Not my favorite movie. I didn’t really love it the first time around, and I don’t love it now. The thing is, my opinion on the two sections/portions of this film – OOO and W – have sort of completely flipped around?

really disliked the W portion on this viewing. Like, a lot. Setting aside the incredibly weird Daddy Issue stuff of having Akiko’s actress play Melissa, a woman who is in love with Skull (HER DAD), it’s a story that traffics in one of my least-favorite Kamen Rider tropes: Heroic Abandonment.

Skull’s portrayed as a stoic, suffering hero. He’s betrayed by his closest friend, called a monster by a woman he gave up everything to save, and unable to ever touch his daughter again. It’s a story all about the lengths Kamen Riders have to go to in order to protect the people they love, even if it means they have to cut those people out of their lives.

It’s horseshit. Even before he became Kamen Rider Skull, Sokichi wasn’t answering his daughter’s phone calls. (He totally forgot about her birthday!) He lives in a completely different city for reasons that aren’t established in this film, and I don’t recall from the series. He’s making a choice to ignore his responsibilities as a parent, way before he’s forced to abandon his daughter for her own safety.

(Which, two things. The No-Touching Spider in his body will only kill Akiko if he touches her. He could still, like, see her. Or call her. Like everything else in their screwed-up family, it 100% feels like Sokichi is looking for any excuse to bail on his parental commitment. The other thing… like, killing Matsu doesn’t kill the spiders? It dissolves the webbing immediately, but it doesn’t defuse the time bombs infecting everyone in the city? What… what did Sokichi even accomplish by killing Matsu, then? Everyone who didn’t already blow up is forced into a life of misery? This is what we’re calling a victory now?)

This should be a story about sacrifice and duty, but everything in it reads like a story about deadbeat dads with poor work/life balance. Which, honestly, fine. I don’t need my Kamen Riders to be completely logical and emotionally healthy. I like Faiz, you know? But there’s basically no judgment on Sokichi’s actions in this movie. Akiko is furious about the ways her life has been negatively impacted due to Kamen Riders failing her as friends, family, and lovers, but the moral at the end is just Her Suffering Is A Small Price To Pay For Justice. It’s an entire story where Akiko’s theatrical-but-honest emotional turmoil is brushed aside in the face A Man’s Silent Suffering. Whatever.

The even more galling failure of the W portion is that the OOO portion is specifically refuting that worldview. The W portion is about how Kamen Riders are solely focused on helping people, even if they have to give up on happiness as a result. But the OOO portion is about how hollow and unfulfilling it is to solely dedicate yourself to anything! The OOO portion – which I originally thought was laughably bizarre and generally irrelevant – pretty much ended up being the only part of this story I liked.

It's Inoue, which was nice. Inoue Forever and all of that. (There's a bit where Eiji says that Nobu is still Nobu, which feels like a secret message between me and Inoue.) It does the Eternal thing of crafting a villain that reflects/inverts our hero’s shortcomings, but turned up to Evil. Nobunaga, a man whose name autocompletes with ‘s Ambition, is someone who is consumed by his need to attain, to control. He’s everything Eiji isn’t. Nobunaga sees the world around him as both a birthright and a banquet, all of it waiting for him to claim it.

But in seeing the world that way, he misses the point of it all. Nobunaga can’t understand how Eiji can find joy in a life without taking. What Eiji points out to him is that the world exists outside of the ambitions of men. The sky is blue. Art is created. It doesn’t need people to control it, because it doesn’t bow to that control.

It’s a pretty basic Stop To Smell The Roses moral, and it could probably only work when applied to the story of Oda Nobunaga. (It’s a bit like only being able to land a simplistic message like Don’t Bite People in a story with Dracula.) But I think it worked here due to its own bonkers commitment to the story of a cloned warlord who used his heretofore unrevealed healing powers to undo the damage he caused a woman he was stalking, as well as the proximity to a much less appealing story in Skull’s celebrated abandonment of his daughter.

But at least Kamen Rider Birth shows up!

I like Birth okay, but its introduction here is like nearly every other Fan Service thing in this story: missing the point entirely.

It’s just the Birth suit, not either of the Birth characters. Date isn’t in this movie at all, and Goto’s turn as Birth is both noncanonical (pretty sure the series doesn’t let him be Birth for a good long while) and robbed of its significance. There’s a really great arc in the series about Goto becoming Birth, but here it just happens off-camera. Same thing with Tajador; awesome suit, fun to see it kick ass, but it’s almost unforgivable that it’s introduced with Ankh just showing up with the medals.

And, man, I said how great it was that A To Z managed to find time for its entire TV series cast, so here’s a movie that Ankh’s human form is in for about forty-five seconds, and the full cast of W is almost entirely sidelined for a prequel story. It’s a bummer. It’s a movie celebrating two TV shows, and it’s compromised versions of both.

Plus, not super crazy about the concluding section. The villain at the end, Kamen Rider Core, doesn’t make much sense, or have a defensible viewpoint. It’s just a monster that hates Kamen Riders, and thinks they make everything worse, all so Akiko can feel bad about holding the men in her life responsible for abandoning her. He’s a giant flaming Ghost Kamen Rider, and defeating him isn’t clever or anything. It’s just new power-ups and Early-Bird suit debuts. I had honestly completely forgotten about him, and now I know why.

Yeah, man, did not dig this one! The OOO stuff is good enough, but it sucks to not really have any Eiji/Ankh scenes. (I mean, they literally never share a frame, so I’m just going to assume that Ankh’s couple scenes were filmed separately from the rest of the cast.) The W stuff features my least-favorite W plot – Akiko and Terui’s totally unconvincing romance – and one of my all-time least-favorite Kamen Rider tropes. It’s okay to say that Sokichi was a good Kamen Rider but a shitty dad! That would’ve made the movie so much better! Instead, we get a middle section that exposes the lie the first part is telling, and then a third part that ignores the exposure.

Not one I liked rewatching!