I think, at the end of the day, I appreciate what these two stories were trying to say.

They’re both broadly about getting out of the way for the next generation. It’s a theme that fits Fourze a little better, which is why the Fourze section is a little more thematically-grounded. The Kaijin Alliance are a group of kids who are horrified by what the previous generation has left for them, and pessimistic on their own chances for happiness. Gentarou’s story is centered on his need to step back and let that next generation see that they’re in control of their own destinies, rather than operating at the whims of manipulative scientists or over-protective teachers. The only way the next generation can become the best versions of themselves is when they feel like their future is truly in their hands.

The Wizard section sort of hits on the same issues, where Poitrine is a character that disregards her responsibilities to indulge her own desires. She should be a guardian of children, but she’s too wrapped up in her deferred dreams to be of much real help. Her story is one of adulthood, the realization that you eventually need to be okay with how your life turned out and find some way to help the next generation along. It’s a sort of Wizard take on Fourze’s themes of growing up, where Poitrine’s depression and need to relive her childhood dreams risks destroying the people around here.

That’s unique ground for a Kamen Rider movie to cover, because it has a kind of maturity to it. It’s a story for the adults in the audience. Or, at least, it’s a story more about the adult anxieties of the production team. This whole movie is about how to protect children, and when to step back from protecting them, and how to live with the idea that it’s someone else’s turn. That’s nothing a kid is ever going to care about. It’s a perspective that only comes with age, and that makes for an interesting Kamen Rider movie.

Thematically, I think this movie has a lot to recommend it. Narratively and structurally, though… um.

The Fourze section has the roughest patch in it, where, again, I appreciate what it’s trying to say. Saburou is a villain who’s just lashing out from loneliness, and he needs someone his own age to tell him he’s worth befriending. It’s just, it’s a resolution that’s asking everyone around Saburou to bend over backwards to make him feel better, when he barely does anything to warrant it. It needs Miyoppe – who is victimized by Saburou – to ask for Saburou’s forgiveness for… I’m not even sure what? It’s Saburou who’s constantly harassing and endangering her, while she’s solely focused on her own goals and activities. It’s like she’s being penalized for not thinking enough about how the surly asshole in her class is feeling, selfishly focusing on her own happiness, and it’s gross? It’s a little gross, the way she’s made to bear responsibility for her bully. It’s preaching a moral that wants to say Sometimes Mean People Just Need Compassion, but it definitely comes off as Maybe You Had It Coming. Not a fan of that!

The other big thing that people are probably going to kick about from the Fourze part of this movie is Gentarou throwing away his Fourze Driver, and I’m of two minds on it. On the one hand, it’s completely the sort of Big Dumb Gesture that Gentarou would make. He’s someone who is very focused on the current interaction, and he’ll gladly toss away everything Fourze accomplished if it means getting through to one struggling teenager. On the other hand, the plot immediately shows what a short-sighted maneuver this is, since Gentarou needs to borrow a Fourze Driver if he’s going to save the world. There’s some obvious calculus here, about the needs of the many versus the needs of the one, and I get why Gentarou throwing away an apocalypse-averting piece of gear would bother folks. I think it works for the character, but I wish it was being done for a kid who maybe deserved it more? Gentarou’s throwing away a hero that saved millions of lives for a grumpy bully who’s making himself the victim. I don’t love that trade?

The Wizard section… boy. I really loved about 99% of it. The idea of Poitrine drawing strength from her love of toku, but needing to find a healthy way to incorporate it into her adult life? YES. Relatable! But, wow, to sort of it toss it all aside for a Gay Panic joke? When (and I know this was never going to happen in a million years) you actually have a sort of poignant trans metaphor to work with, something that could speak to a whole group of kids watching toku that never thought they’d get a chance to see something that spoke to their experience or perspective? It’s heartbreaking. It’s a great story about identity and expression and how hard it can be to not see yourself in the stories you love and how we get to pull the parts we want out of toku to make something just for us and how being an adult means keeping some of that love for toku out of sight… and then you find out it's written by someone who thinks gay people are a joke, and that sucks. It super sucks.

Those disappointments aside, I think the movie works okay. It’s a Sakamoto joint, so the action is top-notch. (Folks complained about his male-gaze-y direction before, but this was the movie where I found it too distracting. Every girl in a skirt needed a close-up and slow-mo shot of her twirling skirt! There were a bunch of Nadeshiko butt bumps! Inga Blink was perpetually glistening!) Every Heisei Phase 2 Rider makes a return appearance, even if it’s just the main hero suit and zero dialogue. Eiji’s here, because Eiji’s cool. We get modern-day refreshes on classic Ishinomori characters. There’s a massive Mad Max-esque vehicle fight that lasts about as long as a Mad Max movie. It’s a gigantic action film with a ton of cool-looking characters, whatever its other failings.

I wish I liked this movie more. There are ideas and themes that I think are smart and original, but the execution tells me that the writers didn’t know what they had. Good attempt, bad follow-through.