Ah, Movie Wars. I can’t say I’ve missed them?

They’re an interesting enough remnant of Phase 2 Heisei: a transitional state from Phase 1’s non-canonical summer movies to the eventual Winter Crossover movie and Summer Double-Feature adventures. They were this tentative half-step, where the old show gets some additional closure, the new show gets a low-stakes one-off battle, and the fans get to see a brief team-up between the two title Riders. But inevitably, they turned into the more viscerally entertaining Heisei Generations events, where we got one complete story built out of two different casts and concepts. I don’t want to play the It Was Better Back In My Day card, but – Heisei Generations Final rendered Movie Wars permanently obsolete by being the best Kamen Rider movie of all time. Doing a split epilogue/team-up movie afterwards just seems limited, and wasteful.

Which is sort of how Movie Battle Royale felt for me, sadly.

I liked the individual components well enough in isolation. Revice got to tell a story about the ways families change and grow without losing their power or substance; and Geats got to tell a story about the difference between fighting for a reward, and being rewarded for fighting. Those are perfect themes for each section to explore, but they never really add up to one complete story. The Revice part just feels like a prologue for the Geats part, and the Geats part barely feels like a Revice story. They don’t… they don’t mesh, really at all. Honestly, the Geats part gets more juice out of its Very Special Legend Rider Guest Stars than it does Ikki and Vice, who are mostly treated like a MOTW victim to be saved.

Like, the Ryuki cast makes perfect sense in the back half of the film, as a way of contrasting Ace and the gang’s motivations against those of the villains from Ryuki. Ace fights to achieve a goal, while Asakura and Ryuga fight for pointless things like Power and More Fighting and Destruction. They’re destined to lose to heroes like Revi and Geats, because they inherently lack the vision of a world beyond survival and death. In the most delicious irony, Seeker is a construction-themed villain who doesn’t know how to build a better world. The thematic coherence on the latter half of this film is Geats in its goddamn zone.

(Even the Desire Royale stuff is typically smart commentary from Geats. The Desire Grand Prix represents the way culture and influence commodify our desires; how they sell us our dreams and profit off of our hopes. The Desire Royale is that concept curdled into nihilism: the way hollow, pointless entertainment tells us that hopes and dreams are ridiculous notions in a world of abject cruelty. Also, Tsumuri looks great in her redesign.)

The Revice bits, though… I just wish they felt less perfunctory, or irrelevant? The cast integration is pretty fun, but Ikki and Vice’s story only ever feels like a runner, and the circumstances of Vice’s resurrection and disintegration lack the compelling details that help make it all feel less authorial in its payoff. Vice comes back because Ikki will do anything to save his family? Fine. I get that Ikki can’t miss a partner he doesn’t remember, but it still sort of sucks that Vice’s big return has such an Any Devil In A Storm feeling to it, instead of an Ankh-esque reunion moment. But Vice leaving again because it was a limited-time miracle? And Ikki’s going to lose his memories again, despite that only ever being a thing from the last contract? It never comes off like an established turn in the story, just a contrivance to put Revice back where the movie found it. I mean, why can’t Ace’s wish be that Vice sticks around? Why vanish Vice for a second time, when you could leave Revice fans with a happy ending? It feels forced, and it’s hard for even a Revice fan like me to defend.

And, ha ha, that’s this movie! I enjoyed Revice, Geats is my favorite Kamen Rider show of all time, and this movie doesn’t really do either of them any favors. The Revice parts don’t add anything to the Geats story, and the Geats parts don’t really add anything to the Revice story. I wish this had been two movies, or, honestly, maybe just the Geats movie. (It does not help that the Revice villains are total ciphers, and don’t feel like either Revice or Geats characters. I think they’ve got a LunaTrigger and HeatMetal thing going on, which is maybe a Movie War reference? At best?) What I got didn’t exactly do justice to two shows I like a whole lot, and that’s a bummer.

At least Neon and Sakura got to hang out, though!