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Welcome back to another issue of Movie Critics! Despite Smogon going down, we're still here to provide you our thoughts on how the Pokémon movies were. This time, we will be looking at the first two 'real' Hoenn movies—Jirachi: Wish Maker and Destiny Deoxys.
Sadly, jumpluff has left Smogon's taskforce—she's still around, but no longer contributing. As such, she will no longer be writing for this panel. Our new main panel will be the same, just without jumpluff—myself, Jellicent, Kadew and Layell, represented by Salamence, Jellicent, Breloom, and Sneasel, respectively, and discussing the same topics they did last issue. Mack the Knife will be the guest for this issue, represented by the clearly inferior Hitmonlee, and discussing dialogue and characters as a whole.
As per usual, this article will contain spoilers about the movies I mentioned previously, so if you wish to watch those movies at any point in the near future, and you do not yet have it spoiled for you, perhaps watching those movies before reading this article will be of benefit. On with the show!
At this point in reviewing the films I've learned to sleep when I'm not hearing giant explosions, and I almost missed it when Team Rocket gets unceremoniously blasted away by Dusclops and Pikachu 15 minutes in the film. That lasted a minute. It takes another 15 minutes for Absol to come and decide there has not been enough blood yet. I would agree with him on this one. I love how Jirachi teleports both Pikachu and Torchic away just as they start fighting. There just can't be more than a minute of fighting, can there? This cascade of boringness even causes Absol to fall asleep. It's really pathetic that the editors break out the epic battle music during the road trip; the riveting guitar solo pops up while their van is stuck in mud and skipping stones in a pond. This is not right; I demand better of you, movie!
Of course it was all saved for the grand finale against the giant fake Groudon. We even have two Hoenn dragons—Flygon and Salamence—here to toss out Hyper Beams every turn! I actually don't like the fake Groudon; it is big but it seems unfair because it's not the real thing. It seems more like a Godzilla film, which isn't necessarily a bad thing since that is my favorite type of Japanese film. Flygon's and Salamence's attacks, as great as they are, don't seem to do a thing against the mighty beast. Then just to make it worse the grabbing tentacles come out from the spikes to grab the little children, and this becomes my second favorite type of Japanese film. Butler decides then that this film has become too gross and does a giant magic trick with Jirachi to make the plot point disappear, which works, and everything goes back to normal. The end!
Thankfully this movie doesn't have a couple half-villains, but a singular bad guy who does it all. The Great Butler, as he called himself, is probably one of the better villains I've discussed so far. While Mewtwo had his good scores for what he had done, Butler was the first successful villain. He did manage to summon as close to Groudon as is probably possible, and to be fair, I'm sure Team Magma, once they figured out how to control it, would have chosen the fear-inducing, Pokémon absorbing beast that Butler summoned. Sadly, he immediately decided this was not what he wanted, so he teamed up with the guys who ruined him in the first place to reverse the process. I don't really understand him, but he has a Salamence, so he has to be cool.
Ah, Jirachi: Direct-to-Video Maker. This movie's visuals, I would say, are more marked by a lack of stand-outs than a lack of quality. There are a lot of basic scenes, with only one or two moments of "WOW that looks stunning."
The Millennium Festival was bright and gaudy, but wasn't really anything special. Since everything is always bright and colorful, it all just turns to noise at some point. It did, though, provide a nice contrast when the lights went out and all that was left was the dark blues and silvers of the night and the comet in the sky. Past that, everything is just very average until the one big shebang. Honorable mention shout out to Diana's flashback: the hazy orange atmosphere and shadows were very fitting to a memory of someone before they went bad, and it broke their standard road trip somewhat.
The one standout of this movie, the visual that raises the rest of the show up, was the big nightmare Groudon monstrosity. That Groudon, that terrible horrible fiend, a magnificent bed-wettening abomination! Everything else was almost worth it for this. It's enormous, it's intimidating, it's dark and burning and looks out of place only as a nightmare from beyond and not as a computer-generated element. I'll even excuse the random tentacles of sludge, as they just add to the inherit wrongness that this thing represents. Its design is perfectly fitting for the role it plays, a wish gone terribly wrong, and at the end when it starts to melt and break apart it is just, ach, I love it! It puts Celebi's twigfiend to shame.
(Bonus points for being Breloom and Bananasaur's anime debut)
Usually, I like to take this time to point out the various flaws of Pokémon's go-to hero, Ash. In Wish Maker, however, Max is the central character. Thankfully, he fills the role of idiotic male lead perfectly. The movie starts off with the gang going to see a shooting star and a magic show. During the show, Max hears a voice calling to him from a rock. Most people would shrug off something seemingly magical occurring during a magician's act, but Max takes the opportunity to do a one-man bumrush of the stage in an effort to start up conversation with a rock. As it turns out, Jirachi is inside of it and wants to be best friends with Max. Out of anyone in the audience... Max... sounds weird at first, but when you realize Jirachi has the mental awareness of a two-year-old, it kinda clicks.
Max soon receives the opportunity to wish for anything he wants. He opts for lots of candy, which, while admittedly wasteful, seems innocent enough. Jirachi literally fills their trailer with stolen cheese and crackers (not even real candy, sheesh), much to the delight of our hero. A few days of playful mischief turn into a few days of whiny indignancy. Eventually, Max turns to Ash for life advice (cuz that's always a great idea and all). There's a sudden epic air battle, followed by a tentacle-porn-like monster, and then the gang sends Jirachi off with the worst musical scene in film history. I don't know what I watched either, man.
Unlike the next movie me and my cohorts shall review, this film actually has some depth. I'm not saying it's on par with actual movies released in the theater, but it's not bad at all for an animated children's film made for TV. Ash isn't too dumb, and actually gives some decent advice. Brock doesn't do anything, but he doesn't really let the film down either. The two siblings, Max and May, show some depth and love for each other and Jirachi. Butler is a character I found to be a fun and over-the-top villain. Diane, however, I found a bit bland, but harmless, nonetheless (she was way better than almost every character combined in Destiny Deoxys).
The dialogue wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anything special either. However, I did really like Butler's fun and sometimes zany speeches and you can tell the voice actor (at least for the dubbed version) was having fun. Best quote: "They're stuck in a dark place with impending doom and no way out. That sounds like my life." This is possibly the only joke from Meowth, in the entire series of Pokémon, that legitimately made me laugh. Worst quote: "Wobbuffet!" This derp is only in this film for 5 seconds, but it was long enough to make me cringe.
And we're back to Ash! As the movie starts out, we find Ash accidentally staggering onto a moving sidewalk and attempting desperately to race his way back to his friends. At any point he could have taken a step to the right and slid back with ease, but instead he's dead-set on giving it the treadmill treatment. Eventually, he fails hard enough that a Blaziken is sent in to save him. Later, after traumatizing a small child with an innate fear of Pokémon, Ash deems them friends and decides he'll force Pokémon onto the kid in some weird desensitization ploy. If you think something like arachnophobia is bad, imagine being Poképhobic in the Pokémon world. Basically, every animal, some plants, and the occasional rock could make you cry in fear. Ash's solution to that problem: surround you with mice until you like it.
Quite notably, Ash's platforming skills haven't improved by the end of the film. He jumps on floating cubes in a weird, Mario-like fashion in an effort to get to and turn off an evil robot with his passport. Despite making it to the robot, he drops his passport like a schmuck. Tory throws his own passport to Ash, but the fool misses the catch. Pikachu has to plunge to his possible demise in order to flick the passport back up to our hero. Third time's a charm. As for Tory himself, fear of death outweighs fear of Pokémon and he eventually comes around. Don't go thinking that makes Ash a great psychiatrist, though. Keep in mind, after sending that kid into a fit of fear, Ash gets accidentally knocked over and is immediately ready to pound the shit out of the lad. Thankfully, other people swooped in to stop him. What a guy!
Contrary to Lady Salamence's assessment of this movie, there IS a terrible, irrevocably evil villain whose machinations are the backdrop to this entire conflict. See, what came from space carrying Deoxys was a 3D VIRUS that would quickly spread to epidemic proportions. As the infomercial of an introduction showed, there have always been isolated instances of 3D virus among some Pokémon species, but nothing yet on this scale.
After the introduction of the 3D meteor to the environment, Deoxys, patient zero in this whole mess, rises to begin its malignant spread, but Rayquaza, our protector and champion, defeats the threat for a time, through 3D infected Ice and Hyper Beams.
Unfortunately, four years later, the virulent strain is brought back by a newly regenerated Deoxys! It breaks through the (very 3D) ice to travel and meet the other 3D meteor, which is its friend, but the friend is also a CGI sparkle vortex. Rayquaza comes back to finish the job, but it, too, catches the 3D virus in the midst of fighting a swarm of Deoxys clones. Then, their fight triggers an enormous outbreak of 3disease in the city, manifested as an enormous quantity of cube primitives. It washes as a wave over the city, crushing all in its extra-dimensional revolution. And then the power of friendship or something saves the day, I dunno.
Basically: lots of animation shortcuts, uninspiring locale ("futuristic city" that looks like a typical cityscape in most of the shots), and a highly regulated technological police state.
Destiny Deoxys's characters are paper thin and uninteresting. Ash is an idiot. Brock is a borderline rapist (think what Adrien Brody did to Halle Berry at the Oscars x1000). May's only signs of emotion are embarrassment and confusion. Max is... I don't even know, but he's creepy as hell. Tory's defining characteristics are a fear of Pokémon and being friends with a floating aura thing that turns out to be Deoxys. Don't worry though, his lifelong fear is conquered in a 5 minute montage, which is ridiculously stupid.
The dialogue in this film mostly consists of panting, grunts, and yells. However, when the characters are actually speaking, they're just repeating what we just saw 5 seconds ago. The most interesting character (and certainly the least annoying) is Deoxys, due to it having no dialogue whatsoever. All in all, the dialogue was terrible. Best quote: "Fire the laser!" That was the only part of the movie that made me laugh. It may have been unintentional, but this is a pretty good quote, and yes, lasers were fired. Worst quote: "Give me a hamburger!" That was said by Jessie, who then proceeds to rub her butt on a computer screen.
While it may seem, on a simple level, that it's easy to peg the villain role on Rayquaza and Deoxys, this is not the case if you look deeper. Yes, Rayquaza was wrong to leave his throne to exact revenge on the so-called invaders, but if you were a king, would you be content to destroy only the invaders that attack your country, and leave them be when they run in fear, at the weakest they've ever been? I would give chase, for sure. Deoxys also can't be pinned as the unquestionable bad guy, because while he did cause unnecessary damage for seemingly no reason—causing the water to go crazy and scaring many Murkrow off in that particular scene comes immediately to mind—he was simply looking for his friend / lifelong partner.
Now let's talk about who I think is the real bad guy in this movie. Technology. While technology is a great thing, and allows publications such as The Smog to exist where without technology, it wouldn't, the technology in this movie is for sure a step in the wrong direction. Once you find yourself in the case of a disaster and no way out of it because the only feasible way to get out is with an electronic card that has its master system down, you've gone too far. People got far too lazy—I distinctively recall May complaining she'd never take escalators for granted but she was in the city for a couple of days at the best! Now imagine the people who actually live there? It's a surprise some of them are in shape like Professor Lund and Tory, and not some Nintendo version of the humans in Wall-E.
All in all, the technology shouldn't have completely replaced any other way of getting around the city. Also, to end this off, why in the world, when the system went into overdrive, were the police powerless against it? It seems silly to have to swipe your passport when the machine is floating quite a bit up in the air, and blocks are flooding the street worse than the Mississippi River overflowing. Nintendo, technology is OP, please nerf.
This film does a good job of answering an important question: how do you get two powerful beings to begin a battle against each other? The answer provided here is to shoot one as a meteor straight at the other. This works rather well, as Rayquaza is not particularly happy about the broken airspace. A white-haired kid is about to get clubbed by rampaging seals too, which would have changed the tide in Canada's seal clubbing war. Rayquaza just begins banging on Deoxys and it is fantastic, with no Ash to get in the way, no Team Rocket. Just fighting, and the researchers want no part of it of course. Too bad all good things must come to an end where Rayquaza gives a direct critical hit Hyper Beam right to Deoxys's face.
Well there's the end of the film, I didn't even get to finish my popcorn!
Four years later in the present there is a 'hilarious' mix-up where Ash gets into a 2-on-2 fight teamed up with the white-haired kid who is now completely afraid of any Pokémon. A Blastoise and Blaziken completely demolish Ash's Pikachu and Torkoal with Rapid Spin and Overheat. I will never figure out how Rapid Spin got such a buff. After fun and games, Deoxys remembers it's the feature of this film and it begins fighting with Rayquaza and now works to destroy public property as well! Long story short Ash and company run away and revive the other Deoxys, but not before the Tetris invasion begins! The blocks begin to completely flood the entire city. Seriously, how many of these cute blocks are there? It all ends with the great team-up and a key card, then everyone becomes friends forever and ever!!! Geez, it takes a special sort of film to end with more Pokémon being revived than being destroyed.
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