Another nostalgic review, this one was nominated by my friend Josh. (Not surprised, we both love the cheesiness of the Pokemon movies.) If I had to pick between Pokemon: the First Movie, and Pokemon: 2000, I would go with this one, though that isn’t as high of a compliment as it appears. There are some cute moments, and I love the soundtrack like always, but plot and animation wise… There were some issues.
For those who missed this Y2K wonder, it tells the story of a collector named Lawrence III who is trying to capture three legendary birds (called Moltres–a phoenix like creature, Zapdos–an electric bird, and Articuno–their ice counterpart) in hopes of bringing forth another legendary creature known as the Beast of the Sea. However, capturing the birds throws their tentative peace out of whack, and the seasons go with them. Meanwhile, a Pokemon (a slang of Pocket Monsters) trainer named Ash Ketchum is called upon by a local island’s festival and prophecy to be the Chosen One to establish peace again once Lawrence throws everything off. At first, we are led to believe that a new legendary bird, Lugia is the Beast of the Sea, the force that is meant to smack the three birds into behaving and to quit screwing around with the weather, and to help Ash. But it turns out to be an underwater current that the Pokemon of the world are able to tap in, and Ash’s role as the Chosen One is the one way to get it involved.
So, what did I like about this movie? As I said, I’m a music nerd for this soundtrack. I thought they did a good job with it. (And yes, laugh all you people about the one song a certain Republican presidential hopeful kept quoting, I still like the song). And really, it was stealth things that I liked. In the English dub (the only version I’ve seen), I loved that moment when you find out that the line in the prophecy that goes, “And all the world shall turn to ash,” it is actually meant to be, “And all the world shall turn to Ash,” and the main character who it is referencing to goes, “Right now, I’m wishing my mom had named me Bob,” or something similar to that.
I also liked the subtler messages about balance, about respecting our world and nature, and how important our cultural traditions can be. The entire “big” plot of the movie is about the weather going all crazy, and why is that? Because a rich human went tinkering in matters where his big nose wasn’t needed or wanted. I’ll take “Still Culturally Relevant” for 500, Alex. I also like how it sort of alluded to a possible deus ex machina plot savior in the form of Lugia, but actually showed that he was mortal and he couldn’t stand up to the combined strength of the other three legendary birds. It really reinforced the balance theme that they were trying to hit on.
Now for the bad. Animation wise, at this point in the franchise the merge between CGI and traditional was still way rough. While it was several steps above the then-current animation level for the TV show, it still was very poor compared to other movies that were coming out at the time. When it came time for the dub, some of the voices were sort of stuck because of the choices for the TV show (again), but that doesn’t change how annoying Ash’s was. Whoever was responsible for cutting frames to make the animated character’s new dialogue match up with their mouth movements, at least slightly, also didn’t do that great of a job, creating a weird disconnect between what I was hearing and what I was seeing. And there was no central conflict! Like, Lawrence wasn’t active enough in the third act of the story to be considered the central antagonist. I guess the affects of human meddling could be considered the antagonist, but that doesn’t really work for adult films, much less something aimed at ten-year-olds.
Overall, I think the movie had a solid premise, and whoever initially started tinkering with the idea thought about how to explain the concepts of the games and show to people who hadn’t a clue what anything was. But they lost it in the basic storytelling and when whoever was leading the animation decided to play around with too many mediums. I also bet that the people who did the first of the dubbing thought that the series wouldn’t be that popular and thus didn’t give the time and consideration to who did the main character’s voice. But when worn with the nostalgia goggles (or the eyes of a ten year old child), it is a good film to watch, and hey look, no violence!