This year marks a lot of anniversaries and one of the big ones celebrated back in February was the 20th anniversary of Pokémon. Now I haven’t made this clear in the past, but I love Pokémon. As a child in the 1990’s, I was surrounded by the stuff, I had the games, watched the Anime, I brought the trading cards and I went to see all the movies in the cinemas, bar number 3, and all the ones that went beyond that never got a UK cinema release. For something that was a big part of my life, I felt I could net let something like this go past without commemorating it and even considered doing a retrospective where I reviewed all the Pokémon movies, however, other reviewers have done that anyway and I don’t think I would be able to add anything new to it, since my opinions on the films seem to echo everyone elses; or at least everyone who is in the fandom. Also, the other problem is that I don’t have much to say about the other Pokémon movies. The big problem is that once you get past number 4, the others are actually kind of just there, nothing about them really feels big or cinematic in fact, if anything, they often feel like extended episodes and none of them feel that memorable, with the exception of Movie 8, Luccario and the Mystery of Mew, which I thought was a pretty good film, aside from the twist ending which I thought was a bit forced and didn’t close the story in the best way possible. The first 4 are the ones that stick in the minds of most fans since we have queued up for ages to see them in the cinemas, sometimes going on opening weekends just to get that rare trading card, so as such, I will give my brief thoughts on the first 4 movies:
First movie, is really memorable, had some great animation, the film score is fantastic and it feels more than just an extended episode, giving us some real high stakes. What’s wrong with it? The villain can be quite hypocritical, the plot is actually kind of stupid when you stop and think about it and full of tons of plot holes and the anti-fighting message was just down right stupid and flew in the face of what Pokémon is.
Second movie, arguably is even better. It fixes a lot of the problems, though it still does that ‘the chosen one plot’ that even by that time was getting tiresome and old and something that really needs to die, but again, what is with the anti-collecting message. The slogan of the show is ‘gotta catch em all’, oh and a zero villain that has absolutely no presence whatsoever.
Third movie, easily the best of the bunch, it’s one of the few times I would say it’s a genuinely good movie, and I still think, to this day, it’s a really good movie to watch as it gives us an interesting idea of how Pokémon can affect a little girl with PTSD, and Entei is probably one of the best antagonists in Pokémon history simply by the fact that he is not that much of a villain. I just love it.
Fourth movie, sucks, it’s basically just a rip-off of Princes Mononoke with a terrible villain, and the CG animation is awful.
All that aside, with this latest Pokémon available to buy on Blu Ray and it being technically a new release for this year, I can review it and I want to know if this one is good.
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages takes place during the X and Y story arc, but don’t worry, if you have not been up to date with them, Pokémon is so episodic that you won’t need to have watched the series to know what is going on, in fact you will only need it for basic knowledge of the individual characters. I haven’t watched that much of X and Y, simply because, after we got to about the 4th of 5th season, it was very clear that Ash was never going to win a tournament again and that the show was never going to evolve. If you want proper story telling in a Pokémon setting, get the Pokémon Adventures Manga, they are actually pretty good. Hoopa and the Clash of Ages deals with the legendary Pokémon Hoopa, who one day, takes Ash, Pikachu, Serena, Clemont and Bonnie, to a city in the dessert where they meet up with Hoopa’s caretakers Baraz and Mire. Hoopa was a legendary Pokémon who had his power confined to a bottle, after he became egotistical and started challenging legendary Pokémon to battles and their family has been guarding it and trying to raise it to be a more sensible and well-adjusted Pokémon, however, its darker side has started to take on a form of its own and its now heading for an all-out clash with both sides summoning legendary Pokémon from almost every era of Pokémon. With a promise like that, this sounds like a fan boys dream, it really isn’t. Yes, I am of the opinion that this is one of the weaker Pokémon movies and it’s a shame because I really wanted something much better. With the Anime being nearly 20 years old you would think the show would have evolved by now, but these movies have really gotten to a stage where they completely feel like studio mandates and there has to be at least one movie every season.
This is not helped by the film’s time length, the film is only 75 minutes long, including credits and it’s really not enough time to give us a decent story line. In fact, it’s got a lot of problems that the shows had over the years, but it feels like in this confined space, they are being exacerbated. The dialogue is very exposition heavy, most of the characters don’t have much of a personality, even the new film only characters and unlike many of the other films, it really doesn’t feel like there is much pay off to the big battle. That’s mainly because the other films at least gave us a decent arc for at least one character, this one doesn’t even have that really. I suppose Hoopa gets a bit of a character arc but he is not that interesting. He is meant to be a Genie-like Pokémon since this is meant to be a part of the world of Pokémon similar to Egypt and Arabia, ignoring the fact that there has already been a wish granting Genie Pokémon introduced before this! It also feels a bit of a plot hole considering that the Unova region, which is where this season of Pokémon is taking place, was meant to be modelled on France, which means the setting feels incredibly out of place. It’s just a really boring plot! The problem is that is has not real sense of urgency, it has an idea for a big climatic battle between several legendary Pokémon on different sides, but it doesn’t really have a way to get us there. One comment I heard a lot about Batman V Superman which I reviewed earlier this year was that the actual fight between Batman and Superman was really good, but they hadn’t created a decent plot to get us up to that point and there wasn’t really a good reason for them to be fighting, now while I kind of disputed that as I said in my review, that is pretty much how I felt about the big climatic fight in this film. The actual clash between the legendary Pokémon is amazing, and it’s a treat for Pokémon fans, even if it does feel like that one friend of yours that caught all the legendary Pokémon and then would only ever use them in battle which meant you could beat him easily because you bothered to train your Pokémon, but it’s all still really good, it’s a shame then that it’s also a very passive experience, which is not something I really want to say about a Pokémon movie.
It really doesn’t feel like there is much heart and passion put into it. The film has been directed by Kunihiko Yuyama who has been a long time executive director of the Pokémon franchise, and I don’t think a lot of the current problems with the Pokémon anime can be laid down to its localisation. The plot is clearly kind of flawed and I don’t believe this will satisfy Pokémon fans, especially considering this is the most recent DVD and Blu Ray release. I think the biggest problem with the plot is the main characters. Ash feels like he really has little to no reason to be in this film and it also seems rather weird that he can just get legendary Pokémon on his side and that they are completely willing to work with him. Also the way they get the legendary Pokémon to appear is really a sense of ‘the plot demands it, so they are there’ type scenario. It’s just all really dull and I don’t like saying that about a Pokémon film because there has been a lot of really good Pokémon stuff in recent memory and this feels like a massive step backwards.
As expected, I saw the film in the English dub, I have not experienced seeing the film in its sub-title version, nor do I have much experience watching Pokémon in sub-titles, so I was going to watch the dub anyway, however sub purists may be disappointed to find out that the Blu Ray version that I watched does not have to option to swap to the Japanese language, you have to watch the dub and if you don’t like the Pokémon’s dub, well you are out of luck. The original Pokémon dub may have been a bit ropey at times and made a few censorship changes that I can’t fully agree with, but I think there was a charm to it that is really missing with this current dub cast. That is especially in the casting of Team Rocket who are played by Michelle Knotz and James Carter Cathcart who dual roles both James and Meowth. There is nothing too wrong with their performances, but they don’t sound too right for the roles, especially to my ear, someone who watched the Anime, way back in the day. I don’t have much of a complaint with the dub cast in the roles other that those, although I will say that Lori Phillips laugh in the role of Hoopa got annoying real fast. Sara Natochene is trying really hard to be Ash but Veronica Taylor, she aint!!
If there is one thing I can praise this new Pokémon movie for, it’s the animation. The animation is very good and it’s actually one of the few anime I have seen in recent memory that has a good mix of 3D and 2D animation. There is no real downside to the animation, plus the film has to do a lot of Pokémon and it does it really well and it feels like an upgrade from the shows animation, helping to give more of a movie vibe. That’s really all I can say about that.
The soundtrack is awful. We get terrible songs during the opening and closing credits, and the iconic Pokémon theme, which has been re-done for the show at the point this film was premiering at is nowhere to be found. What a shame, I was looking forward to that. The closing credit song is alright, but it is not brilliant, although closing credit songs on Pokémon films do feel usually out of place, unless they are specifically written for the film, like Tomorrow Will Come, from the 3rd movie or the Power of One by Donna Summer for the 2nd film.
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is a film that has a really good fight scene and that’s about it. It’s not a brilliant Pokémon film and in the words of Linkara I love Pokémon, I am willing to allow a lot with these movies, but this film really needed to give me a reason to care for why this battle of several legendary Pokémon was going on, and it didn’t really give me that. The whole film’s like a passive experience to an already waning anime and it’s not helped by the fact that there are other options for Pokémon fans that are doing a better job. I’d say that Pokémon fans should check it out just for the battle scene and it’s the one reason that I can’t bring myself to hate this film, or say it’s going to be on my worst of the year list, but it’s not one of my favourite Pokémon movies, in fact I actually think this is one of the weaker films in the catalogue.
If you love Pokémon, but feel the Anime is going downhill, just go on YouTube and watch Pokémon Generations, they are several episodes in at this point and they are really good, the episodes are only 5 minutes long, but they get a lot done in that short space of time and they feel like a big celebration of 20 years of the franchise and if you feel a need to really have something on your shelf to celebrate the 20 year anniversary, well then get the original movie trilogy box set that’s just been released on DVD and Blu Ray because those films may have their issues but at least they’re memorable
No mini reviews this week since I wrote this prior to going on Holiday but do come back on December 16th when I’ll be giving my rather late review of Harry Potter spin off Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Thanks for reading this review and if you’ll excuse me I just got Pokémon Sun and Moon and an afternoon free.
Calvin – Nerd ConsultantShare This Post: