Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna: Warriors from the Planet of Light
Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.
"You would tell me if this
made me look fat, right?"
We would hate to think that we have readers who aren't familiar with Ultraman. In case we do, here's the deal. Ultraman is long-running Japanese TV show about a giant superhero, who looks a lot like a guy in red and silver rubber tights, who wrestles outlandish monsters into submission. Actually, there are several different versions of Ultraman, and there are many different Ultraman series. Very few have made it to this side of that big wet thing that separates us from Japan.
The problem is, that leaves literally hundreds of episodes that we poor Americans have never seen, not to mention the movies. It's a shame, because Ultraman is about the most fun you can have legally.
On second thought, the tape we viewed of Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna: Warriors From the Planet of Light was a pirated copy, so it wasn't totally legal. But even among illegal recreations, Ultraman has to rank way up there.
From left to right: The three guys we never
know anything about, the Captain,
the hero/comic relief, and the two cute chicks.
Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna was apparently released theatrically in Japan, even though it's barely 60 minutes long. The special effects are only barely better than what you would find in an episode of Xena. And the plot is silly and somewhat confusing. But it's still fun to watch.
In the future, the world is under nearly constant attack by giant monsters. Defending the planet is the super science organization Super GUTS, which has a nearly inexhaustible supply of model spaceships at its disposal. And we mean disposal, because they never work against the monsters and the keep crashing when the monsters counter attack. Luckily, one of the members of Super GUTS is secretly Ultraman Dyna.
The film opens with Super GUTS and Dyna battling a nearly unstoppable alien on the Moon. Just as the monster prepares its final attack, it is destroyed by a huge space battleship that comes out of nowhere. The ship, named Promedius, turns out to have been built by TPC, a world peace organization that created Super GUTS. The members of Super GUTS are invited to contribute their brain patterns to the computer controlled battleship, in order to make the Promedius more efficient.
"You, in the background with the gun!
How much do you want
to off this guy right now?"
Let's take a minute here to talk about Super GUTS. Ever since Science Patrol way back in the original Ultraman series, it seems as if every super scientific team in Ultraman has been made up of four men and one woman. And the five members were always more or less the same characters.
1. The Captain, who was crusty but benign. The actor who played the Captain got the part by being the guy with the deepest voice who showed up for the audition.
2. The hero who turned into Ultraman.
3. The comic relief guy, who we always wished would get stepped on by a monster in some future episode. That never happened.
4. The guy we never found anything out about. This guy never had any significant role, other than to occasionally act as a foil to the comic relief guy.
5. The girl. She was always cute and sparred romantically with the hero.
We know she's a Monera puppet
because she's on Bat-cam.
Super GUTS is quite different. For one thing there are a whopping seven members, and two of them are women. The captain is more or less the same as always. And there is a comic relief guy. His name is Asuka, and the first time he did something allegedly funny we began hoping that he would end up monster toejam. But then we discovered his horrible, sanity-shattering secret: Asuka is Ultraman Dyna. How did this happen?! And how can such an idiot possibly keep his secret identity from the other members?
The fact that Asuka is Ultraman means that Super GUTS has a record three guys about whom we never learn anything, and the two women on the team include the cute chick, and the cross-eyed cute chick.
Back to the story, which is currently taking place at the TPC base where the Promedius is kept. Asuka is invited by TPC scientist Dr. Kisaragi, a woman who wears earrings, to be the first to feed his brain waves into the Promedius. As soon has he does, Asuka is sucked into two different Doctor Who opening sequences, and then passes out. He wakes up in the base's infirmary, just as the base is attacked by a flying monster that both looks like and sounds like the flying form of Hedora from Godzilla vs. Hedora.
Asuka changes into Ultraman Dyna to battle the monster, but before Ultraman can do anything the Promedius launches and targets him. Oops. Kisaragi is actually possessed by aliens called the Monera (a fact that should have been obvious to everyone because only evil women wear earrings in Japanese sci-fi), and now the Monera are going to use the Promedius to wipe out humanity. And because all alien plans involve monsters, the Monera transform the Promedius into an anthropomorphic robot. Ultraman Dyna battles the Promedius but is forced to flee.
The Monera may want to wipe out humanity, but that doesn't mean they're impolite. They helpfully inform TPC exactly where and when they intend to strike. Super GUTS mobilizes their entire force of model airplanes and tanks to the city scheduled for attack, while Asuka deals with a crisis of conscience. By the time the attack occurs, Asuka has been helped through his crisis by a kid with an Ultraman Tiga doll. Tiga was the Ultraman before Dyna, though no one has seen him in years (probably because his show was canceled).
At the appointed time and place, the Monera attack. Ultraman Dyna takes care of the Promedius fairly quickly, but the Monera form their flying monster into a huge city-crushing octopus thing. The new Monera monster makes short work of Ultraman Dyna. Who can save earth now?
Just as things look their worst, Asuka is sucked back into a Doctor Who opening sequence, until the people of the earth clap their hands and say, "Yes, we believe in fairies," aloud. And suddently Ultraman Tiga appears! Just like that! It seems that if enough people wish for him, Tiga appears. Moreover, it seems that Asuka is both Dyna and Tiga, at least for the purposes of this movie. In any case, Tiga rescues Dyna and together they kick some Monera butt.
It's not as if there can be any doubt what the outcome is going to be. Ultraman is far too formulaic to surprise. But Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna delivers a constant stream of special effects scenes and monster fights, so it's tough for old Godzilla fans like us to complain.
As far as we know, only five incarnations of Ultraman have ever been seen in the US:
1. The original Ultraman series was dubbed into English and was shown on American TV starting in the late 1960s. Apparently quite a bit of violence was cut. The dialogue was supposedly translated faithfully, but we really have to wonder about howlers like this:
Evil Scientist, explaining what might have happened to one of colleagues: "And if fell into the lake and was devoured by that monster, the ichthyosaurs, I have no doubt he died a happy man."
Official Guy: "Has Harashi been badly hurt?"
Science Patrol Member: "It's nothing serious. He was knocked up, that's all."
2. Dubbed episodes of the second Ultraman series, Ultraseven, were shown on TNT.
3. A few episodes of an Ultraman animated series were released here on tape as Ultraman II. We also hear that different episodes from the same series were released to tape under a different name.
4. Hanna Barbara produced five episodes of an US animated version of Ultraman. This version was released on tape as Ultraman: The Adventure Begins.
5. The series Ultraman: Towards the Future was shot in English, and was shown on American TV and released on video. Some of the monsters were cool, but in general the series was lame. Go back!