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Neo-Shifters: The Beginning (also known as Neo-Shifters: Episode Zero) is a 1985 Vlokuzuian-American-New Zealander science-fiction action tokusatsu superhero film. The film later spawned a television series Neo-Shifters, which ran from 1985 to 1988.

Plot

In Skandar, the shape-shifting alien robots known as "neo-shfiters", run in water to live, This was until the point where both fractions have been reduced to scavenging for water after the water crisis occurred in their home planet which caused to create two fractions, the heroic Paladins and the villainous Templars and then waged in the civil war over the energy resources. The Paladins leave their home planet with their spaceship and the Templars follow them in their vessel and successfully boarded the Paladin ship. A battle breaks out in the ship while nobody is controlling the ship, the ship crashes into Roswell in planet Earth, leaving everyone in the ship unconscious.

38 years after the crash, Quinn Foster (Ivanson), a grown-up man living with his mother (Cher), his stepdad (Albano) and his stepbrother (Peyton), often hangs out with his friends who are his childhood friend Takehiro (Kayos) and his love interest Ashlee (Hershey) other than spending time with his family. Donnie takes Quinn to Takehiro's house after the family trip to the zoo, where he, Takehiro and Ashlee hang out in Capulco.

However, in the research lab in the Cactus Grove, the Templar leader, Terra<>Sfear (Roberts) wakes up from the coma and attacks the doctors and escapes the facility to summon the rest of the Templars. One day, they encountered a Paladin who is looking for sources of water in the Vloksville quarry. However, the Templars arrived at the quarry, starting the battle between them.

While Quinn, Takehiro and Lise try to drive through the battlefield, they were captured by the Templar ship, later to be shot down by a Paladin, causing to drop a car into the ground, leaving them unconscious. When Quinn woke up, he found out Takehiro and Lise are missing and he later got beamed by a Paladin ship while he is trying to find Takehiro and Lise. Quinn is greeted by the Paladins led by Nova::Vor (Fujita), where they explain why he's here and should join the Paladins. They take him to the experiment treatment, where Quinn is injected with special serum that contained the DNA of the deceased Paladin leader Alpha::Rex, causing it to merge the two DNAs together, and electrocuting him, leaving him unconscious.

When Quinn woke up, he encounters Nova::Vor in his human form, who came to inform he's a neo-shifter. Nova told Donnie he has to take Quinn to the city, Donnie refuses and starts the argument, causing Quinn to lose his temper and tell everyone he has neo-shifting powers and wants Donnie to let him go. After taking Quinn to the roof of the Coca-Cola Tower to taught him to transform, Nova::Vor teaches Quinn, now Magna::Rex how to use his powers. When Quinn was reunited with Ashlee and went to his dad's home with the Paladins, they found out the Templars had escaped and going to plan the full-scale invasion on the Vlokozu Union.

The next day, as the Templars reach to Capulco, a Paladin Neo-Shifter Atlas::Ran came to Quinn and Ashee to inform the Templars are coming. Atlas::Raan reveals he is Takehiro while Quinn asks who he is. A battle suddenly occurs in Capulco, with most citizens killed by the Templars, but Blaze<>Axx kidnaps Ashlee and dragged her to the ship. While Ashee is onboard the ship, she encounters Scar<>Dorn, who transforms into her deceased boyfriend Ryoichi in front of her. She explains to Ryouchi he was killed in the motorcycle accident and his funeral was held two weeks ago.

The Paladins plan to raid the Templar ship to rescue Ashlee, but before they reach the ship, it malfunctions and explodes, killing all of the Templars and Ashlee in the proccess. The Paladins managed to use their powers to travel back in time to around 10 minutes before the Templars invade Capulco. This time, the Paladins boarded into the Templar ship, where Magna::Rex confronted Terra<>Sfear. The battle occurs in the ship with Magna::Rex rescuing Ashee, but Scar<>Dorn kills Nova<>Vor. After the Templars were all defeated, the Paladins escaped the exploding Templar ship with Ashlee and makes it back to solid ground. Now a new leader of the Paladins, Quinn returns home and was reunited with his family.

The post-credit scene shows the Templars who have managed to escape the exploding ship, repairing themselves in the Caelum desert.

Cast

Production

Neo-Shifters was Regal Group Network's second attempt to succeed financially by exploiting the success of Bionicle, as RGN's popularity dropped after the theatrical release of Quest for the Masks in 1981. Isamu Ueno was responsible for the idea of Neo-Shifters as it came up while he was watching Quest for the Masks in theaters. Ueno explained his idea during the meeting in the RGN headquarters in 1982.

Writer Takahiro Koizumi was credited as Alan Smithee as he was more known in television show writing and the conceptualization of game shows.

According to Koizumi, Neo-Shifters: The Beginning was made so that the television show that was based on the movie, would get higher ratings since Gyro-Fighters along with its spinoff Gyro-Racers were both commercial failures and poorly received by critics.

Filming

Neo-Shifters: The Beginning was filmed from March 23 to July 21, 1984 and the film itself was created without any digital alteration. Unlike Bionicle V, which had a combination of stop-motion animation and computer-graphics animation, Neo-Shifters only had stop-motion animation, which was done by over 50 people and it took 6 months to complete. Some of the stop motion models were later reused in some Bionicle projects (albeit repainted and altered) due to the El TV Kadsre-RGN partnership deal of the time. It was filmed in Capulco, the Vloksville quarry, the Wats Lake basin and the spaceship interiors and operation rooms were filmed in Warner Bros. Studios in California. The post-modernist house where Takehiro lives is known as the Kayos' House, 3 kilometers north from the Capulco urban area.

Soundtrack

Neo-Shifters was scored by American composer John Williams. The ending credits theme, The Shifter from Space, was co-written by Rylan Forester and recorded by the Norwegian pop-music group A-ha, which can be heard on the Vlokozuian version of A-ha's debut album, Hunting High and Low.

Release

Marketing

Regal Group Network made tie-in deals with Sminster, Yamaha, Eveready, Nestlé, Rowntree's and The Coca-Cola Company to promote the movie. According to Lowe, they have Coca-Cola (which was at decline at the time) to promote the movie to poke fun of the marketing of Technic Heroes, which is sponsored by Technic and Pepsi, something he found ironic when neither product was mentioned in the two franchises' crossover, Neo-Shifters vs. Bionicle. Isamu Ueno stated that Coca-Cola was selected to promote Neo-Shifters by John Stewart (who was the CEO of the Regal Group Network at the time) because of the fact he was the CEO of the Coca-Cola Company El Kadsre during the 1970s.
Neo-Shifters The Beginning US Release poster

The American theatrical release poster

Box office

Neo-Shifters: The Beginning was released in theaters less than a month after a similar tokusatsu film Bionicle V: Web of Shadows. Neo-Shifters: The Beginning grossed $63 million in its opening weekend in the Vlokozuian movie market, second on the charts behind Bionicle V: Web of Shadows. It grossed $294 million that year making it Warner Bros' most highest grossing film, putting The Goonies into second place. The film had failed to outgross in competition with Bionicle V: Web of Shadows.

Home media

Neo-Shifters: The Beginning was first released on VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc and TVD by RGN Home Video in November 1985 while it was released in North America and Europe by Warner Home Video in January 1986 and released in Australia by Roadshow Home Video in March 1986. The film was first released on DVD by Warner Home Video on December 16, 1998 in the United States and released by RGN Home Entertainment on May 29, 2000 in El Kadsre and it was first released on Blu-ray on June 2, 2010.

Reception

Critical response

The film is received with mixed reviews from critics. While it was praised for its costume design and concept and kickstarted the Neo franchise, the film was criticized for being the blatant ripoff of Bionicle, despite El TV Kadsre refusing to sue Regal Group Network and Isamu Ueno under Pasi Peure's request due to the partnership deal between them and they're both owned by Vlokozuian Media Union at the time. Neo-Shifters: The Beginning had a slightly better score on Rotten Tomatoes than Bionicle V: Web of Shadows.

Caryn James of The New York Times wrote:

"Neo-Shifters is a Bionicle rip-off, which doesn't exactly make it unique and it's a sign that RGN is doing the exact same thing what El TV Kadsre is doing. I mean the story is generic and costumes are kinda decent, but not "Miro" decent. By the looks of it, RGN is not only ripping off Bionicle, but also Transformers as well. RGN should've thought twice before coming up with that mockbuster."

Accolades

Year Award Recipients Result
1985 VAC Award for Best Film Jamie Lowe Nominated
VAC Award for Best Actor Ben Ivanson Won
VAC Award for Best Supporting Actor Taichi Sasaki Nominated
Shouhei Fujita Nominated
VAC Award for Best Actress Lise Hershey Nominated
1986 Academy Award for Best Actress Lise Hershey Nominated
Academy Award for Best Original Song A-ha Nominated
Academy Award for Best Costume Design Takashi Takenaka Won

Video games

In May 1985, Atari released Neo-Shifters: Templar Shooter, Neo-Shifters: Siege, Neo-Shifters: Aeronauts and Neo-Shifters: Perlious Assault for Atari 2600, which was later ported to Intellivision, TS-OS, Colecovision, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in the following months and TS-UGOS, Commodore Amiga and Atari 7800 a year later.

In March 1986, Capcom released Neo-Shifters: The Beginning game for the Family Computer Disk System in Japan. Despite its moderate success, the game was never released outside Japan. The game was infamous for its broken English sentences and aggressive instructions which stated "FLIP TO SIDE B AND INSERT TO F**KING BOX !!!".

Cancelled sequel

In 1991, Regal Group Network confirmed the possibility of the sequel of both the movie and the TV series entitled Web-Shifters, originally slated for 1996 release and commissioned for a script to the Technic Heroes writer Sung Gim. In 1995, it was announced the sequel was pushed to 1998. In January 1998, Regal Group Network announced the sequel was cancelled after Vlokfilm and Warner Bros. couldn't afford the monetary risk of producing it. It was rumored that the money that was going to be used in making Web-Shifters went into the making of Neo-Machines, the television show that served as the pseudo-sequel of Neo-Shifters.

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