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Kamen Rider W Forever: The Dark Knight Rises - And where does the newborn go from here?
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johnny_kaos
johnny_kaos
Kamen Rider W Forever: The Dark Knight Rises
WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for The Dark Knight Rises

I just finished watching the movie for the 2009-2010 Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider W. The series itself was, overall, one of the best of the Heisei-era (i.e., post-2000) Rider shows: it focused on a pair of private detectives, inexperienced Sam Spade wannabe Shotaro Hidari (Renn Kiriyama) and (sigh) mysterious amnesiac Phillip (Masaki Suda), who use devices called GaiaMemories to transform into the single hero Kamen Rider W (pronounced "Double"). The two run a struggling investigation firm that keeps leading them into cases where they have to fight monsters called Dopants; aiding them in their adventures are Akiko Narumi (Hikaru Yamamoto), the teeth-grindingly annoying daughter of Shotaro's mentor, and police detective Ryu Terui (Minehiro Kinomoto), who has a GaiaMemory of his own that lets him transform into super-fast Kamen Rider Accel (pronounced "Axel").

The movie has the absurdly overlong title Kamen Rider W Forever: A-Z/The GaiaMemories of Fate. The movie is pretty enjoyable, although it's not entirely something you could just watch to get a superhero or kung fu fix unless you've seen the series - the movie takes place very specifically in between episodes 44 and 45, and Philip has a sort of minor character arc that's rooted firmly in what was going on in the show at that point. In addition, the show's villains don't play much of a role in the movie - the main villains of A-Z are an entirely new group created just for the theatrical excursion, which leaves the anatagonists of the series to sit on the sidelines and serve as sort of a Greek chorus. Which means that if you've never watched the series, the movie will keep cutting to these characters that I don't think ever even get named, and they'll comment on stuff, but never actually do anything themselves - and I can only imagine the reaction of someone unfamiliar with the series being, "Who the fuck are these people and why do they keep showing them?" But it's directed by Koichi Sakamoto (fight choreographer for the Mark Dacascos version of Drive and for Guyver 2: Dark Hero - a.k.a. "the good Guyver movie"), so the fights are plentiful and, while not Sakamoto's best work, pretty solid. Plus, since this is a movie (albeit one that's only an hour and some change), the scale of the adventure is larger, the special effects have more of a budget, and the characters get to swear a little - so you'll occasionally have these characters from a kids' show declaring things to be bullshit and calling the villains assholes.

It also has a cameo during the third act that serves to introduce the hero of W's successor series, Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced "Ohs" or "Ozu," depending on who's doing the translation). The cameo is intrusive and unwelcome, but let's be honest: this whole franchise exists exclusively for the purposes of marketing. So it's not like it's some shocking thing when a marketing movie gets interrupted to do some marketing.

Oh, and it also turns out early in the movie that the villains are actually super-soldiers made from the reanimated corpses of dead mercenaries. Which means that this movie is Kamen Rider vs. Universal Soldier.

What really struck me about the movie, however, is the way it prefigures - of all things - The Dark Knight Rises. I admit this is a little bit of a stretch, but hear me out: the setting for the series is Futo City (literally, "Wind Capital City"), a green city that runs entirely on wind power; to facilitate this, there are miniature windmills, pinwheels, and similar things around the city, as well as one giant windmill in the middle that serves as Futo's main power generator. At the beginning of the movie, a group of mercenaries called "NEVER" arrive in Futo and start making trouble for the heroes; in particular the group's leader, Katsumi Daido (Mitsuru Matsuoka), who can become Kamen Rider Eternal. A woman also shows up in the middle of this whom Phillip suspects of being his mother. Eventually, NEVER gets all the plot coupons they need - save one - in order to achieve their endgame. This last coupon is still somewhere out there in Futo, but no one knows where; so in order to find it, Daido pirates the signal to every TV in Futo and announces that whoever brings it to him will receive one billion yen. Predictably, this starts a riot as everyone in the city begins vying for the reward. We ultimately learn that the mystery woman has actually been manipulating Phillip this whole time, as she's been working with NEVER from the beginning. When Daido finally gets the last plot coupon, it's revealed that his goal is to turn the windmill in the center of Futo into a weapon powerful enough to destoy the city.

So we have a mercenary force that arrives in a city protected by a superhero who is, as far as most of the public knows, an urban legend; a clean power source with the potential to be converted into a weapon; the leader of the mercenaries inciting civil unrest for his own ends (though Daido's incitement of a riot is closer to Nolan's Joker than his Bane; still, there are parts of Daido's broadcast that have vague echoes of Bane's speech in the stadium - especially the very end, when he tells the citizens to "consider us to be on your side"); a mystery woman who manipulates the hero while actually working with the villains (though this trope admittedly dates back...well, practically to the beginning of storytelling itself); and the villain's plan being to exploit the aforementioned power source to become an instrument of citywide carnage. Now, which movie am I talking about?

And keep in mind this movie came out two years ago, and was probably being written and put through pre-production while the Brothers Nolan were still determining exactly what they wanted The Dark Knight Rises to be about.

Now, I'm not in any way saying Christopher Nolan ripped off Kamen Rider W Forever - I'm sure the dude has much better things to do with his time than watch kids' shows from Japan (or kids' shows from America, for that matter). And it's really only the skeleton of the plot that's similar. But that is a crazy-ass coincidence.

I will say, though, that Kamen Rider Eternal is dispatched in a more satisfactory fashion than either Bane or Talia (even if W's victory does hinge on a huge deus ex machina). One thing you can always say for Heisei-era Kamen Rider is that even in its worst installments, the major villains tend to go out pretty well.

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