are still being affected by COVID.

OOO vs UvaOne final Rider Kick

Kamen Rider OOO 10th: Core Medal of Resurrection had the potential to be one of the greatest Kamen Rider movies of all time. Choosing to completely defy fan expectations, the film tells a story loaded with interesting ideas and a twist that's shocking yet completely in line with what we've come to expect from these characters. However almost every single one of these ideas are underdeveloped, resulting in a film where little is really explained, things happen for the sake of them happening and there's just too much to fit into its paltry running time. Despite some incredibly emotional scenes and that constant glimmer of potential, it's difficult to overlook how much of a mess it is. With so many years of build up behind it, Kamen Rider OOO deserved so much better.

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