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    Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Japan. © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    An Early Review Of The Latest Ultraman Feature Author: Jim M. Ballard Official Website: Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy

    Theatrical poster design © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details for a new movie. Opening to cinemas nationwide in Japan on December 12th, MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY (Daikaiju Batoru Urutora Ginga Densetsu The Movie) is the latest installment in the Ultraman feature film series. ULTRA GALAXY is the first Ultraman movie since Tsuburaya Productions was acquired by TYO Group at the end of 2007 (although released in September 2008, SUPERIOR ULTRAMAN 8 BROTHERS entered production under the studio`s original management). Shifting away from the traditional Earth-bound setting, ULTRA GALAXY opens up the palette and moves the action into outer space and several different planets, primarily the home world of the Ultramen, the Land of Light, located in the nebula M-78. The main antagonist of the movie is a former Ultra warrior named Ultraman Belial, who thousands of years ago revolted against his own people after attaining the power of the Reionyx, enabling him to control an army of 100 monsters through the use of a device called the Giga Battle Nizer. Only due to the arrival of the legendary Ultraman King was Belial finally imprisoned in a cell orbiting the Land of Light. But in the distant future, when Alien Zarab breaks Belial free from his prison and returns his Giga Battle Nizer, Belial returns to the Land of Light and finally defeats all of their strongest warriors. After Belial steals the planet`s main energy device, the Plasma Spark, the entire planet begins to freeze over, sealing the all of the Ultra warriors in an icy tomb. Ultraman Mebius, the only warrior able to evade the horrific fate that has befallen on the Land of Light, now has one last hope to save his people; he must find Rei, a human Reionyx who shares Belial`s ability to control monsters, and gain his assistance in order to prevent the entire galaxy from falling into total darkness. Meanwhile, Belial ventures to the legendary Monster Graveyard and begins to revive history`s greatest monsters and re-build his monster army!

    Ultraman Taro uses his body to keep the final light alive and prevent the Land of Light from being destroyed! © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    ULTRA GALAXY is played out as a straight forward action-adventure movie. The film clocks in at approximately 96 minutes, and with the story ultimately lead by the action the film is always kept moving at a fast pace. The action begins from the opening scene and rarely takes time to slow down. While this keeps the movie incredibly entertaining to watch, it does lead to several moments where events seem to happen with little explanation, or just far too conveniently. In one such scene, the ZAP SPACY crew find themselves unable to follow their missing comrade, then moments later an Ultraman suddenly appears in their ship, thus providing them with an immediate solution to their problem. The scope of the whole film is much greater than any previous Ultraman outing, with almost every shot in the movie containing digital VFX. Perhaps the biggest technical achievement of the movie is that almost all of the scenes are filmed with the characters in suits with computer-generated backgrounds, similar to the approach taken by the recent STAR WARS features. This allows the filmmakers to present a far greater range of environments than ever before, giving the movie as a whole a much wider scope.

    The Ultra heroes are trapped as the Land of Light enters a deep freeze! © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    The action and fighting style of the Ultramen is very different and much faster than before. The various environments featured in the film also offer more imaginative action sequences. The opening scene provides a great example; set in a low-gravity environment, Ultraman Mebius is seen using a rock floating in the air as a spring-board from which to attack his opponent. While the movie predominantly features Ultraman action, as the title suggests there are several great monster battles as well. An expertly shot monster-on-monster battle between the classic characters Gomora and Zagras is a particular highlight of the film. To match the bigger visuals, the producers turned to Los Angeles-based composer Mike Verta to score the music for the film, in order to obtain a larger sound they felt they couldn`t find in Japan. Mike`s score is a great departure from earlier work on the series, and this ultimately works to the film`s advantage. Less thematic and bombastic than more traditional Ultraman scores, Mike`s music brings a bigger Hollywood-style sound to the movie.

    Ultraman Zero, the son of Ultra Seven, debuts in the new movie! © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    The new character Ultraman Zero, introduced as the son of Ultra Seven, isn`t played out as a clear-cut hero, with the film drawing some comparisons between Zero and the main villian Ultraman Belial. Although he is seen relatively early in the movie, Zero`s complete appearance is cleverly masked in various ways, culminating with a dramatic reveal towards the end of the film when the stakes have been raised and the final battle begins to heat up. Tsuburaya have been keen to stress the importance of Ultraman Zero`s relationship to Ultra Seven in this movie, noting that the term "Ultra Brothers" frequently used to describe the principal Ultraman characters does not imply a literal relationship between them. Aside from Zero and Seven, the only other family members in the movie are the brothers Leo and Astra, and the Mother Of Ultra and Father Of Ultra who are the parents of Ultraman Taro. The main antagonist, Ultraman Belial, has also been highly promoted as the first "evil" Ultraman. Although the series has previously featured evil incarnations of the Ultra heroes, Belial is the first true Ultraman born on the Land of Light who turned away from good to the side of evil.

    Ultraman Zero takes on the Monster Army! © Mega Monster Battle ULTRA GALAXY Film Partners

    Belial proves to be an incredibly powerful and worthy villain, and is central to some of the film`s greatest battles, most notably during an intense action sequence within the opening 20 minutes of the movie. Following suit from the last two movies, ULTRA GALAXY features yet another ultimate monster, an idea that is admittedly starting to feel a little cliché. However, unlike the previous creatures that were created almost entirely through CGI, the monster in this movie is brought to life primarily through rod-puppetry, lending a very different and somewhat retro look to the creature compared to the last two movies. ULTRA GALAXY is a high-octane action movie that opens up the scope of the Ultraman series in a big way. Fans looking for a fast, fresh, action-packed film will not be left disappointed.

    For more photos and information on MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:

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