When I was a freshman in college and I first walked into Miller Dining Hall I saw something I had never seen before. There was a colorful row of bulk cereal dispensers with an inviting stack of bowls next to it. Excited, I scanned my options and saw that they had Captain Crunch with crunchberries. My mom never let me have the sugary cereals growing up so I was pretty excited. I helped myself to a bowl and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the crunchberries. I liked the crunchberries so much that I went back and got five more bowls of Captain Crunch, picked out all the berries, and had myself an all crunchberry bowl of red die number 40 goodness. That was back in the 80s before they actually sold official boxes of just crunchberries. It seemed like a culinary stroke of genius in the dining hall, but afterward in the bathroom, I regretted it.
The Ultraman Story is what you think you want in an Ultraman movie but like a bowl of crunchberries, it’s not easy to digest. You would think it would be great to cut out all the humans running around with their emotional plot lines and all the screaming and yelling and just have a 100% Ultraman film. The movie would just feature lots of different monsters and lots of different fights cutting out all the boring stuff in-between. Sounds good but it isn’t good.
The Ultraman Story movie has a plot and dialogue its just delivered exclusively by Ultramen and monsters. Its an hour and a half of wooden acting compounded expressionless rubber masks with mouths that never move. It’s like a Keanu Reeves movie.
The film centers around Taro’s growth from a boy into a warrior. Its a very Disneyesque, family-friendly, film. When it gets sentimental it’s like some horrible Kaiju version of Barney. The saccharine soundtrack doesn’t help. It even has a horrible chorus of children singing happy songs.
Taro is an enthusiastic but impetuous young ultra-boy. He is impatient with the pace of his Ultra-father’s tutelage. To save time, money, and effort, Ultradad and his son spend a lot of time in their ultra-fortress of solitude, watching ultra-clips cut from Ultraman television shows. Taro imitates his 6 ultra-brothers while they wrestle one Kaiju after another. There’s nothing like watching someone watch tv to keep you engaged.
They do eventually get to new material and when they do the film picks up. There are some fun new costumes and new attack moves. Lots of lasers and explosions. They also include a slow-motion dream sequence with psychedelic distortions and dire images. The dream is set to pseudo-mariachi music with a trumpet and a harp. It’s pretty groovy. It’s these kind of oddities that make the movie worth watching.
There is a whole subplot having to do with family dynamics. Ultra-dad must be firm with his ultra-son so he can continue the noble and selfless ways of the ultra-family. Mom of course provides the understanding and comfort. It feels a little oedipal at times especially when the father is in danger of death, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
The whole Ultraman world is an amazing phenomenon. The television show started in 1966 and it’s still going. They have come out with a new season every year for the last 57 years! There is even a series playing on Netflix as I write this article. There are countless movies as well. I must confess I have been unable to sit through anything made after the 1970s. Some of it is truly awful, but none of it is as bad as Ultra-porn, yes, you heard me right.