Good set of films!

It’s not really one story, though. It’s like the Decade/W movie, where there’s an epilogue story doing one thing, and then another two-thirds of the runtime dedicated to a completely different story doing an entirely different thing. I liked both stories, though, so I’m not really too upset at how haphazardly they’re joined together.

The OOO story is a good one, and it’s one of my favorite epilogue stories. It reframes the way we’re given Ankh back -- just to lose him again -- as a larger message about protecting the present so you can experience a better future. The hope of Ankh’s return doesn’t disappear, even if (especially if!) Ankh himself does.

I’m not sure this story would work without Eiji’s character, though. You just buy his optimistic dedication to eventually see his friend again. It never comes across as delusional or foolhardy, just this very sweet sense that some day it’ll all work out. And in the meantime, he’ll make sure there’s a world for Ankh to return to.

The Riders that appear in this part of the movie, Aqua and Poseidon, are effective in different ways. (Also, ha ha, we’re back to the Phase 1 thing of No One Actually Says The Character’s Name, so that’s fun.) Aqua’s the sense that the future is something someone else will be responsible for, the fear that the weight of the past renders our actions irrelevant. Poseidon is the consequence of that abdication of responsibility; the cowardice of inaction. They create this nice morality play about how Ankh ain’t gonna just fall out of the sky for Eiji, despite this being a movie where Ankh literally falls out of the sky for Eiji.

Plus, great action-y suit designs. Poseidon has a kind of vulgar aggression to him, letting his opponents know that he’s lowering himself to fight with them. (There’s this one move where he tosses his sword for an opponent to hold, beats them with both fists, then takes the sword back!) Aqua, meanwhile, is this slim Showa design, with a fluid fighting style that prioritizes parries and deflection.

And the action in this movie! Oh, man! It’s an insane amount of fighting that’s largely done by the non-stunt actors, which was pretty amazing. I usually don’t love when Kamen Rider projects give a bunch of action sequences over to non-suit performers, but this was the exception. The fight in Cous Coussier, where Ankh and Eiji hold off about a hundred Yummies (and Eiji does a kip up!) is on par with any of the other fights in the movie. The whole OOO section gives everyone some awesome action, and it keeps the non-suit stretches of this fairly long movie (two hours for the Director’s Cut, which is long for a tokusatsu thing) from ever feeling padded or unnecessary.

It’s a really solid take on Eiji’s eternal -slash- decade-long goal of reviving his friend, one that makes Maybe Tomorrow into a beacon of hope.

And then there’s Fourze’s section, that’s just straight-up teen romance, and I dig it.

There’s not much linking tissue to the OOO story, thematically. The Fourze story is about first love, and seeing past someone’s exterior to love them for who they are, and it’s all done in a story where Gentaro falls in love with a non-sentient pile of girl-shaped space goo. While the OOO story is built around the past and the future, the Fourze story is very present tense, with a focus on the fleeting nature of teenage infatuation.

I kind of love how easily Fourze stories talk about teen issues, how sturdily they support its inherent melodrama. Everything’s very Big, you know? It’d be idiotic in a W story, or in Gaim story, but for Fourze this all feels perfect. Taking the time to tell this brief story of Gentaro falling in love with a girl from space, instead of tying up loose ends or seeding future ideas or whatever… yeah. Yeah, that’s what I want from a Fourze movie story.

Nadeshiko isn’t much of a character, unfortunately. Suit’s great, and her fights are more fun than I remembered (I mostly recall the Butt Bump, which is not this movie’s proudest moment), but there’s basically no character there until maybe the end of the movie. She’s a non-sentient pile of space goo; this story could’ve worked almost exactly the same if she’d taken the shape of a puppy. It’s a story entirely about Gentaro’s semi-possessive feelings of affection, and the way he’s projecting those feelings onto Nadeshiko. It doesn’t feel reciprocal, until the very end of the movie. If this movie has a flaw, it’s that the concept of Gentaro’s Space Girlfriend doesn’t get more detail than those three words.

Well, there’s another flaw: the Foundation X villains in this one suck. While Poseidon is a bad-ass fighter that reflects back on Aqua’s guilt and fear, the Foundation X mad scientists are trying to rule space? By controlling the world’s energy? All… all of the energy, somehow? It’s all nonsense, exacerbated by the shrug of trying to create a Core Medal and Astro-Switch doomsday device. It’s only the proximity of the two series that provides context for the villain’s scheme, not anything that feels logical or clever. OOO has medals, Fourze has switches, so here’s a villain who makes a switches-and-medals Driver to take over the galaxy. Okay, sure, why not.

It’s a plot that, unlike OOO’s story, has to support a way bigger cast of characters, and its broadness actually ends up making for a really thrilling final third.

I mean, last appearance of Philip and Shotaro together, you know? If this is the last onscreen appearance for these two actors to share, it’s a good one. This is their Legend Rider graduation, the moment where they can feel like they’ve set the stage for future heroes. We’ll see Shotaro again soon, but we won’t ever get to see Kamen Rider Double again. Bittersweet.

And, in case the gigantic NO. 40 HANGAR in the background doesn’t give it away, this was the second 40th Anniversary Kamen Rider film. Look at all of them Showa guys! That’s going to make someone’s day, and that someone is not Kamen Rider Die. I think they’re used a little better than they were in Let’s Go Kamen Riders, if only for the stellar montage of Every Showa Finisher, but it’s still not a thing I care a ton about. (I think this is the first movie where they gave Nigou a black helmet, though? To make him more visually distinct from Ichigou?) They’re not here to tell a story with them, or about them. They’re here to make the movie feel massive. At that, they succeeded.

There’s a thing that this movie does in its final act that is probably my favorite thing any movie could ever do. When I saw it this time, it immediately activated that Hell Yes feeling the best toku movies can unlock. It’s when all three of the Phase 2 Riders are beating the holy hell out of mobs of monsters, and each Rider’s opening theme plays as they’re doing it: W-B-X while Double is cycling through Gaia Memories; Anything Goes while OOO is soaring the air as Tajador; Switch On while Fourze slots in Astro-Switches. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s a trick nearly every team-up movie would use in the future, because it’s the most potent nostalgia you can mine. It puts you right back in the days when you were watching those shows for the first time, right back when it meant the most to you. I don’t care when Showa suits are trotted out to show the history of the franchise, but I am all in on them playing those killer opening songs while dozens of monsters are cut down like the grass.

(Which, I mean, Phase 2 Heisei is 100% my sweet spot for opening songs. Your mileage may vary!)

All that, and we get the Early-Bird debut of Kamen Rider Meteor. After skipping it for the W/OOO movie, we’re back to that post-credits thing that Accel got, where we see the suit and the actor, with the promise that they’re on a collision course with our Primary Rider. Not much to talk about besides that. I like Meteor! I like what he brings to Fourze’s plot. Here, it’s a brief cameo.

Anyway, this movie was way more fun than I remembered, even if it’s stitched together in a way that doesn’t feel fully thematically coherent. The OOO parts sit sort of uneasily beside the Fourze parts, but both parts are really good. I am okay with a clumsy movie that still delivers pathos, action, and humor. This one did the job! Plus, it gave me one of my Top 5 Favorite Kamen Rider Moments: