“Shin Ultraman” doesn’t stray far from the well-entrenched conventions of Japanese monster movies. Scientists, military officials, and other stuffed shirts gawk at computer screens and provide breathless expository commentary. There’s also a remarkable level of storytelling craft and narrative construction on display even in the human-focused scenes, which are presented in a flurry of fast-cut but visually stark imagery. Sometimes the camera is on the floor looking up at the SSSP team, hunched over their laptop computers; sometimes the camera’s across the room from its human subjects. There’s no normal in this perpetually escalating scenario, just constant movement and restlessly shifting points of view.
That relentless pace and crazed presentation reflects how Ultraman’s presence might be received by technology-addicted humans. We still have to peek around corners and gawk at incomplete pictures of whatever’s happening, even with all the screens, phones, and cameras available to us. People act like they’re in charge here, but they are swiftly reminded of their limited grasp on reality.
Higuchi and Anno’s alien monsters also talk and act with an appropriate mix of child-like simplicity and adult-friendly portentousness. Haughty alien villains, like Zarab and Mefilas, remind Shinji of the galactic threat that humanity poses. We see Ultraman and his monster friends as potential weapons, just like the aliens see us as natural resources.
Each monster fight then confirms what Ultraman fans already know: he’s always there to take a punch for you, a messianic stoic whose concern for humanity is usually communicated with a brief but meaningful over-the-shoulder look. Ultraman doesn’t talk. He doesn’t even make mouth noises, just a white-noise whine that his body produces as he glides through the air like an unmanned jet. Ultraman behaves like a child’s dream of heroism: he’s inhuman and fleet, completely dependable, and instantly understood.