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Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

What will someone sacrifice for family?

We might look to Dr. Onda, the leader of the Kaiju Defense Force, who lost his wife and daughter to those giant monsters. Now, he’ll do whatever it takes to find the hidden Kaiju island and slaughter the beasts once and for all in order to prevent that tragedy from happening to another family.

We could also think about the actions of the kaiju Gigantron. The dragon-like monster did everything in her power to protect and reclaim the egg containing her child—an egg which had been stolen by the KDF as a step in locating Kaiju island.

And we could certainly talk about Professor Sato. He’s got the power to transform into Ultraman, a giant humanoid robotic figure who defends Tokyo from the occasional kaiju attacks. Unlike the KDF, he’d rather repel the endangered and misguided beasts than turn them into sashimi. And because of his superhero status, he chose to protect his wife and son from his dangerous profession by sending them away to Los Angeles.

But if there’s anyone who needs to learn a lesson about family, it’s Kenji “Ken” Sato, Professor Sato’s son. In the two decades since he was sent away, Ken grew up to have both a professional career in baseball as well as a hefty grudge against his father for abandoning them. And just as Ken was about to take the Dodgers to the championship game, his father, weary from years of battle, asked him to come back to Japan and take up the Ultraman mantle.

Well, Ken does begrudgingly go back. By day, he plays baseball for the Yomiuri Giants. By … well, whenever there’s a kaiju attack, he repels kaiju as Ultraman.

But remember that egg Gigantron hoped to get back, prompting her attack on the KDF? Well, just after Ken watches the KDF blow Gigantron out of the sky, the egg hatches, and the tiny kaiju imprints on Ken. And, just like his father, Ken can’t bear to see the KDF kill the creature—so he vanishes with it before the KDF can secure their asset.

And so Ken begins to discover just how difficult being a father can truly be.

Positive Elements

Initially, Ken is a rather prideful individual. His arrogance resonates off him like heat from a radiator. And even though he’s able to charm his way through most of life, a select few characters (as well as the movie’s viewers) can detect his hubris.

That all begins to change when the baby kaiju imprints on him. Ken initially thinks of many ways he might push off the responsibility of raising the beast. But his AI assistant (programmed to act and speak like his mother) reminds him that the baby likely won’t survive unless he raises her.

But it’s not an easy task, as any parent—of human or giant lizard—will tell you. Ken must make sacrifices and put aside his own desires and needs in order to be a good parent. He constantly goes to bed exhausted from the day, and it begins to negatively impact his baseball career.

That’s when Ken, on the verge of breaking down, goes to a reporter named Ami for advice. She’s a single mother who works to balance her responsibilities as a mother with her responsibilities as an employee.

Ami doesn’t mince words. She doesn’t deny that it can be difficult, nor does she pretend that she (and Ken) won’t make mistakes. But she reminds Ken that they are the only support that their respective child has. And just as the child learns from the parent, so too does the parent learn from the child. Still, there are plenty of moments that more than reward parents for all those tough nights, she says. And, Ami reminds Ken, there will come a day when they’ll miss constantly being involved in their kids’ lives.

Ami isn’t the only one Ken calls on for help. When things take a turn, Ken goes to his father, and the two begin repairing their strained relationship. Professor Sato coaches Ken both on parenthood and overcoming fears as Ultraman—including Ken’s anxiety about how the latter gig might jeopardize the former.

All of these experiences and more shape Ken’s character as he becomes more selfless. He exhibits genuine concern and fear whenever the baby kaiju is hurt, acting like any loving parent would. And as the baby begins developing its own personality, Ken cherishes the kaiju even more. This love and selflessness further spill out into the rest of Ken’s life as he begins to open himself up to his baseball teammates, helping them become a more unified team.

Finally, it’s notable that the villain of this story, Dr. Onda, isn’t immediately that bad of a guy. His most villainous trait is his willingness to kill Ultraman for preventing him from accomplishing his goal. But in his eyes, the kaiju are all dangerous monsters that have and will continue to kill countless innocent people—and Ultraman looks like he’s supporting that danger.

Dr. Onda even has anecdotal proof to back up that claim—his own wife and daughter perished because of one such monster attack. That’s why, while he doesn’t enjoy slaying the animals, he feels the act is necessary to protect the other families of Tokyo. This is further evident when Dr. Onda sends his crew away from a dangerous encounter so that they can stay alive with their families.

Throughout the movie, people risk their lives to protect others.

Spiritual Elements

We’re told that Ami is seen as such a good interviewer that he could “get the devil himself to confess his sins.” We hear a couple vague phrases about “maintaining balance.”

Sexual Content


Violent Content

The baby kaiju’s arm is broken and is later fixed. The beast is also hit with a missile. A man breaks his leg. Someone is badly injured by explosions. We hear (but don’t see) that one man’s wife and young daughter were killed by a kaiju.

A few futuristic helicopters crash and explode, presumably taking the lives of the pilots flying them. Ultraman and various kaiju clash, slamming into buildings and smacking each other around. A couple of kaiju attack with laser blasts from their mouths. Planes shoot bullets and missiles at kaiju and Ultraman alike, and some find their marks. Some kaiju are labeled in computer logs as “deceased.” Ken gets into a fist fight with the opposing baseball team’s catcher.

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is used in vain about 20 times—arguably the biggest content concern in this PG film. We hear “crap” three times, “dang” twice and “h—” once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A kaiju is taken down using sedatives.

Other Negative Elements

There’s some toilet humor: The baby kaiju passes gas a couple times, and we see some resulting green, slimy poop. It also spits up or drools on a couple of people, soaking them in its saliva. Ken describes a drink as tasting like flatulence.


Were you to have told me that the kaiju film subgenre would release some of the most positive messages about life and family I’ve seen since I started my career at Plugged In, I’d have laughed in your face.

When Godzilla Minus One released, for instance, I expected little more than a giant monster stomping around a city. And while such stomping did happen, I deeply enjoyed the depth of the story’s positive messages about the value of life.

Ultraman: Rising is the latest release in the kaiju category. And, like Godzilla Minus One, it’s yet another monster film that comes, somewhat surprisingly, with a lot of positive messages.

As Ken grapples with raising the orphaned baby kaiju, we see him slowly turn from being self-absorbed baseball player to a becoming a sacrificial and loving adoptive father. Of course, this baby kaiju isn’t human in any regard—but as Ken struggles with all of the baby monster’s needs, mishaps and more, we catch a glimpse of the difficulties and triumphs of parenting.

And that’s intentional. Director Shannon Tindle tweeted, “The film was inspired by my experience becoming a parent.” And in another interview, Tindle described the movie as an “honest approach to family” and “a celebration of the iconic [Ultraman] and my experiences as both a son and a father.”

That’s not to say that Ultraman: Rising is perfect. As much as we appreciate its positive messages, the story’s frequent misuses of God’s name remain a big strike against the family-centric film, one that parents will want to think about carefully before they decide whether to watch.

But as far as this film’s positive messages go, Ultraman: Rising is just about as “ultra” as it claims.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”