REVIEW: Doubling Down: My Hero Academia: Two Heroes Is a Smashing Good Time

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of My Hero Academia, so when I heard that there was a tie-in movie premiering at Anime Expo, I knew I had to be there.

I, along with 3000 other excited fans, braved early wake-up times, high temperatures (it was over 100 degrees most days of Anime Expo), and long lines to get a chance to see My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. We had no idea what we were in for, but we all hoped that it would be good.

We needn’t have worried. My Hero Academia: Two Heroes absolutely blew us away.

Two Heroes starts up right where Season Two leaves off: at the beginning of summer break, with Deku (Justin Briner) and All Might (Christopher Sabat) traveling to I-Island, a man-made mobile island built specifically for scientists to research quirks and develop quirk-related technology, to meet up with one of All Might’s old friends, David Shield (Ray Chase). David’s daughter Melissa (Erica Mendez) is all too happy to show Deku around the island, which is opening its doors for a blockbuster tech expo the next day. It’s a massive event, and everyone who’s anyone has been invited, which explains why pretty much all of Deku’s classmates have made it to the island – after all, you can’t have a movie based on a series without assembling the series cast, can you?

Unfortunately, the expo’s opening night party on the island’s tallest tower is attacked by a group of terrorists, who overtake the island’s security system and take all the scientists and adult heroes in attendance – including All Might – hostage! This leaves our group of intrepid teenagers to stop the terrorists, rescue the party guests, and retake the security system before the terrorists can succeed in their plan.

And that’s when Two Heroes turns into Die Hard.

There are marked differences, of course – Two Heroes has an ensemble cast of heroes instead of one lone wolf cop, and the action is more superpowers than gun violence – but the greater part of Two Heroes may well be an homage to Die Hard with how well it borrows and uses the factors that made Die Hard an action classic: effective, intelligent villains; tight, energetic pacing; sympathetic, imperfect heroes that you absolutely root for; plot twists; and a beautifully iconic line to cap off an action sequence. Even the minor parallels are there: someone nearly takes a tumble off the building; someone has to crawl through the air ducts; and someone loses their shoes (though they don’t have to walk over broken glass afterwards, thank goodness).

Of course, it all culminates in the Obligatory Shonen Movie Big Action Setpiece. The climactic final battle is make-or-break for most shonen anime based movies, and not all of them know how to handle it, often shoving what would be five or six episodes’ worth of content into a thirty minute fight or introducing a deus ex machina victory for our heroes. Many a solid movie has been brought down by a poorly paced or executed final battle.

Fortunately, Two Heroes is a My Hero Academia movie, and My Hero Academia has always been smart about its combat. The final battle is a well-paced high stakes nailbiter, with plenty of give and take between heroes and villains, and plot elements that were introduced earlier in the story coming into play. Everything feels well set up and earned; on top of that, everything feels terrifying. While the audience knows everyone has to survive the battle because everyone’s present for season 3, Two Heroes still makes us legitimately worried that our favorites aren’t going to make it. At one point, All Might takes a blow that made the entire audience scream in sympathy and outrage; grabbing an audience’s heartstrings like that during the middle of combat, for good or for ill, is not something that happens often in this type of movie, and Two Heroes pulls it off with shameless panache.

All told, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is a tightly paced, well executed action romp that could well become the gold standard for shonen anime based movies. The action is intelligent and engaging, the dialogue is snappy and on point (and as always, the dub is superb), and the story is solid, with a good grasp on when and how to use the humor, action, and emotion inherent in the series. For those familiar with My Hero Academia, Two Heroes is a solid installment of the franchise, to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to see the movie-specific characters later on in the series; to any newcomers, or to the parents and guardians attending the movie with their enthusiastic kids, Two Heroes is welcoming, including just enough world building and backstory to aid understanding of the movie without falling into the pitfall of story-dragging heavy exposition. Regardless of how well you know My Hero Academia, if you’re a fan of action movies, or if you really want to see what Die Hard would look like with superpowers, I highly recommend catching My Hero Academia: Two Heroes when it comes to theaters at the end of the month.

My Hero Academia: Two Heroes will be in theaters for limited screenings September 25th-October 2nd. Tickets are available now.

— Katie Cullen

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