Top 6 Pokémon Films So Far
Even though there are users on the Serebii.net forums who say they only started watching the Pokemon anime in 2013, the popularity of Pokemon is not at the heightened levels of the late 1990s craze. Pokemon plushies are still available in retail outlets, the films have started getting released in sets of three and the kids’ shelves are overwhelmed with other franchises like Beyblade or Monsuno. With the Pokemon formula prevailing most of the series it takes longer and longer for long-time viewers to come across episodes that are unique. With the introduction of Ash’s new female companion Serena in the X&Y anime, I felt inspired to watch all the movies released to date and rank them. The seventeeth film Pokémon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction is due for a release in July and features Ash’s new companions.
Like the series, the films are not without a formula. The movie formula’s usually follow the series: (a) Ash and co will travel to a new area (b) They will meet a new Pokemon and/or person with a problem (c) while they work to solve the problem Team Rocket will appear (d) After some thunderbolts and Pokemon fights Team Rocket goes blasting off (e) Ash and co say goodbye, promise he’ll meet his new friends again someday and continue on his journey. The film formula subsections to add to this are (a) the Pokemon will most likely be legendary and (b) the villains may or may not be Team Rocket.
For those wanting to get a Pokemon fix the films are a safe bet. However, those who are not fans of Pokemon are unlikely to be swayed by this article either. The animation and soundtrack are stronger than the series and a good one might make you laugh or cry. In terms of rating these movies against each other, as well as animation, artwork, character and story elements I have also considered emotional impact, the legendaries and the uniqueness of the film. Generally if the film did something different to the others it is on here. I would also like to note that the release dates listed are the Japanese ones.
This list will contain spoilers.
6. Zoroark: Master of Illusions (2010)
Movie Number: 13
Pokemon Season: 4th Movie of Diamond and Pearl
Ash’s Companions: Dawn and Brock
If Pixar’s Brave was turned into a Pokemon film it might look something like this, if only for the importance of a mother daughter bond. Ash and co travel to Crown City to watch the Pokémon Baccer World Cup when they come across a Zorua looking for its mother (“Meema“) whom has been captured by a man called Grings Kodai. Ash and co decide to help it. Celebi and all the legendary dogs from the Johto region (Entei, Raikou and Suicune) feature in this film, making it nostalgia gold for the fans of these legendary Pokemon. It also gives all these Pokemon similar, if not, more interesting roles than their previous appearances in Pokemon: Spell of the Unown and Pokemon 4Ever while improving the aesthetics, story and character elements, which is one of the reasons why this film made this slot.
Since movie number four Pokemon movies have had a terrible trend of having a prologue explaining what Pokemon are and how the universe works. Considering parents of Pokemon obsessed children must have some idea, the explanation is ultimately a pointless time killer. In the version of the film I saw this part was cut out (hurray). As a result there is no opening song either, although it seems to be part of the original Japanese version. A very minor, insignificant change includes just having “Zoroark: Master of Illusions” as the title without a big, obnoxious Pokemon sign overwhelming the screen.
Given that the film was made in 2010 the animation is solid, but not as impressive as some later Pokemon film. The area it falls down is the character designs. The character designs for the Pokemon series and film have been more or less the same throughout the series and film run (gosh, Sayuri Ichiishi, Toshiya Yamada and co must be exhausted). Additional talent like Kazuaki Mohri (Robot Carnival) and Tokuhiro Matsubara, the character designer for the prequel to Pokemon movie Genesect and the Legend Awakened are also responsible for the character designs for this film. While the villains had decent character designs a few of the side characters like Karl, Joe and Tammy look a little more ridiculous with off-model eyes and stretched, elongated faces. An adorable, purple haired girl named Peg is also part of the film but sadly has about fifteen seconds of screen time. The lighting effects are solid. The locations were based around multiple regions of the Netherlands in Europe, which are very nice to look at!
Hideki Sonoda who has written the majority, if not all the screenplays for the Pokemon films returns here. Since the story is directly linked with english speaking Zorua and its search for its mother, it allows us to sympathize with a small, black and red Pokemon that may have otherwise been an annoying waste of screen time. The fact it is not legendary Pokemon either is a breath of fresh air. The evil plot behind Grings Kodai links back into the story of Pokemon 4ever as well, which is an interesting Easter egg. Not only that, but he is a far more interesting, well-rounded, believable character than the guy in 4Ever. He is a manipulative, obviously cunning man who is a successful businessman. I see narcissism written all over this. Flashbacks are given as to his motivations. There’s also some background story to the second villain Rowena, who works with Kodai.
Shinji Miyazaki had done all the soundtracks to the Pokemon films and is no disappointment here. Like all the films, the score allows us to feel mood in the right places. If nothing else, his compositions give an extra level of entertainment when what is happening on-screen fails. In the English version there was no opening song, but the ending song “I Believe in You” by Erin Bowman is decent. It has cheesy, simple lyrics with Disney-esque themes to it, but what Pokemon song doesn’t? It is a pleasant acoustic track. Bowman’s vocals are nice to listen to, and a welcome contrast to the majority of Pokemon theme songs sung by men.
The PUSA/TPCi dub has received lots of criticism for a good reason. I would urge viewers to try find a foreign language version of the film if possible. Now that Veronica Taylor is gone I prefer the French portrayal of Ash by Aurélien Ringelheim (Scrubs). He has played Ash (Sasha) in the Sunstudio version from the beginning and manages to balance youthful energy with a laid back seriousness. His voice is deep enough that Ash comes across as more mature for his age, which makes the character more bearable too. Sarah Natochenny brings a deeper voice to Ash. Even though its nice to think he is getting older, her delivery sounds very forced at times, like she is trying too hard to keep the “Ash voice”. Bill Rogers is the biggest offender as Brock. The voice doesn’t fit and the delivery, like Sarah’s also comes across as forced. Thankfully the other characters such as Dawn and the villains are pleasant to the ear and sound natural, possibly because they were not cast as sound-a-likes. Eileen Stevens, who voices Iris in the Black and White Pokemon series, has not put an overly high-pitched voice for Zorua. It is listenable, which is an achievement for a small Pokemon.
Zoroark: The Master of Illusions is a sweet film which combines a touching theme of family, blood pumping action scenes, a chance for the legendary dogs and Celebi to have a second chance at swaying viewers, and some interesting villains.
5. Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)
Movie Number: 10
Pokemon Season: 1st Movie of Diamond and Pearl
Ash’s Companions: Dawn and Brock
Like most other films, this one opens with an introduction to the Pokemon world. It is well animated and visually pleasant, even if the material could be fast forwarded. The film opens with an exploration of one of the side characters, Tonio, as he observes a rift in the space-time balance through some gadgets in a room. The two legendaries of the film, Dialga and Palkia are fighting in an alternate dimension. They control time and space respectively. Pokemon’s ideas for legendaries may be getting redundant, repetitive and more extravagant over the years but a science fiction idea of time and space is an unusual and interesting premise to base a Pokemon film on. Dialga and Palkia are very mechanical-looking dragon Pokemon with heavy armor. They do not have the most eye-pleasing design but the film makes them look beautiful with its blend of fluid 3D, 2D animation and lighting effects. It certainly looks less obvious and out-of-place compared to the scenes of Ash running through the Venice-esque city in Pokemon Heroes.
Ash, Brock and Dawn find Alamos town to enter the Pokemon contest. Along the way they meet Alice. Through her Ash and his companions encounter Darkrai. Next to Pokemon Heroes, Darkrai has some of the most impressive animation in terms of location design and artwork. It also has a lot of location spots in common with Heroes. While Heroes had the tower of Alto Mare, Darkrai has the Time-Space tower: a beautiful, symmetrical tower that shares aesthetic components of balance and harmony. The color composition is pleasant to look at throughout most of the film. Despite a lot of wonderfully animated fight scenes, Heroes is still the most visually unique due to its design being based off the blending, green pastel colors and architecture of Venice. The character designs are by the same team who have done the majority of the other films, and look consistent with the Pokemon style of characters. Alice in particular is well designed.
The main side character of Heroes, Bianca showed Ash and co her garden. A similar, nicely animated garden is presented in Darkrai. A few similar locations seem to feature in this film but where Darkrai exceeds compared to Hereos is the detail placed into its side characters. Bianca in Heroes comes off as flat and uninteresting as we are not presented with any personality characteristics besides the fact she shares a relationship with Latios and Latias. Alice, as deep as Pokemon characters go, is given flashbacks as to her past and links of her heritage. These link directly into Darkrai as well, giving him a bit more of a character then simply “Oh, here’s this Pokemon. He has such and such ability”. The film does not involve much of a villain which is a refreshing change. Team Rocket hardly play a role, but don’t get in the way either.
The plot of the film, like most, is fairly straightforward although not as repetitive as the other films are in terms of villains motives. Palkia and Dialga, whom feature on the covers of the Diamond and Pearl Pokemon games do not have much of a role besides fighting each other, but their fight is enthralling to watch. Darkrai, being the title character, is more the focus here. He is the Pokemon of nightmares and Ash’s first encounters with him involve being sucked into one -- trippy, yes? This feature of Darkrai gives the film a darker tone to earlier movies, even if it does not match The First Movie. Similar to Pokemon 2000, Dialga and Palkia’s fighting causes harmful effects on Alamos Town (and presumably, the world at large if it is not stopped). It is also resolved with the power of music, although not for the same reason, kind of reminiscent of the ending to the anime Mai Otome (2005). One of the Pokemon reaches a similar fate to Celebi in Pokemon 4Ever. While it is not incredibly moving it isn’t as rushed as Pokemon 4Ever so doesn’t come across as melodramatic or overdone.
The soundtrack is very hit and miss. The theme song “We Will Be Heroes” is performed by John Loeffler in this movie. Sadly the original version by Kristen Price is a lot better, as her voice fits the pop style and her performance has more energy. It would have been nice if they changed the tempo and style of the song to fit the rough tone and limited vocal range of Loeffler. For once it does not occur when Ash is having a Pokemon battle. The background music is impressive with piano tracks creating mood when needed. The mixture of orchestra ensemble with bells and chimes creates the beautiful Oracion which plays in full from the Space Time Tower. Overall the soundtrack is not as memorable as Heroes although the closing track makes up for it. For the English release the ending song is either “Where the Lost Ones Go” by Sarah Brightman and Christ Thompson, or “I Will Always Remember You” by Kristen Price. This is a rare time where some big name artists have been used for the songs. Considering how awful Brock sounds in the english dub I would recommend a foreign language version. That being said, Alice and Tonia are well cast and pleasant to the listen to.
The Rise of Darkrai has similar elements to previous Pokemon films but executes them in a more interesting, solid fashion. The effort made on the insert songs and strong orchestra track allows the film to feel more than just an extra long episode and the inclusion of Darkrai himself -- a Pokemon of nightmares, gives the film a different tone as well. It is similar to the third movie, the Spell of the Unown with a focus on dreams, although the characters are more than just a plot device… even if just by a bit. The combination of its gorgeous animation, pretty music, so-so-story and most importantly, solid characters grants it this spot at #5.
4. Jirachi: Wish Maker (2003)
Movie Number: 6
Pokemon Season: 1st Movie of Advanced Generation
Ash’s Companions: May, Max and Brock.
There are a number of Pokemon films which include a small, “cute” (debatable) legendary Pokemon. Jirachi in this film, beats the small Pokemon in Pokemon and the Ranger of the Sea and Giratina and the Sky Warrior simply because it doesn’t cry like a newborn baby throughout the majority of the film -- go away Manaphy and Shaymin. In fact, much like Mew, Celebi, Zorua and Victini (from Pokemon White/Black) the film gets points for having a “token cute Pokemon” which doesn’t make me feel like I’m getting a case of prenatal depression.
Sadly this film starts with a preview of the Pokemon universe even if it does use different animation. What it does not contain which is different to every other film so far is an opening song. Instead, we are treated to an orchestra piece while a wonderful animation of the theme park the movie is based around is put to use. It sounds simple but when you watch 15 Pokemon movies it can be very easy to roll your eyes and say “Right, I’ve seen this before”. I highly recommend against watching all the Pokemon movies for this reason.
The animation for Jirachi Wish Maker stands out from other films mostly because of its effective color composition. Pokemon Hereos has a lot of pastel blue and green. This film’s location, like Heroes and Zoroark, is based off a real location -- Wulingyuan in China. Maybe to match Ash and May’s hat, as well as the yellow of Jirachi a lot of red, yellow and orange was included in this film because of this setting. It matches the red and gold national emblem and flag, too. Colour composition aside the fight scenes are fluid, colorful and intense. The 3D animation blends in very well with the 2D animation. A highlight is a fiery, fake Groudon which has a rough, glowing texture like hot coals. Many viewers were disappointed that a real Groudon did not appear in the film (hey, I think it did in the introduction), however, that would defeat the point of the two-part episodes in the Advanced Generation series “Gaining Groudon” and “The Scuffle of Legends”. It was also very pleasant to see May’s craftily designed souvenir have some significance to the story.
In terms of the soundtrack the orchestra score fits in very nicely with scenes and adds emotional impact when it is needed. This is one of the last films, if not the last which includes the original 4Kids voice cast for the english dub, so hurray. Presuming you were an original fan of this cast you don’t have to worry about finding an alternate language track for the film. A big change for the movies was the inclusion of a half translated ending song. “Chiisaki Mono” by Asuca Hayashi and “Make a Wish” by Cindy Mizelle were combined together. The verses alternate between English and Japanese which is a refreshing change for the Pokemon films. That being said, I also watched the french version of this movie and was very happy that Jirachi was voiced by a child, instead of an adult putting on a high-pitched voice. It made Jirachi a lot more adorable to watch.
The villain and conflict with the legendary Pokemon, Jirachi: Wish Maker very closely follows the second act of Pokemon 4Ever. The small legendary Pokemon is used to control another more powerful, intimidating looking creature. There are many reasons that Jirachi’s execution of this idea exceeds the one of 4Ever. Firstly, the villain behind the attack has a lot more sympathetic, interesting qualities in Jirachi. He appears more like a well-rounded person as he started off in the film with different intentions. More than this, his intentions change again throughout the course of the film. The blending of the 3D and 3D animation is a thousand times better in this film and it is a lot more suspenseful as the creature in Jirachi is capable of causing grave damage to the surrounding environment. This section of the film also doesn’t last for nearly as long, which is far more realistic and reassuring to watch. The process in which Jirachi falls under control of the villain is also much more logical and believable than the cheap ploy used to turn Celebi evil in Pokemon 4Ever.
The spotlight is lead off Ash for this film. Most would agree this is a pleasant change. For someone who dearly hates Max with a passion I was surprised how much I enjoyed Jirachi: Wish Maker. He gained my sympathy in the episode “Do You Hear a Ralts?”, and this movie follows a similar storyline to that episode. There are themes of moving on, change and loss, as both May, Max and Ash reflect back on the past and the important relationships in their lives. There is not much to the story, but the relationship between the two side characters is what makes the film stand above the others. The villains Butler and Diane are more than what meets the eye as well. Their intentions flip back and forth a couple of times throughout the movie, making them more interesting than your average side character in Pokemon films. For a pretty film with touching themes, Jirachi Wish Maker is worth a watch.
3. Genesect and the Legend Awakened (2013)
Movie Number: 16
Pokemon Season: 3rd Movie of Best Wishes
Ash’s Companions: Iris and Cilian
As someone who had not seen a single episode of Black & White when I watched this, I did not expect it to be ranked this high. It was so far down the line of films, how could it be good? From the very first moment I was hooked on the story and my attention only wavered close to the end. Compared to all the other films Genesect does a lot of things differently. For the first time since movie number four we have a scene at the beginning which isn’t just an introduction to the world of Pokemon. Don’t get excited, it appears after the five-minute segment, but it is an improvement never the less. We are introduced to a machine like Pokemon called Genesect, a very angry and confused group of Pokemon who catch the attention of Mewtwo. I don’t want to spoil the story too much but it shares similar themes to Pokemon: The First Movie while also introducing one more of its own: the desire to belong and find your place in the world. It was the 10th highest grossing film in Japan that year. That’s saying something for a Pokemon movie.
The animation is a step above everything we have seen from Pokemon thus far. It is quality enough to be on par with most other anime film. The biggest improvement over some previous Pokemon films is the color composition. For example, in Lucario: Mystery of Mew and Destiny Deoxys, there are many scenes where the colors in the frame clash and it does not make for an aesthetically pleasing image. Here, there are greens, blues and yellows in scenes with gardens and blues, browns and blacks in indoor scenes. It may seem insignificant but its these small details which make a difference to the overall image. The 3D animated sections also blend perfectly with the 2D animation. It was difficult to tell where 3D animation was used except for lighting effects for Pokemon attacks, which look beautiful, almost like something from a Makoto Shinkai movie. The backgrounds are beautifully detailed. Highlights include the garden with lily flowers and the city the characters find themselves in: New Tork City. Guess which city it was based off? The rich flashing colors of billboards and lights was based off Times Sqaure. As a result the fight scenes are amazing. Besides Pokemon Hereos and Rise of Darkrai this film has the most beautiful backgrounds, artwork and visual appeal.
The soundtrack is also strong. The opening song by Neal Coomer and Kathryn Raio “It’s Always You and Me” has pleasant vocals and is simply an elongated version of the original version. The ending song “We’re Coming Home” by Jess Domain is also an extension of the television song. It is not nearly as catchy but it is passable. The new dub for Pokemon is not too bad here as Brock is not part of the picture, although those who have not adjusted to Sarah’s performance of Ash should seek out a foreign language version of this film, whether it’s Japanese, French or German with English subtitles.
The strongest characters are the ones introduced in the film which is how it should be -- we already know enough about Ash and his friends. It is worth noting that the Mewtwo in this movie is not the same as the one from Mewtwo Strikes Back -- for one, it’s female. Since this takes place in the Black & White series Ash’s companions are Iris and Cilian. I am not very familiar with them myself and did not have any strong feelings towards them either way. Ash doesn’t act like a total idiot in this either. Team Rocket doesn’t play much of a role but they also don’t take up much screen time doing pointless things which is good. The film ends on a touching note without being overly melodramatic so stands above a good number of previous Pokemon films because of this.
With beautiful animation, a pleasant soundtrack, memorable characters and solid execution, Genesect and the Legend Awakened is a great film for Pokemon fans, especially if you’re curious or skeptical about the direction the films are going.
2. The Power of One (1999)
Movie Number: 2
Pokemon Season: Orange Islands
Ash’s Companions: Misty and Tracey
I’ll admit that I saw this film for my 8th birthday in the cinema so it holds a special place in my heart, however, I have also seen it numerous times over the years. There are elements about The Power of One that set it apart from the ones that come after, even if these are simple changes. This film takes place in the Orange Islands and revolves around the Legendary Birds from Kanto, and Lugia from Johto. The mixture of these four legendary Pokemon is linked in very nicely with the story. There isn’t a prologue explaining Pokemon in this one which is a relief. The opening song also doesn’t coincide with a Pokemon battle which is nice to see.
The animation is decent. The 3D animation that was integrated with Lawrence’s ship was nicely designed even if it did not blend incredibly well with the 2D animation. The interior of his flying machine has the most impressive background and design art of the entire film. The lighting effects with the crystals are lovely to watch and the colors are often shades of blue and green, with the setting of ocean and snow. The fluidity of the battle scenes and detail in the backgrounds does not match Genesect and the Legend Awakened, but it still stands up in time. The character designs do not seem stylistically out-of-place and the bright colors which are very much in tune with the theme of the ocean, blend nicely. All in all its a pleasant movie to look at.
The soundtrack is one of the strongest elements, once you discount the average insert songs. The film version of “Pokemon World” sounds almost like hip hop with synthesizer pop music which doesn’t make it a song you could listen to on its own. The ending songs are far more memorable. Big name artists were utilized for the soundtrack in tracks like “The Power of One” and “Flying without Wings” which, although cheesy are nicely sung. Lugia’s song, played by Melody on her flute is memorable and beautiful. There hasn’t been anything like it in a Pokemon film to date. The closest would be the main theme from Darkrai. The only flaw in the english dub would be Eric Rath’s (Its Complicated) performance as Lugia. He sounds very Godlike, and it is very cheesy -- although this was probably the point of his character.
The story element which becomes to be repetitive in Pokemon from this film onwards is the inclusion of a legend about Legendary Pokemon… who would have thought? At least here, unlike most of the other films there is a prophecy. In true Pokemon fashion it revolves around the hero, Ash Ketchum and integrated into the ancient inscription with a play on words. When I was 8 years old I took the prophecy very literally so was just as surprised as the rest of the cast when the true meaning of the legend is brought to light at the end of the second act, although to most adults it is easier to spot and a lot more predictable. The moment where Ash realizes he has to take on this responsibility is difficult for him, and it is touching to watch him struggle with something he is usually does on instinct. The villain is very straightforward and wants to collect Pokemon rather than take over the world, which is a nice change compared to nearly every other Pokemon movie villain. He does not contain much character development which puts him a step below the other villains in Pokemon films.
However, there are things that the Power of One has that other Pokemon films don’t. For once, Team Rocket plays a role in helping Ash achieve his goal becoming the good guys for about thirty minutes. This is refreshing to see and humorous, especially when a light sex joke is brought into the writing. This made my mum laugh. There was also a clever change of Team Rocket’s motto “Prepare for more trouble than you’ve ever seen. Make it double we’re on the big screen” and Ash replies “I gotta catch this on video!”. It was a nice addition to the film even though it may make viewers cringe. It makes the movie feel less like an extra long episode of the series.
The main side character, Melody, becomes Misty’s rival and pokes fun at Misty for her obvious infatuation with Ash. She may not be a complicated character but she is the catalyst for some entertaining character chemistry. There are lots of nice lines for Ash and Misty shippers which made the film more emotional and humorous than average. Ash’s mum and the crew from Pallet town, even Brock are brought into the film as well. It was nice to have all the characters together again. My Mum especially appreciated the inclusion of the adult characters. They add a pleasant contrast to the simple mindedness of Ash.
The Power of One may not be as visually impressive as recent Pokemon endeavors but the soundtrack is excellent, characters likable and memorable, and the story fun without being too melodramatic (except for Ash). Highly recommended to all Pokemon fans.
1. Pokemon: The First Movie (1998)
Movie Number: 1
Pokemon Season: Kanto League
Ash’s Companions: Misty and Brock
I am not trying to sound like a nostalgia junkie for putting Mewtwo Strikes Back at number one, but even after watching the later Pokemon movies this one has the most interesting story elements and unique aesthetics.
It is worth noting that since this film came out in 1998 that even on a clean DVD the colors are a lot duller than other films. As you can see in the image above, lots of blacks are used for shading. Don’t be fooled, the animation is fluid and looks wonderful and fluid in the fight scenes. The use, or rather, lack of color adds to the dark atmosphere that parades this Pokemon movie, very similar to the atmosphere of Kawajiri films. The background art and animation does not stand up as high as later renditions, like many of the titles listed earlier in this article. It isn’t as detailed. The beautiful, symmetrical design of the New Island Tower adds to the atmosphere. The colors blend nicely and are aesthetically pleasing.
For the first scene, the shortened version of the “Origin of Mewtwo” provides something different to the fourth film onwards. Instead of giving a prologue similar to the start of the Pokemon games, we are thrown into the middle of a sequence which describes information about our villain Pokemon legendary: Mewtwo. It gives depth to the character which otherwise wouldn’t be there. The original trio Ash, Misty and Brock are introduced as the opening credit sequence is placed in the middle of a Pokemon battle -- a trend that many Pokemon films follow, but this one stands above others due to its strong opening number. Billy Crawford has strong vocals, even if it sounds similar to Jesse McCartney. The song was just lifted from the television show. Since this movie had a soundtrack released along it well-known pop singers (at least, at the time) were utilized to provide the songs, which adds to a cinematic experience. The ending songs contain tracks by Christina Alguilera and M2M. The insert song during the big fight scene “Brother my Brother” by Blessed Union of Souls is beautiful, Pokemon or not. The musical score is also very memorable, most notably in the laboratory and some of the last scenes. This is the original dub, obviously, and it is fabulous. Some have found Mew to be annoying, though.
The side characters are not given a great deal of screen time, which is good considering they were not awfully interesting. Story wise this film does not integrate any ideas of legends, as Mewtwo was created in a laboratory. This sets it apart from the other films that follow it. Since Mewtwo talks and is also the villain makes it interesting too. The idea of Pokemon clones, and their character designs were appropriately creepy. Mewtwo points out a lot of flaws with the Pokemon universe in general, kind of like Team Plasma in the Black and White series, leading to one of the most moving moments in Pokemon history along with an engrossing, although somewhat confusing message.
During a big fight near the three-quarter mark of the film Brock says that “These Pokemon look like they’re ready to fight to the death” and Ash decides this isn’t right. Pokemon deaths or near deaths are visible in the Pokemon films although here Ash takes his stupidity to a whole new level: running in the middle of a crossfire of Pokemon attacks. This very act of rebellion has been criticized extensively. Pokemon fight all the time although for some reason it isn’t right in this movie? It seems like the difference is the intentions behind the fighting. The creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri intended Pokemon to not die during fights as this was too violent. Fighting to the death is not right, is what the film seems to be saying, although that message is not much better. Frankly, all kids know fighting isn’t great but Pokemon is like competing for fun. It may be a flawed idea but it was still interesting to explore in this movie. It is a bit stupid but hey, it’s Pokemon.
Anyone who has seen the movie knows the emotional scene that follows, but the reason it works is the film’s extensive use of silence and suspense. The tension gradually builds. There is a long minute of denial where the characters try to comprehend the situation, instead of jumping to conclusions and believing a character may be dead, which is both unnecessary and unbelievable. The emotional moment ends with the summary of the most powerful, logical message of the film.
Before Mewtwo wipes leaves with his clones, he says “The circumstances of ones birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are” -- a very wise, Dumbledore-like message. Obviously, psychology may argue the nature versus nurture but this message is still an important one. It also allows Mewtwo to grow as a character. He turns good again, and wipes the characters memory’s before he leaves. Another complaint of the film is the fact it ends this way. It undoes everything the characters fought for and learned. How would the television show be different if it followed this story? Ash would certainly think more before he acts and grow. He wouldn’t keep running into crossfires every chance he gets and act the hero. Alas, we learned in the Black & White series that Ash is still 10 years old even though he should be 16. Stupid continuity.
Mewtwo Strikes Back, may be old, but the visual designs and aesthetic stands up, even if it is incredibly dark and grim compared to later film. The soundtrack is one of the strongest to date, the characters undergo some temporary character development and the film attempts to tackle themes which are more logically explored in the Black & White games and series. This aside, it is an enjoyable and emotional journey which is worth watching for any Pokemon fan.
For those who are interested in seeking out the runner-ups Pokemon Hereos is the most visually unique, Pokemon 4Ever, despite some flaws, adds some cannon to the Pokemon universe and Lucario and the Mystery of Mew has an interesting story and is a popular one. Kyurem and the Sword of Justice and Pokemon White are not extraordinary but they are entertaining. It is worth considering these for viewing if their legendaries or particular story elements attract your attention. They nearly all got the same score so it was a matter of elimination to avoid a tie. When two or more similar ideas were presented I asked: which one executed this idea better?
Pokemon films won’t change the world, but the ones listed above provide all the things we love about Pokemon -- great fights, wonderful songs, a variety of lovable characters and an all-round enjoyable experience. They may go on forever (or until the staff die), but hopefully they’ll be more gems within the sea of Pokemon. Whether you’re an old fan who gave up on the series long ago or someone just getting into Pokemon, it is a nice use of an afternoon, or even many nights, to absorb some Pokemon goodness into your life. The good thing is the stories are stand alone so you don’t need much, if any, background on the characters to jump in.
No doubt, everyone has their favorite and I may not have covered it here. How do you rank your Pokemon films?
What do you think? Leave a comment.