Movie Critics - The Panel: Blue Times Two

By Lady Salamence, Jellicent, Layell, and skylight. Art by Bummer.
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Welcome back to yet another installment of Movie Critics: The Panel! In this panel, as usual, we discuss aspects of the Pokémon Movies, with our highly professional staff—myself, Jellicent, Layell, and Kadew. Sadly, Kadew is missing in action, so she won't be participating this issue. We'll be discussing our normal topics as usual: I will chat about bad guys, Jellicent will insult the protagonist, Layell will complain about the lack of fights, and our special guest, skylight, will be discussing... friendship. Either way, we're represented by Salamence, Jellicent, Sneasel, and Emboar, respectively.

As per usual, this will be chock-full of spoilers, so if you wish to watch the movies without it being ruined for you, watch them before reading this. Oh, I forgot to mention the movies we're discussing! We're going to review Lucario & The Mystery of Mew and Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea. Enjoy!

Lucario & The Mystery of Mew

Why is there no bad guy? This is getting annoying. Mew kidnaps Meowth and Pikachu for fun and games so Ash and co go to some tree to find them, getting swallowed up by white blood cells along the way. Meanwhile, Lucario is on about some crap aura that Ash has. At the end of the movie, they naturally save Pikachu and Meowth and Lucario makes some sort of self-sacrifice to save everyone. Bah, humbug.

Friendship was a huge theme throughout this movie. Through Mew playing around and having fun with Pikachu early on, they became friends. Thanks to this friendship, Pikachu then felt compelled to help stop the Weavile from tagging Mew. Lucario's friendship with Sir Aaron centuries ago also allowed it to have a palace to stay in years later. The same can be said for the current Princess—if Lucario had not been friends with Sir Aaron (who was good friends with the Queen at the time) centuries ago then Lucario might not have volunteered to help Ash find Pikachu.

Ash also mentions that Pikachu and Ash are best friends, rather than Ash being his master which foreshadows Lucario later realizing Sir Aaron is his friend (and locked him away to protect him), rather than just his master. In the movie they also made reference to how Pikachu and Ash became best friends at the start of the anime, and how their friendship has helped them get this far. Lucario also questions whether Pikachu ran away from Ash but Ash's friendship with Pikachu over the last few years (although Ash never ages) assured him that Pikachu would never do anything like that.

Despite all this, the most noteworthy part of friendship was that Sir Aaron sacrificed himself for the lives of those who lived around the tree of beginnings, and that he put Lucario in the staff so that Lucario wouldn't risk his life, too. Without the power of friendship neither would've risked their lives for their friends, or the forest, which was the main lesson to learn from the movie in regards to friendship. It shows that at times of need, some people (and Pokémon) are worth risking your life for, and both Lucario and Sir Aaron would do it again, to protect the lives of those they care about.

Our story begins with an inspiring male voiced narrator taking us into the ancient past, which probably means we aren't going to be seeing very much of it at all. But at least there is war, and truly the only war Pokémon has ever truly been about: Red Version versus Green Version. The original Japanese games are going to all-out war so that they can prove their superiority over one another. Lucario, being a blue anthropomorphic creature, decides having a war is a bad idea and runs around being attacked by both sides. He contacts his furry friend Sonic the Hedgehog (or at least his old voice actor) and is blinded. With the war beginning, Sonic decides to spin-dash his way to the tree of life to activate a Treus-Ex-Machina. Then all of a sudden we are reading from a storybook with a completely different narrator; there isn't any consistency at all! But after the intro credits the standard narrator returns.

After a quick dress-up, we get our intro song battle where Pikachu actually shocks a Breloom to death. Then a knight with a Weavile decides to show a Tropius it doesn't need that 4x weakness and just Shadow Balls it to death. It starts getting really montage-y here but essentially Ash beats said knight and their Weavile in the finals. Oh but it's a girl actually because girls have to be like May and wear really dumb puffy dresses.

Basically knight girl Kidd sends her two Weavile to tag Mew, which has decided it doesn't want to hang around any more trees/islands/trucks near the port and more with Pikachu and the gang. Icy Wind gets freeze chances now and always freezes. Meanwhile Lucario unfreezes from crystal rod purgatory and gets some big post-traumatic stress disorder. Essentially this results in Pikachu and Meowth disappearing with Mew (yay!) and Lucario facing the biggest antagonist of the film, his own self-doubt about Sonic the Hedgehog. So one boring travel sequence later we get to the tree of life and the Regi's decide it's time to invade a film that already has more than enough featured Pokémon. Jessie and James get attacked by tentacle gel monsters that sprout from the rocks and I don't know why. At least something in these films have decided Team Rocket serve no purpose. Glowing gems that turn into tentacle abductors that sometimes look like Pokémon are all we have really for combat here. When the Regi's invade, they essentially just run the other way. Ok so there isn't much combat here at this point either. Ash and Lucario believe in the aura as it is the true way; just remember kids, buy the new Pokémon games as well as all the toys!

I'm actually afraid somebody has spliced the final conversation with Lucario and his master to make it a shipping conversation between Lucario and Sonic the Hedgehog. It exists somewhere out there on the internet.

May the aura be with you.

As the movie starts off, we find Ash actually winning a tournament with Pikachu. It's a surprisingly good first impression of our protagonist, though that fades a bit as we watch him struggle to sit in a quiet and dignified manner. While Pikachu is being adorably kidnapped by Mew, Ash accidentally summons Lucario, who mistakes him for an actual hero. Lucario learns the truth and struggles with inner turmoil; Ash takes this opportunity to attempt to sneak up on the Pokémon, though Lucario goes ninja on him and slams his ass into the ground. No fool messes with Lucario.

As the gang sets off to rescue Pikachu, they briefly wonder if Ash can control aura. Their van then hits a bump and Ash slams his head on the ceiling, answering that question with ease. While you're supposed to feel like Ash really misses his Pokémon, it's kind of hard to buy it at time. "You know, Max, I just can't stop thinking about Pikachu," he proclaims while relaxing in a hot spring with his friends. Lucario calls him out on his half-hearted attempts, causing Ash to try to fistfight the Pokémon. You can guess how that goes. When Ash finally does see Pikachu again, you can see he really cares; you can also see he doesn't really think. He jumps from one sideways pillar to the next in a gust storm, almost losing both his and Pikachu's lives. Luckily, their new hyper-acrobatic friend Kidd appears out of nowhere with a grappling hook just in time to save them. Can we get a Pokémon movie without a deus ex machina?

Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea

Friendship is a central theme for most Pokémon movies, but even the title gave away that friendship would be extremely important in this movie. Pokémon Rangers can't do much without obtaining the trust of wild Pokémon around them through capturing them and becoming friends for a temporary time. This was especially relevant when Jacky, the Pokémon Ranger, used Mantine's and Fearow's powers to help him escape Captain Phantom and get the Manaphy egg back from Fearow. The power of friendship also helped save Manaphy from Captain Phantom. Everyone banded together to protect the egg, and through Ash's new friendship with Jacky he was able to fool Captain Phantom temporarily, helping the Manaphy egg find its way to its future mother, May.

May's friendship with Manaphy also meant that Manaphy was willing to go to huge depths to find May's bandana, which she would have lost without the power of friendship. Ash's gang also helped out those trying to save the sea crown and through their friendship, Manaphy was protected. Ash also risked his life for Manaphy's home, and to ensure May's survival, too. Both May and Ash would have died without Ash taking the risk, and without May believing in Ash, he wouldn't have been able to put the ice rock back in its place. What's to be learned from this movie is that without friendship, the temple of the sea would be lost and that if you believe in your friends they can really do anything they put their mind to.

Max got the dirty treatment when he was the hero, so it's only fair to take on May in her lead role. As the film begins, we find the gang in the desert for some reason, about ready to die from thirst. Max asks for some water, so May gives him a canteen, telling him not to drink it all. There's only two drops left however, and when Max drinks them, May flips out. Get ready for an emotional roller coaster, everyone. They suddenly find a traveling water circus (seriously, this film just started and there's already a deus ex machina) that takes them in. A Manaphy egg accidentally hatches and the baby imprints on May; she takes the job of "mom" very seriously for a good night or two.It doesn't take much convincing to get her to throw her child into the sea, though...

Local ranger Jack Walker scolds May for babying Manaphy too much, so May pulls a complete 180 and stops all contact with the little baby. It then goes into a depression for a while and everyone feels sad. When May loses her bandana, Manaphy chases after it, leading to a strange series of events that plops most of the major characters (including the bad pirate dude, Captain Phantom) directly into the sea temple Samiya. Phantom starts stealing crystals, which causes the temple to start flooding and sinking for some reason. Realizing May has yet to do anything this whole movie, Ash just locks her in a pod with Pikachu and Manaphy so he can just be heroic unimpeded. He successfully saves the day, and when Phantom reappears to steal Manaphy, it's revealed that he gained super powers in the process. Yeah, not looking like we'll get a Pokémon movie without a deus ex machina any time soon...

There are two types of films in this series, those that fulfill their promise of action, and those that do not.

Here is how you bring promise to a film: have a group of crazy evil pirates with more technology than necessary for whatever bit of plunder that they desire. Sadly, their leader Phantom is capable of anything it seems. Once the Manaphy Egg is caught the dashing Pokémon Ranger decides that humans can be awesome in Pokémon films and escapes. There is some good comedy here with Jack Walker and his escapades, proving that all the grunts truly have no real career prospects. We then cut to Ash and company walking aimlessly, like they always do. So they end up joining a circus on its tour and I press fast forward because this doesn't look like the kind of circus where lions end up attacking the clown car. Basically, the next big action scene is another chase with the Pokémon Pirate and Pokémon Ranger. This is the only Pokémon film so far where the humans have done much more than the Pokémon. Even Max displays some competency with stopping the pirates from assaulting his sister. The next chase is within the trailer versus the pirates in their helicopters. You heard that right—pirates carry out their mission for glory and plunder on helicopters. The middle half of this film is basically a mini vacation, so if we cut down the film to only action scenes we'd have a regular anime episode worth of content.

The lack of battles so far has been quite pathetic; Phantom himself has no notable powerhouses. He has a Chatot that is always with him, as well as a Pinsir and Parasect. His second in command uses a Beedrill. There was so much more potential here for pirate-themed Pokémon but we never get it.

The ending is essentially Titanic where Ash allows May to escape with Manaphy while he puts in the last magic crystal. I suppose this is action too because there is a lot of running and swimming. Instead of drowning like we'd all hope he'd do, Ash turns Super Saiyan, Kyogre decides it wants more screen time than Groudon got in its film, and every water Pokémon in the world teams up on Phantom. Happy ending.

Ah! Here we have the stereotypical bad guy of Pokémon—he should have won, but his sub-par employees screw it up for him. Seriously, they act like college dropouts; they're only in for the money. Something goes wrong? Let me just stand here and stare. Also, that Ranger is on steroids or something with the way he jumps. Oh, and if you thought the pirate was all husky and stuff, nope. He's wearing a power-suit. I'll give him props though, having a machine that can instantly give any Pokémon nearby a headache and make them confused is pretty cool. Too bad he was power-hungry and didn't know how to deal with the Ranger in the last "fight" scene.

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