‘Ultraman: Rising’ Review: Pacing Issues Plague the Visually Stunning Movie

When you’re a superhero, it seems like the world is always in danger. Be it villains attempting to take over the world, a comet headed straight to Earth promising global catastrophe, or an Alien race swoops in to establish global dominance. Sounds exhausting if I’m being honest, but I guess that’s why I’m not a hero. But what happens if you live in a world of monsters and Kaiju, who are bent on destruction and animalistic in nature? Who saves the world in those instances? Ultraman, a hero with a legacy dating back to the 60s, of course! And now, this iconic hero is back in a brand new animated film on Netflix, Ultraman: Rising.

This animated film, a co-production between Tsuburaya Productions and Netflix Animation, is the 44th film in the Ultraman franchise. Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas, is the animation company for Ultraman: Rising. It has worked on films such as Star Wars and the more recent Blue Beetle, Haunted Mansion, and Marvel Studios’ The Marvels. Christopher Sean brings life to Ken Sato, a.k.a. Ultraman, who struggles to find balance in his actual life and his time as a superhero, but all that changes when he becomes responsible for a Baby Kaiju. While the film is visually stunning, it does suffer from a slow pace that makes parts of this film difficult to watch. Continue on for more information about this newest entry in a long-running franchise.

[Editor’s note: There are spoilers from Ultraman: Rising below.]

Ken Sato needs to learn some balance in Ultraman: Rising

Living up to your parent’s legacy is an ungodly heavy burden, but when that legacy is the superhero Ultraman, it almost feels impossible. As a child, having a real-life hero in your backyard is exciting, but when it also attracts world-ending threats, it can be scary. And yet, Ken Sato (Christopher Sean) wants to emulate Ultraman, so much so that he grows up to take on the mantle for himself.

However, the shine seems to have worn off of Ultraman’s helmet. Ken’s priorities have changed once he’s grown up. No longer is he a cute little kid with stars in his eyes; Ken has become an egotistical prick who thinks he’s the greatest person since Betty White. I suppose it’s easy for fame to go to your hero, especially when you’re a fantastic baseball player, however, Ken isn’t humble about it at all. He knows he’s good and is cocky as a result, much to the annoyance of everyone else around him.

Ultraman: Rising
Promotional image of Ultraman in Ultraman: Rising. Image courtesy of Netflix.

So it’s hard for Ken to accept that he isn’t good at being a superhero, in fact, he’s pretty awful at the task. It’s so far removed from his life as a celebrity that being a hero starts to feel like a burden, instead of the exciting task he thought it would be as a child. The task becomes even more difficult when he becomes the caretaker for a 35-foot-tall baby kaiju. Yeah, you read that right. 

Ken’s new role as father to an adorable fire-breathing monster comes with an unbelievable amount of responsibility, and it will take a village to rise to the occasion. Can Ken find the balance needed between his professional life, personal life, and his heroic endeavors? Will he and the baby Kaiju make it out of this unscathed?

Industrial Light & Magic brings this Netflix film to life

What struck me the most about Ultraman: Rising was how beautiful the animation was. It doesn’t feel like your typical animated film that I have come to know throughout my thirty years of life. Instead, the design is super sleek, which creates this futuristic-like alien feel that adds to the overall aesthetic of the film. It is visually stunning and not just when Ken Sato is suited up in his hero attire. The moments of Ultraman: Rising that feel like slices of life are just as impressive as the rest, with the graphics and VFX being one of the main reasons to watch this film.

There are points in the film that feel hyperrealistic in appearance, which I definitely wasn’t expecting from a film such as this one. One of these pieces that caught me the most was how the animators were able to capture the movement of light, specifically when Ken is wearing his Ultraman helmet. He almost looks real as the gleam of light moves across the shiny surface, which removes him just slightly from the other animation.

There did feel to be some disconnect between some of the pieces of animation, such as the Kaiju appearing to have a different style from Ken or even the city they inhabit. The monster feels more childlike in its animation style, which may be intended to visually set it apart from the rest. However, it does feel a bit odd when you see the Kaiju and the rest of the characters smashed together in the same scene.

A slow story makes Ultraman: Rising difficult to watch

While Ultraman: Rising’s visuals are exceptional, there wasn’t much else to keep me engaged with the film. The story itself is a slow burn, inching along to the final battle, which made watching it feel more like a chore than something enjoyable. There are many action sequences, which were great when they popped up, but the in-between moments feel like they dragged on too long and left me checking my watch. 

Perhaps this film is made for fans of the franchise, which would make sense seeing it’s been around for so long. However, as someone who isn’t, there wasn’t anything to draw me in, and want to check out more films featuring the titular character. Having watched so many animated children’s films, I was expecting a bit more humor or a story that is aimed at attracting children to watch it over and over. Instead, this felt geared towards adults who are also learning to be mothers and fathers. Even then, as someone who helps raise his nephew, I struggled to connect to that aspect as well.

This new animated Netflix film isn’t worth your time

Netflix has become a hub for animated films in recent years, with so many incredible movies to choose from. With all those choices, I’m not sure that Ultraman: Rising is worth moving up to the top of your to-watch list. If you have nothing else to watch, then this film is definitely a film that has beautiful visuals to look at, but you may be disappointed with the lack of substance from the story itself.

Ultraman: Rising will be streaming on Netflix on June 14, 2024.

Learn more about the film, including how to watch it, at the Netflix page for the title.

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