Natalie & Cassie Ramble About The Entire Pokémon Movie Series

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From the bonds of friendship and the power of GREEN! A project 26 weeks in the making!

Introduction – Natalie Version

The Pokémon anime series is something that I fell out of favor with as I entered my teens. I never got used to the new voice cast, I felt like the series was gearing a bit too young and my overall interest in the Pokémon franchise was at an all-time low. So I just stopped paying attention to it around the time the second season of Diamond and Pearl began. Which is a shame, as I had a deep passion for the series from ages… 3 to 12.

As such, I decided to revisit it with Natalie.TF reader and my close friend, Cassandra Wright. But rather than watch entire seasons and tolerate the fluff emblematic of a TV anime series that needs to last several years, we decided to just watch all 24 Pokémon movies instead… Along with the two specials, Mewtwo Returns and The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon.

Originally, this was just a fun way to hang out with her… but then Cassie suggested that we write reviews of each movie, and I immediately agreed, but changed it into a Ramble… even though these basically evolved into full-on film reviews over time. Oops!

Also, there will naturally be spoilers for all films. I figured that would go without saying, but Cassie insisted that I mention it.

Introduction – Cassie Version

Hi! I’m Cassie! This might be a bit of a weird place to introduce myself but it is the first time I have spoken on Nigma Bo— …Natalie.TF!

As mentioned before, I am a friend of Natalie’s and a reader of Natalie.TF and have had a few mentions before. Unlike her, I am not a writer and am more than aware of my own biases, such as being fussy over the quality of what I watch such as resolution or audio. However this girl is more than capable of giving her thoughts on things!

The Pokémon Franchise is something I was introduced to by television, something that for me meant that it was devoid of any kind of organization such that I spent most of my life only vaguely aware that there was a storyline to it. This means that my relationship was like most other series at the time, where my enjoyment from a story viewpoint was limited and instead relying on the content in front of me. I would watch the various episodes aired on British television till the end of the Sinnoh region, where the changing of the characters and cast left me uninterested in continuing further.

A few years back I attempted an A to Z watch through of Diamond and Pearl and got as far as Galactic Battles before I got distracted and was unable to continue. I have also watched some movies before, these being 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, and 18. This was the origin of this exercise as I wanted to share Zoroark – Master of Illusions with Natalie as it is one of my favorite films. After finishing the movie while I was exclaiming my passion for the previous three, we simply decided to watch ALL of them! I have no clue where the idea to review each of these came from, but it’ll make for a good time!

We are choosing to watch these in order, with the exception of 13 which started this. Starting with 1 to 2, 3 etc. Naturally, there will be spoilers.

You have been DOUBLE warned so we won’t be hearin’ no complaints from y’all now!

Movie 01 – Mewtwo Strikes Back

Official Synopsis:
The adventure explodes into action with the debut of Mewtwo, a bio-engineered Pokémon created from the DNA of Mew, one of the rarest Pokémon of all. After escaping from the lab where it was created, Mewtwo is determined to prove its own superiority. It lures a number of talented Trainers into a Pokémon battle like never before—and of course, Ash and his friends are happy to accept the challenge!

Ash’s excitement turns to fear and anger when Mewtwo reveals its plan for domination, creating powerful clones of our heroes’ Pokémon so it can even the “imbalance” between Pokémon and their Trainers. Despite Ash’s protests, Mewtwo refuses to believe that Pokémon and people can be friends. But faced with the determination and loyalty of a young Trainer, Mewtwo just might have to reconsider…especially when pitted against the power of the mysterious Mew!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Mewtwo Strikes Back is one of those deeply nostalgic things for me that I know I could never truly hate. But it is also something I have not seen in a good twenty years outside of references, parodies, and criticisms that fixated too much on the negatives and faults. So going into it, I was a bit worried that the film was a bit of a mess. That it would not hold up as well as I thought it would and that it had elements that simply do not work as a full and complete story. Which is… at least somewhat true.

The secondary prologue, depicting Mewtwo’s origin, is a bit too abridged for its own good, feeling like the remnant of a far larger narrative. It is hindered by a lack of tissue between actions or explanations of Mewtwo’s views on destiny or purpose. There are also a lot of odd elements, such as Mewtwo’s elaborate castle, the cryptic behavior of Mew, and the decision to use a Nurse Joy as a servant instead of, say, Amber from the first prologue.

However to fixate on these faults is to ignore the rest of the film. As a whole, Mewtwo Strikes Back is an enticing adventure story filled with harrowing actions, excellent world design, and memorable scenes that have ingrained themselves in my mind for 20+ years. Plus, the animation holds up pretty damn well for a franchise feature film. It also has a slightly clumsy but well intentioned message about how violence, hurting others, and trying to express one’s superiority are ultimately bad things. Which is sadly a bit neutered by the exact language used in the English dub, and was misread by people trying to find things to complain about.

It can be saccharin and silly in others, but I think this, combined with how earnest the entire production is, explains why specifically this film resonated with so many people, and why it is still a fun watch even now.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back… Is that title a Star Wars reference? The key the scientists needed to clone Pokémon was amber, like Jurassic Park… So many references!

I came into this movie expecting an old, clumsy mess of a thing with poor quality. I got about half of that and I am pleased with what I watched. The movie started off like a fever dream with it’s introduction of Mewtwo as an augmented clone of Mew, skipping from the laboratory environment to a dreamscape with a small girl named Amber. She, Mewtwo, and 3 other Pokémon fly and explore the world via this dream state before dying off one by one lastly followed by Amber. This causes Mewtwo to become empowered, presumably by psychically absorbing the deaths of the other 4 clones. This is the last time Amber is seen or mentioned and sets the weird unusual tone for the movie.

The movie is, as expected for a 1998 production, quite ‘dated’ in terms of appearance lacking the usual clean/smooth look of modern anime. However this does not detract away from what are exceptional visuals, from the scenery to the effects. This record is unfortunately ruined by some awkward looking things such as parallax not being understood or Pokémon not appearing like they properly walk on the floor. The movie was not subtle in trying to establish its moral ‘Everyone is alike’ and ‘Fighting is pointless’ during the attack of the clones. I know at a younger age I would’ve also been irked by it slightly however I did like some parts in how it portrayed this. The battle of Mews was very cool with the black murder orbs of death and I want one for myself and the battle of Meowths served to best establish its message on conflict that I was a bit teary.

The death of Ash as a turning point is however weird and I personally think Amber’s clonesoul coming back to do the same job and saying some last words to Mewtwo would have been a much better ending. This would’ve given the earlier mentionings of Amber a greater purpose as well as being a better reason for Mewtwo to realize their wrongs. Amber is an otherwise somewhat underutilized character and the moment is ever so somewhat abrupt in execution. Although the scene with the tears converging on Ash and the group of Pokémon flying away are both visually impressive.

Overall a 7.5/10 for me. This movie has flaws but succeeds in what it needs to do and brings it home well. There are strange points in the story and it is an older title but neither of these stopped someone like me from having a good time.

Movie 02 – The Power of One

Official Synopsis:
Ash and his friends are on their journey through the Orange Islands—but even this seemingly quiet chain of islands dotted throughout the waters far south of Kanto has its own mysteries, adventures, and Legendary Pokémon! Lawrence III certainly knows it, which is why he’s now traveling to the different islands and capturing the three Legendary birds—Moltres, Articuno, and Zapdos. But even with all their power, those three are merely a stepping stone to an even greater prize: Lugia, the guardian of the sea!

Of course, Ash is completely unaware of all this when he arrives at his latest destination. The islanders have big plans for him, too, but nothing so sinister—they want him to take part in a ceremony to gather three elemental balls from different islands. When the weather across the world goes out of control, this task takes on a new importance, as the capture of the Legendary birds has thrown the environment out of balance. With Lugia’s help, can Ash be the “chosen one” that everyone turns to?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Something that I think is unique to the first few movies is that they were largely creator driven affairs that did not need to adhere to a set of super strict marketing guidelines. Heck, the main Pokémon of this film, Lugia, was never even intended to be a real Pokémon, and was a creation of the film’s writer, Takeshi Shudo, first and foremost. As for what they decided to do with this freedom, the creative team chose to create a world-ending disaster-action movie, a genre particularly common during the late 90s, and… they did an amazing job.

The plethoric quantities of intense boat action, while a bit disconnected from the whole Pokémon thing, as a visual spectacle. The flying castle of the antagonist is a dazzling display of late 90s computer generated graphics that manages to blend 2D and 3D animation in a way genuinely ahead of its time. And despite taking place largely on a bunch of islands, half of which are covered in snow, the film is home to no shortage of genuinely impressive displays of both environmental design and fluid animation. I do not believe the $30 million budget that is thrown around on aggregate sites, but it is clear that they put far more money into this title compared to the first movie, and it shows.

As for the actual story… things do definitely take a step back from the first movie. Instead of being a heady story that one could assign a lot of parallels to, one that uses metaphor to show the futility of conflict, the overall themes are weirdly inverted. Instead, the story is all about preserving the natural order of the world as mankind tries to defy it. A single chosen hero who is destined to save the world from disaster. And a natural guardian who similarly exists to protect the world, or die trying.

You could say the same thing about a lot of hero’s journey narratives, but here it feels especially unnecessary, given the fact that Ash is a natural hero who does not need a destiny to embolden him. And the more one thinks about it, the more… arbitrary the whole quartet of legendary birds seem to be

However, focusing more on the text rather than the subtext, it is a very tightly constructed sequence of scenes. It makes good use of its cast, particularly with Team Rocket’s subplot. Cool or enticing things are almost always happening. And it all has a clear and deliberate vision of what it wants to be, which was not always the case for the first film.

In conclusion, I remember being 5-years-old, and thinking this movie is the best thing ever. 23 years later, I would not use those words, but there are few animated films that manage to cram this much fun and spectacle into such a compact runtime. Would definitely watch again, and should definitely be considered one of the best Pokémon movies.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Pokémon: The Power of BOTE!

The story of the greatest nautical family in a journey to save the world.

No seriously, this movie is boat paradise. They do so much here, from surviving raging storms to tsunami waves into BACKFLIPPING onto a beach like it is NOTHING.

The same boat then continues to be sailed via these storm winds across an island and up a mountain as well as being beaten down by multiple legendary Pokémon. Even in death, this bote’s life raft— its son— plays a role in this grand quest. With Team Rocket using it like a gosh darned hovercraft over an ice age landscape and across an entire volcano island and tunnel system, all to ferry Ash to his destination.

There is nothing like these botes! The star legendary of this film takes less punishment and does less cool things. I have no idea why but I am all for this boat-action.

The story of this movie is great, there are all but two complaints I have for it which is incredibly good compared to the plot-hole riddled things that are Star Wars or Jurassic Park. The motives of the ‘villain’ are lacking and he is relatively absent and the significance of the “Chosen One”, who the movie makes sure we are aware of by constantly dropping two lines of ‘prophecy’. I harked on this in the last movie but even when I was young I could get much more subtle messages. This and the entire Slowking character could’ve been easily cut. Ash’s significance as the chosen one is also somewhat questionable, putting aside the sacrifices made by ocean-going vehicles. It is other characters who push forward the plot, Ash simply serves as a uniting conduit for what is ultimately a 3 stage fetch quest of bootleg dragon balls.

Speaking of characters, I would like to personally give a shout-out to Melody who absolutely rocks the balls off in the film. She shows so much personality that she is believable as an individual. She starts off acting flirtatious and picks Ash as the festival actor of the ‘Chosen One’ because she initially just seems interested in him, teasing the one-dimensional Misty for her own crush. Once Ash leaves to fulfill his given quest in a dreadful storm, Melody takes her own boat to rescue him, clearly realizing the consequences of her actions, during which she begins actively supporting Misty in her crush. The attitude of Melody is an absolute charm when she wants to be and only adds more to a character who so actively contributes positively to the plot progression of the movie in a way very few other movies in my limited repertoire could hope to attain.

The visuals of this movie are stunning for 1999, rivaling and excelling The Vision of Escaflowne which I had already considered to be exceptional for it’s release two years later in 2001. From the turbulent waves to the stunning shots of hundreds of Pokémon, each individually hand drawn, to the scenes of the legendaries flying together at the end. This movie has attention to detail in excess with its display of damaged machinery, destroyed rock surfaces and other various terrain. The acoustics did not overly stand out to me, but fit the appropriate scenes and certainly add to them in a fashion worth their inclusion. The effort into the soundpack was not misplaced and while it does not astound me, it soars far above average.

This movie is an 8.5/10 for me. It is almost flawless in its execution. Most characters are well written and likable. The visuals amaze and the acoustics achieve. It is sadly let down by some minor plot quibbles, a selection of bad characters, and a somewhat redundant villain.

Movie 03 – The Spell of the Unown

Official Synopsis:
A crystal catastrophe is unleashed upon Greenfield, and Ash, Pikachu, and friends must figure out how to undo the damage to the once-beautiful town. But the unthinkable happens when Ash’s mom is kidnapped by the powerful Entei, a Pokémon thought to have existed only in legend. Now Ash must go to her rescue, uncertain of what he’ll uncover when he unlocks the real secret power behind the unbelievable turn of events: a young girl whose dream world is being turned into a nightmarish reality by the mysterious and unstoppable Unown!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
…Remember what I said in the last review about how the first few movies felt super creator driven? Yeah, well, the problem with that is sometimes a creator, even when they are seasoned and experienced, has an idea… but just does not know how to bring it to life. Which is precisely the core problem with The Spell of the Unown. It has some utterly gorgeous imagery with its crystalized castle and fauna, the sound design and score can be absolutely excellent in places, and the final fight scene with Charizard and Entei was genuinely cool.

As a story however? …There’s really next to nothing here. The movie lacks any clear or concise theme, nobody really grows, and there is not really a tangible threat that needs to be defeated or reformed. The true legendary of this movie, the Unown, are more akin to a force of nature rather than any character, and their actions are only ever done in service for the wafer thin plot. Which really does not amount to much more than storming a castle, saving a princess, fighting the dragon lion dog protecting her, and escaping the castle, before getting sidetracked in a final battle that… is barely even a battle.

It lacks any deeper philosophical or moral messaging from the first film. Is devoid of the sense of adventurer from the second. And feels so inconsequential that I am left baffled as to why this film was made, or what it was trying to accomplish. Which, for the record, is the worst impression a movie can leave me with.

Heck, it even manages to forget what I think is the heart of any film centering around a child entering a fantasy world. A moral, theme, or message related to childhood and growing up.

The central child character, the 5-year-old Molly, learns nothing through her journey. She does not learn how to live without her parents or father. She does not learn a lesson about needing to face reality and not immerse herself in fantasy. She does not even learn to get over the implied death of her mother… because her mother appears in a post-credit scene, and the film was just misleading viewers into thinking that her mother was dead? Why? I don’t know.

In conclusion, we should have just watched Pikachu & Pichu instead.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
What a weird movie. I’m not even sure what to say about this one.

The entirety of it felt like a mediocre ‘watching to get through it to the next part’ episode in a TV series you like and you just sorta zone out cuz it doest grab your interest. And after the last two movies, it is more noticeable than ever.

The movie initially sets itself out by introducing the… Daughter character who I forgot the name of, oh jeez this doesn’t seem good does it? As said the character loses her father and no mother figure is present. Continuing on as the Unknown Unown fuel her dreams now coming to life with their power. Ah wait, her name is Molly, anyway..

As the landscape is desecrated by the oncoming crystal-ice devastation the larger cast and world interact with the ‘weird events’. Bringing a weird context as the movie after a GLOBAL DISASTER acts as if legendary Pokémon are not real or well-known. We literally had the entire world watching 4 legendary Pokémon battle it out as a climate disaster is oncoming but now big doggo is mysterious. This is a weird turn.

This movie fails to properly utilize any of its introduced characters, with Lisa, being introduced at the start not even coming close to the prevalence of Melody, her older sister or her boat in contribution to the ongoing plot. I have to ask what the addition of new characters to a movie does when they are simply not used. There are another 4 to 5 at Oak’s lab who share similar problems.

The progression of this movie is weird, and very vertical, as the main characters climb up 4 or 5 physics defying staircases in various dreamscapes where not much truly occurs. Entei is established as somewhat of a ‘villain’ as he carries out Molly’s childlike wishes with little care to damage they may cause, such as stealing Ash’s mom to be Molly’s now. Leading to an emotional scene as a grieving child coddles their ‘mama’ with exceptionally weird undertones.

The end result being a fight between Charizard and Entei, an amazing fight sequence with beautifully choreographed music and impressive visuals typical of Pokémon movies so far. No complaints there. The movie begins to round off this arc with the resolution of Molly realizing she can’t hold onto fantasy dreams and chooses to let go of them. Providing the biggest character development in the movie, only to be immediately destroyed by both her real father and mother appearing during the credits. Nothing mattered!

Yet I can still say I would rewatch this movie, it is inoffensive to the ears and is a perfect movie for a group viewing. Spell of the Unown fades into the background in a way that allows one to talk over and socialize during it or simply go about your household chores occasionally copping a glance at the more interesting scenes. This movie is a 5/10. It is just as confused and all over the place as I feel my review is here. The music is exceptional, the visuals impressive but it falls into mundane, dare I say boring during multiple points of its runtime. It simply fails to achieve what is needed.

Special 01 – Mewtwo Returns

Official Synopsis:
The Team Rocket leader, Giovanni, has found Mewtwo in a remote area of the Johto region. As Giovanni tries to re-capture Mewtwo, Ash and his friends are kidnapped by Domino, a new Team Rocket member, while trying to rescue Pikachu from Jessie and James. The Clone Pokémon are also captured and are then used as bait for Mewtwo. The situation then becomes a battle between the wills of Mewtwo and Giovanni; and Mewtwo also tries to discover if it and the clones have a purpose in life, even though they are products of science.

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Well, that sure was a direct to video movie!

The decision to make a sequel to Mewtwo Strikes Back is by no means a bad idea, as the character of Mewtwo and the concept of cloned Pokémon is a compelling one. However, a sequel would necessitate a very different story that would explore ideas that might be a bit too heavy and philosophical for the audience of the Pokémon anime circa 2000. So instead, they made a sequel that backtracks and restates things, while achieving precious little in the process. What do I mean by that? Well, let me just offer a full synopsis.

At its core, the story is about Mewtwo and the cloned Pokémon from the end of MSB finding refuge in a remote island located at the top of an isolated mountain. Despite having a safe home, he still feels uneasy about his role in the world as a clone, as he apparently forgot the message of the first movie. That the circumstances of one’s birth do not matter and clone or not, we are all living beings who call this world home.

While deliberating such things, Giovanni and Team Rocket enact their revenge and attack Mewtwo’s isolated island. Despite the fact that Mewtwo and his clone army are both willing to fight the opposition and capable of destroying them with ease, Mewtwo is nevertheless captured and the island is seized. By seized, I mean Team Rocket starts building a lab on the island within… a few hours. But with Mewtwo and the clone Pokémon imprisoned, and Team Rocket dumping pollutants into the water, an army of THOUSANDS of bug Pokémon raid the place. Everything explodes, all the imprisoned Pokémon are freed, and Mewtwo uses his powers to destroy the island before erasing Team Rocket’s memories and teleporting them back to their base. Which is awfully generous for a Pokémon who has killed dozens of people.

After surviving this second attack, Mewtwo and the clone Pokémon fly off into the horizon yet again, this time separating from their makeshift family to live with non-clone Pokémon. For they have re-learned that it does not matter if one is a clone, as Pokémon are all Pokémon.

Or in other words, nothing is accomplished, and unlike the first movie, which at least had good scenes and imagery, this movie… has a TV special budget. There are some slight highlights, such as the clone Pikachu advocating for war. Mewtwo’s physical form gets nightmarishly distorted by the power of electromagnetism. The assault of the bug army on the island was a visual highlight. And there is a new antagonist, Domino the Black Tulip, is… I’ll let Cassie gush about her on my behalf. Instead, I will instead say she deserves her own movie, and all she got was this.

When not focused on the main story, the special gets distracted by side plots regarding the actual location of the film, Purity Canyon. A canyon that is home to treacherous weather conditions, despite the fact that nothing about its geography would imply that, and this plot point is forgotten halfway through. The actual important part is the fact that it has pure rejuvenating water. Something that is simultaneously framed as a sort of ‘fountain of life.’ A vaguely veiled message about environmentalism and protecting the natural world from humans and tourism. And acts as the entire purpose of two supporting characters who easily could have been condensed into one… or just removed entirely.

Normally I like to say that if A, B, or C were changed, a story could be made better, or express utter confusion at what the creators were doing. But with Mewtwo Returns… the basic idea is fine, but everything about the storyline here just does not work. It is a downright badly constructed story.

However, Cassie and I had fun railing on it, highlighting how certain scenes were utterly pointless, and asking questions such as ‘why did the clone Pokémon build a jail for humans?’ It is bad, but it also is not the boring kind of bad. It is the poorly constructed yet entertaining kind of bad. And if you want to enjoy a bad Pokémon movie with friends, this is… an option. Probably not the best-worst option, but an option nonetheless.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
“I am Mewtwo. I am not like other Pokémon.”

And with the first 12 seconds, this sequel adventure undoes the moral and everything fought for in the last movie. This one was weird and I probably shouldn’t judge it by similar standards as I do the movies but I will for the sake of consistency.

The movie’s art is good, I like it. No complaints. The clear references to Australia’s Uluru are an odd but well used choice in the scenic imagery and as a set piece for the movie. Really the visuals never fail with Pokémon and I can almost always pick out scenes from them that amaze me. In this case the scene of Clone Pikachu declaring the need to go to WAR with the world and its emotional delivery. You can clearly make out the pain and anguish it has felt over the period of being isolated in its life as a clone.

I wish I could give the plot a similar review but this one was cobbled and really asks you to not think about things such as clean water healing lethal wounds and an entire subplot dedicated to two scientists and their debate over its usage. Using it for people versus the pollution caused by people exploiting it. A good debate to have but should ultimately be cut or redone, these characters are superfluous and I can’t help but feel the runtime would be better spent elsewhere. Such as the complete skip from fighting on the beach to being on the Island with no transition.

The philosophical musings of Mewtwo feel out of place and I’m not quite sure what is intended here aside from an unsubtle emulation of the moral conflicts of the first movie. Sadly falling short and instead just uprooted character development as Mewtwo is more than aware that clones are no different from normal Pokémon. We had an ENTIRE MOVIE on this subject, and a good one too!

The character of Double-Oh-Nine, The Black Tulip, or simply Domino, is my personal favorite here. This girl is heckin’ rad and has the gut to strut and move to grove. She pulls off a disguise into betraying the protagonists to reveal her true nature, elegantly leaping off Team Rocket’s balloon with a parting gift. A tulip sharp enough to cut and destroy it. Later on she continues showing off with electrocuting tulips, a tulip gun, and one that extends into a SWORD! Her attitude and actions are a joy and it is a shame she never appears again. Also her short blonde ringlets are great.

This movie is, to me, a 4/10. It feels bad and is substantially less than any other movie I have so far watched in this series. It has highlights for sure. The visuals, music and some scenes are great but it just doest do these as well as other entries. I personally feel much of my enjoyment came from ripping on it with Natalie as we went through. Watch with friends and laugh at a sleepover for best viewing pleasure here.

Movie 04 – Celebi: The Voice of the Forest

Official Synopsis:
There are always those who seek to contain and capture rare Pokémon—and there are those who would protect these special Pokémon from evil forces. Forty years ago that very thing occurred when Celebi found itself fleeing a vicious hunter, and a young Trainer named Sammy rushed to the rescue. They vanished—becoming yet another strange legend that the townspeople tell.

In the present day, Ash and friends arrive in the forest, and while the story of Sammy and Celebi might seem like just that at first—a story—they find out the truth when both boy and Pokémon turn up again! Though both recover from their harrowing ordeal of forty years past, things aren’t necessarily getting better—there are still people looking to capture Celebi! This time it’s the Iron Masked Marauder, and his plan might just be the cruelest one yet. He’s equipped with Dark Balls, which make any Pokémon captured in them mindlessly obedient and evil. Can Ash, Sammy, Misty, and Brock withstand the power of a possessed Celebi, and restore it to its true self?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Oh dear, this is one of those movies where I can see exactly what they were trying to do, but can also see exactly how things could have been better. Ugh. Let’s start from the top and work our way to the conclusion.

The pre-title sequence of the film is pretty darn excellent. Jumping right into the action, establishing the titular legendary introducing the central conflict, and establishing the main antagonist, The Iron Mask Marauder. A character who feels like a prototype for the Shadow Pokémon concept introduced in Pokémon Colosseum with the power of his Evil Pokéballs.

After the title though, the film feels the need to go through the whole rigmarole of establishing Ash and friends as journeyers who enjoy Pokémon battles and get into hi-jinks. First by starting in a completely irrelevant location, and then taking a needlessly elaborate flying boat to a forest village. There, they wander into the ongoing plot involving the legend of a Celebi, a boy who leapt through time (Sam), and proceed to make it their business. All of which takes the full length of a usual TV episode… honestly just feels like padding after such a jam-packed introduction.

This is not helped by how, once the conflict is introduced in the form of a quadruped spider robot, there is one pretty lame Pokémon battle followed by another ten minutes of… bonding I suppose. It’s necessary to show the bond that Ash has with the time-displaced Sam and the bond they share with Celebi, but it really does feel like the plot has utterly stopped at the halfway mark.

It feels like the movie is just sort of happening until the 40 minute mark… but then it starts getting really good! Celebi gets captured by The Iron Marauder, becomes Evil Celebi, and goes from this weak ‘plush-friendly’ legendary to a force of absolute destruction, turning the forest around them into a gosh darn kaiju, and wrecking the place. The heroes retaliate, climb up this thing like it’s Shadow of the Colossus, and use the power of LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP to save Celebi! And then, when all seems well… it gets even better!

The imagery here is excellent, with the animation team moving past the more abstract imagery of Mewtwo’s domain and a castle of crystal in favor of a lush forest. Just about every backdrop in this film is gorgeous, and the film makes impressive use of CG for the time, with the texture and movements of Celebi’s vines and the CG trees at the introduction holding up surprisingly well. Though, the less said about the butt ugly dragon made of brambles, the better.

Its design is bad and its CG embodies just about every negative trait of the era. It ignores primary rules of character design, it has a lot of needless details, the textures are ugly, and it simply does not look good or natural when moving. It is used well, and is a cool concept. I just hate looking at it.

When it is good, it’s great. When it’s not, it really just makes me wish that the script went through another revision. Something that gets rid of needless peripheral characters and scenes (including the secondary legendary, Suicune, who is utterly useless). And something that makes the plot more action-oriented, as this movie wants to be like The Power of One— a blockbuster action movie with Pokémon in it— but it cannot quite commit to that level of energy.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Oh gosh they’re making Star Wars references again.

The starting sequence paralleling the Speeder scenes on Endor, the nearby tree villages eerily similar to the Ewoks abodes and the general vibe of the flora all feel very Return of the Jedi to me.

Once again, a Pokémon movie with beautiful visuals, like a work of art, because these handcrafted drawn scenes of their time period truly are and not enough people appreciate it vs. modern anime visuals. At the 4th entry into their movie making experience, Pokémon really knows when and how to make breathtaking moments and dazzle you with impressive scenery or showing off high pace action.

The visuals only fail at two points in this movie to me. The first being a scene of Butterfree and the main characters watching them, where the proportional scale of the Pokémon seem to imply that they are either twice the size of Ash or much closer to the camera. The latter appears to be the sensible option until you realize this means that they are looking away from the Pokémon. The view is still a beautiful scenic lake but just why are they not looking at this? Kudos to the movie for taking the evolution of dozens of Pokémon and turning it into a natural lightshow illuminating the entire night forest, that was just great and really shows how creative Pokémon anime can be. A trait sadly limited by the time as the 2001 CGI Wooden Demon/Dragon horror created by EVIL Celebi just doest hold up at all well in modern standards, betraying what it otherwise brings to the movie.

Moving onto the plot itself in short. I like the plot, I found little in the way of glaring plot-holes and it is pleasant to experience. Ultimately it’s greatest fault is reaching into blandness, with the middle of the movie just slightly failing to fully grab and excite me like other movies have. I could understand potentially falling asleep during this part of the movie and it would be a downright shame, as you’d proceed to miss the latter parts where the movie shines. The movie’s antagonist puts the V into Villain and is a joy to watch leading up to his brainwashing of the titular Celebi, where he proceeds to use their powers to create raw chaos and havoc. Forming a giant monster destroying the forest and loudly proclaiming his desire to rule the WORLD!

For a negative, the characters. The daughter of the Sage adds nothing beyond a message at the start “Hey look, 40 years past!” and the ferryman is just here because Ash didn’t pay his fare! …Wait, I think I just gave him more motivation to be here than the movie did. Suicune suffers from this problem too, ultimately failing to play the Deus ex Machina savior role little more then 1 beam attack save before being captured. After Entei playing pappy last movie, this is a low roll for the subsequent doggo!

I honestly can’t remember any music from this movie, less than an hour after watching it. The opening song does not do it for me, but I can see why people would like it as a remix of an earlier series opening. The ending song is a massive bop by itself and I absolutely love Pokémon Movie themes that feel like they are subtly ripping on the situations of the characters during the movie itself. Also the Cele-b-rate pun was great and I’m all for more of that, finishing this movie is such a positive note thanks to this song.

I’d give this movie a solid 6/10. It’s like a children’s roller coaster. Unexciting but safe with no-risk. You can feel pretty confident putting this movie on that you’ll have a pleasurable experience instead of a negative one but it won’t be staying with you much after.

Really, it’s Vanilla Ice Cream in movie form.

Movie 05 – Heroes: Latios & Latias

Official Synopsis:
Every year the city of Alto Mare holds a special Water Pokémon race through its canal streets—and this time around, Ash and Misty are top competitors! Even though he doesn’t win, Ash still finds his own special place in the heart of a mysterious girl that he rescues from two roguish women. But this isn’t any ordinary girl—it’s actually the Legendary Latias in disguise!

Ash gets a special peek into the secret world of Latios and Latias, but this world is soon threatened by the two women from before—Annie and Oakley—who are after the two Legendary Pokémon, as well as a mysterious jewel called the Soul Dew. These elements combined will let them control a powerful machine that normally protects against danger. When the machine malfunctions, though, it not only puts Latios and Latias at serious risk, but the entire city of Alto Mare!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Okay, that was a rough patch, but we’re back to high quality cinema!

Whenever I watch one of these movies, I always try to imagine what the creators were trying to accomplish here, and if they succeeded in their goals. With Pokémon Heroes, their goals were probably something along the lines of ‘let’s make a European spy movie with a steampunk doomsday weapon!’ And… they sure as heck did just that!

You know how I said that the previous few movies felt like they had too much fluff? Well, they’re back to feeling compact. The antagonists are well established as slick high tech thieves before the credits, the world and legendaries are introduced incredibly well during the opening credits sequence, and the film wastes utterly no time before introducing all of its carefully chosen core elements before things really get going during the 30 minute mark. It is a well structured story, consistently entertaining and engaging from start to finish, with few if any lulls in its runtime, in part because it throws a visual spectacle at the viewer every few minutes.

Now, the spectacle here is a bit different than the prior movies, given how this film is set in… Venice, basically. So instead of looking fantastical or naturalistic, the presentation prides itself on reprising the look of a European architecture built around streets of water. This gives the film a considerably different look than the movies that came before, and features the most heavy use of CG out of… probably any movie in the entire series.

CG water, CG buildings, CG mechanical doomsday weapons, and even CG people walking down the stone streets. While this does not look as good as the timelessly gorgeous painterly backdrops, it looks damn impressive for 2002. Everything is rendered with such detail that you can practically feel the artists; dedication to bringing this place to life.

As a whole, the film was a visually enthralling adventure, but there are a bunch of little things that bothered me. Due to the decision to make neither of the legendary Pokémon ‘fighters,’ there is a bit too much ‘running’ as opposed to ‘battling’ in this film. The inclusion of fossil Pokémon as antagonists is a really cool idea that goes underutilized. While the antagonist duo is lovely, they could have benefitted from an extra scene or two before going into the Pokémon movie character vault. And the whole ‘ancient technology that protects the city’ thing is not super well explained. I’d say there was no time… but there actually was.

Though the biggest weakness to this entire movie sadly lies with Latias and Latios. Quite simply, they should have the ability to speak, and the movie suffers from the fact that all they can do is moan and shriek. It all feels a bit… unsettling. Especially because these are highly intelligent psychic type legendaries.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
This movie, just wow.

In previous reviews I have given praise regarding how Pokémon and the world around them can be used creatively to make unique and interesting concepts. This movie once again pushes this to its limits, and sadly reaches them.

To cut straight to the chase. Latios and Latias is an amazing movie, with truly stunning visuals and boy did they love showing them off from the wellmade fluid CG to the beautiful artistic depictions of the film setting. Easily capable of holding up even against contemporary anime mediums. The music is varied, fits well to the moment and sounds great with 3 consecutive ending songs that really left it on a strong note.

This movie makes strong, effective use of almost every character I can remember and quickly discards any who do not contribute to the experience. Something that no other movie has yet achieved, especially with movie add-ins such as Bianca and Old Boat Man, who both feel proper whenever they are shown. The villain duo of Spy-like Team Rocket agents radiate an energy that is great to watch and experience, bouncing off each other in a way that clearly shows they are partners easily comfortable in letting each other do what they are best at despite having different interests in the operation at hand.

This is also where this high flying movie dips below the clouds as the actual pursuits and interests of the Villains are *questionable* at best, with vague remarks made toward collecting the titular legendaries for Team Rocket and something about the jewel and WMD it serves as the key for. I am actually fond of this as it feels like they looked at the tourist packs for Altomare, found all of them boring and made up their own by performing a legendary heist! It adds a casual feeling to this part of the movie, highlighting Oakley and Annie’s personalities as confident, self-assured go-getters. The casual vibe means that this can easily back down when needed, allowing the movie to focus mostly on the relationship of Ash and Latias.

Latias. This character is such a mix, with some of the best emotional showcases in the movies seen so far. Every segment dedicated to this Pokémon and Ash is an enjoyable experience in a movie that rarely fails to catch attention from the alleyway chase to the last kiss at the end. I consider this to be a prime example of how Pokémon can be used for storytelling and ideas. However it is also the downpoint, for as well as this character is used and shown on screen it is harshly limited. Limited by the inability to speak, as this character whether appearing as human or otherwise is incapable of speaking outright or only capable of high pitched shrilling.

There are clear scenes where this happy and fun toned sound simply does not fit the scene and strips it of the emotional toning.

This movie had 2 valuable moments where it had a chance to eke tears or similiar out of me with well chosen lines but the characters are incapable of this delivery. It is most insanely frustrating that we fall so close to the margin of greatness here with a flaw fixed before.

This movie is an 8/10. The visuals are a wonderful spectacle of CG and drawn scenes. The music compliments the art and the characters bring the rest together.

If someone took me to see this movie on a date, I’d consider it a good time. This movie is a good time, I like this movie.

Movie 06 – Jirachi: Wish Maker

Official Synopsis:
The Millennium Comet is about to make its long-awaited appearance in the sky again, supposedly granting the wishes of all those who see it in the skies above them. Of course, Ash and friends are equally interested in the Millennium Festival, especially when they attend a magic performance by the Great Butler. Even more interesting is the mysterious cocoon in Butler’s possession—from which Max hears a mysterious voice calling! When Jirachi emerges from its slumber, Max has a new friend—sadly, it’s only for a brief few days that the Millennium Comet appears in the sky.

Max is anxious to make the most of his time with his new friend, but the Great Butler has his own plans for Jirachi, which are not so friendly. He wants to revive the Legendary Groudon, and Jirachi just might be able to grant that wish.

Can Max, Ash, May, and Brock stop Butler and save Jirachi before Groudon reappears to reign destruction over the land?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Part of the problem with having annual movies that tie into a TV series is that the movies can feel like multi-part episodes and… this sure felt like a four-parter stitched together into a feature length film. Episode one sees the characters attend a carnival for the celebration of some variety before meeting the titular legendary Pokémon. Episode two sees the character bond with the baby-like death machine before the obvious antagonist makes his move. Episode three is a road trip across a desert to Tianzi Mountain Range along with more bonding before the villain’s counter-attack. While episode four is a climatic battle against a giant monster that probably was supposed to be Groundon, before the boy and his magical friend part ways forever.

As a film, this should work, as a sort of rearranging of the ‘kids meet an alien’ made popular by 1982’s E.T. But in execution… It’s just kind of there. The first 70% sees things happen, and establishes a clear conflict with someone trying to capture the space baby Pokémon to destroy the world. There are cute little scenes sprinkled throughout, and some great visuals (as to be expected) but I found it hard to emotionally engage with it. From the outset, we know Jirachi is going away in seven days. It is clear that the antagonist will get his way. And despite there being a ticking timer, there isn’t much tension.

Part of this has to do with Max, a key character from the generation 3 series, and a character I never really found appealing. He always seemed too cocky and prideful for an 8-year-old, and due to his lack of any real ambition, I found it hard to view him as much more than an annoying tag-a-long. He is extensively the protagonist of this film and he does not pass the ‘movie kid factor’ to become endearing. He’s not necessarily annoying either, but all he wants to do is hang out with his new friend… when he is already on a year-long road trip with three other people.

The antagonists are similarly weak. With the mantle being handed to a magician named Butler. A scientist who wants to revive the legendary Pokémon Groudon to… The movie does not make it clear, but he wants to use it to reshape the world and create more land on behalf of Team Magma… who fired him. So, he is using million-dollar equipment to revive Groudon that he obtained from… Acme? Yeah, his motivations are not very clear, and he makes me wish there was just another transparently evil antagonist.

With such a flakey emotional core, the movie can only really rely on its action and visuals… which it definitely delivers on in the climax. A high flying chase sequence through a natural wonder of the world, rendered in the best CG 2003 anime has to offer, where the heroes try to avoid getting absorbed by a Godzilla made of goop! It’s genuinely cool, and everything around this section is gorgeous, but that’s all it is.

In conclusion, it is a film where neither the antagonist or protagonist are compelling enough to endear much emotional investment, and there is not enough cool stuff to fill in the gaps. It’s okay, it functions, but it’s the boring kind of average. I say pass. Just watch the next movie instead. It is WAY cooler!

Cassie’s Thoughts:
So Jirachi’s review is the first that I have not immediately gone to write after the movie, having chosen to give myself more time to process my thoughts regarding it. The fact I am still unsure about 20 hours after is, to me, probably a bad sign.

Jirachi: Wish Maker is fairly typical for a Pokémon movie in regards to visual splendor with the usual collection of fantastic backgrounds, good looking characters and in the latter half with the Tianzi Mountain Range inspired location for its climax. The shots of the comet are obvious moneymaker ones but somehow feel lackluster, I know they could easily put more oomph into some of these images simply based on previous movie art.

The music in this film is somewhat of a letdown with NO musical introduction, the first movie to not do this! And the use of a lullaby as a somewhat important plot point that features no lyrics or musical accompaniment but simply the main cast humming a tune before cutting quite quickly to a lyrical ending theme. This might be fine in a one off film from another franchise, but other movies simply do this better in my opinion.

The characters again, pale toward those of other movies. With Max, the main character of the movie, falling into the rut of a dislikeable young child personality. This by itself would have been fine but this movie also chooses to introduce the Titular legendary Pokémon, who is mentioned to be several thousand years old as essentially a baby. These two characters, their personality and prominent roles make the intended age group of the movie seem far lower than previous entries.

The Villain, Butler, is a series of questions. Why is he named Butler? Why did he, a Magician, suddenly decide to revive a dead legendary Pokémon? Why does he care so much about Team Magma’s opinion of him? And most importantly, how does he not notice the woman who is clearly in love with him until the last second? This guy has the strangest, or perhaps simply non-existent motives for what he does and it frustrates me to experience it.

This movie is a 2/10. A bad apple that I wish I could pluck. It was the least enjoyable of any I have seen so far and while I dislike giving such a poor rating, I simply believe it is the truth. This one had the least enjoyable or memorable moments to its name, and while some scenes are definitely good looking, that is not an unusual trait in this line of movies. Also it’s very hard to make giant comets and a recreation of Tianzi look bad.

Jirachi Wish Maker is the bad card of a set you grab simply to complete the collection yet never use.

Movie 07 – Destiny Deoxys

Official Synopsis:
High-tech Larousse City is a pretty impressive place to visit—and a pretty impressive place for a Pokémon battle, too! Ash heads straight for their renowned Battle Tower, but things don’t turn out too well when his battle partner turns out to be a scared boy named Tory. Because of a frightening childhood incident, Tory is scared of all Pokémon—even cute ones like Pikachu!

There’s a lot more to be frightened by when Deoxys shows up and takes control of the city, shutting down the machines and taking everyone captive. One Pokémon that is not amused is the Legendary Rayquaza, and it will do whatever it takes to remove this invader from its territory! Meanwhile, Ash, Tory, and all their friends may be caught in the middle, but they’re certainly not out of the fight!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
I have vague memories of watching this movie on Cartoon Network and it being both wildly imaginative and having an utterly insane climax. I thought that I might be misremembering, as those memories are, like, 17-years-old, but… it’s actually better than I remembered. In fact, it’s one of the best movies in the entire Pokémon series.

Deoxys sets its sights high and aspires to accomplish three separate types of story. The first being a visit to a visit to a technologically advanced society where robots provide essential services, cars are unnecessary, and power is provided by a renewable energy source. All of which sounds like an optimistic Y2K sci-fi fantasy, but disaster naturally strikes as the system is interrupted by a supernatural disaster. A disaster centering around Deoxys who, as the most overtly alien Pokémon in the entire series, takes the role of a ‘misunderstood alien invader.’ Which inspires the fury of the military Earth’s protector, Raquaza, who kicks off and ends the movie engaging in elaborate kaiju-style battles with Deoxys.

But lastly, the human element is the ‘movie protagonist’ of Tory. A young boy who was traumatized by being caught in a Pokémon stampede at a young age, but comes to love Pokémon, like a non-broken child.

All of which sounds like a lot for a Pokémon movie to accomplish, but with a 100 minute runtime (that’s honestly closer to 90), the story has enough time to establish this world and concept, and it integrates them well, using a carefully chosen relationship chart to tie every element together. It seems obvious when looking at the story from the onset, but… not every creator seems to get this, and a good chunk of other movies in the series sure don’t.

Pretty much everything this movie does… just works. The city is a marvel of technology as well as animation, capturing a bright and nature-filled sort of sci-fi city that I feel is rarely depicted without a hefty dose of pessimism. Tory is an actually compelling character whose trauma is understandable, has a full arc, and is humble enough to never feel like an ‘entitled child.’ Despite actually being an entitled child with rich parents and an alien friend.

Deoxys is a compelling silent alien invader, one that is capable of great destruction, but mostly acts as a sort of analyzer. One who does not fully understand the damage they are causing, and only makes use of their great combative abilities in self defense. They’re not evil, they don’t want to hurt people, they’re just an alien looking for their buddy in a world they don’t understand. And Raquaza, despite just being a hero kaiju who has no regard for property damage, is a genuinely cool legendary whose visual identity and character was created with this movie. Which, considering how much love it has received over the years, at least counts for something.

However, the most impressive part of this movie is easily the visuals. I have noticed and commented on the increasing use and generally high quality of CG in Pokémon movies in the prior sections, but this? This is taking things to another level and is at a point where the CG (mostly) still holds up to this day. Which is utterly bonkers considering this is a film from 2004, and one with massive CG setpieces. Sure, the CG rocks and trees still look a little crusty, but it’s impressive just how well they adapted Pokémon into CG. As for the cubes? Those are actually timeless.

The only problems I have are pretty common to the Pokémon movie series as a whole. There are too many ancillary side characters, with the movie sporting a resounding seven aside from Tory, not counting the three mascot Pokémon. None of them are bad, but some consolidation could have made things a bit tighter. And the introduction to the main setting is a bit clunky, with the film throwing a lot of characters, concepts, and events, from minute 15 to 27. It works, but suboptimally.

That being said, this movie made for a great time, and I consider it a straight up good movie. I approve, give it two thumbs up, and would gladly watch again.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
What a movie, what a ride. They really got this one right.

Destiny Deoxys is fast paced, attention grabbing and loaded to the brim with the ‘good stuff’. I love the art, the characters, the music is a blast and compliments what is an action filled adventure start to finish.

The setting is cool, a futuristic city which hides naught of its technology throughout the movie. With the elevator walkways, hotdog dispensers and other sorts littered throughout and actively contributing to the scenes. From serving as a desired item in a need for food sequence to simply working as a destructive prop. The movie makes full use of this setting start to end.

The visuals astound, with every scene drawing your attention and the action really pulling out the stops especially at the climax with a literal TSUNAMI of AI cube devices swarming up a giant tower. The music is suitably put to the scenes with dramatic tones during combat throughout the city blocks. The opening is good and the ending is great.

The characters are numerous, to which Natalie has touched on already I’m sure, but I’m for the plethora of cast in this instance. There are quite a few, but none receive screen time more than really needed and feel out of place. This is a citywide disaster scenario and numerous tagalongs are expected. I especially enjoy the protagonist in Tory and the developing relationship between them and Pokémon throughout, being actively invested in seeing the bond between them and the Plusle/Minun who despite being mascot characters, are deceptively well used throughout the movie in a way some simply fail to capture. Looking at you Jirachi.

There is, in my opinion, no villain to this movie. With the supposed antagonists being the legendary Pokémon Deoxys and Rayquaza respectively, this works very well from a plot standpoint. Rayquaza felt threatened by Deoxys in its territory, and the latter just wants to find its friend. This easily resolves the problem of establishing motives for more human characters and allows the movie to focus on the far more important details, such as the annihilation and terrorizing of this poor city in a 3-way brawl between its inhabitants and the dual legendaries. A detail more than worthwhile as I’ve already mentioned, the battles in this movie heckin’ rock. They are extremely fun to watch and such a good example of how Legendary Pokémon are cool and should be cool!

A solid 8.5 again, rivaling and competing with Power of One for just sheer enjoyment factor. This is the type of movie where even if it has flaws, I can entirely ignore them simply by getting so engrossed into the action and chaos as it unfolds.

Watch this one. Watch it well, it deserves to be appreciated.

Movie 08 – Lucario and the Mystery of Mew

Official Synopsis:
Hundreds of years ago, Camaron Palace and its people were saved by the noble sacrifice of Sir Aaron, an Aura Knight. From that day forward the people have always honored his deeds with an annual festival. Of course, Ash isn’t really much of a history buff—he’s more interested in the Pokémon competition being held! Only when he wins and is asked to don the ceremonial role of Aura Guardian does Aaron’s importance become clear—especially when Lucario emerges from Aaron’s staff! Aaron isn’t a hero to this long-dormant Pokémon—all Lucario remembers is the master that betrayed it!

Left out of the battle all those hundreds of years before, Lucario is asked to be a hero again—Mew has shown up and whisked Pikachu and Meowth away to the Tree of Life, and only Lucario can lead the way! Can Lucario put aside its distrust of humans long enough to reunite Ash with his best friend?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Woof. Where to begin with this one?

I think the most remarkable thing about this film is that it does not have any true antagonist, at least not like most other movies in the series. The story is not really centered around stopping anything or anyone, as much as it is about Ash and Pikachu being separated after a Mew (not the Mew from the first movie) abducts them to be their playmates. In order to get Pikachu back, Ash and company rely on Lucario, a temporally displaced warrior Pokémon, in order to navigate through the tree of life Yggdrasil. Oh, and they are also joined on their quest by Kidd Summers, an adventurer who is initially presented as being potentially nefarious, but ultimately just tags along while doing some sciency stuff.

Despite the mellow premise, the impetus for this story is actually a war that took place several hundred years ago. Where the titular Lucario was trying to diffuse conflict, before being bound into a crystal staff by his master, Sir Aaron. Sir Aaron then ventured into Yggdrasil, did something, and ended the war through some unspecified magical hooplah. Lucario did not see this however, so he thinks that Sir Aaron was actually a traitor. This is what I call ‘conflict by misunderstanding’ and it is easily my least favorite type of conflict in any type of story. In most instances, this conflict could have been completely avoided if characters just talked for an extra 30 seconds and information was less oblique. And that is definitely the case here.

Lucario’s entire arc and character is built around how he thinks Sir Aaron was a traitor and used him as a tool, before realizing that, no, Sir Aaron always viewed him as a friend. It is not a good arc, and the audience, even the 6-year-olds, know how it is going to end just from the opening 10 minutes.

As for the rest of the story, I tend to view it in four sections. The first forty minutes of the movie are genuinely a lot of fun. It starts with a cool, if under-developed, opening showing the first genuine war ever depicted in the entire Pokémon franchise. After the title sequence, the viewers are treated to some lively and energetic battle and party sequences, filled with the camp and cheeriness typically reserved for the pre-movie Pikachu shorts. Then the party ends with a bang as two Weaviles try to plant a tracker on Mew, only for Mew to bail and start the actual problem the characters are trying to solve. Exposition, establishing scenes, and the true introduction of the titular hero then follow, before the movie enters its second act.

This act depicts Ash, Lucario, and company driving in a jeep as they head to Yggdrasil, and… it’s the lowest point of the movie, as it feels like this twenty minute sequence would have been condensed into ten if this film had a shorter runtime. The traveling anticis de-emphasize the tension and thrust of the conflict, and everything involving Lucario here feels… manufactured. Like it only exists because the writers felt that this is how the story should feel. Again, if Lucario knew the truth, he would have no reason to clash with Ash, and the flashbacks would not be necessary.

Things get cool again another twenty minutes later when they reach Yggdrasil. An utterly gorgeous locale that really shows off the power of theatrical 2D animation. But is it also when the closest things to the antagonists show up. The Regi trio. It is never explained why they are here to defend Yggdrasil, but this movie does an utterly excellent job at reimagining them as these unfeeling robots who exist to destroy, and never ask any questions. The sound design around their voices is also particularly incredible. So good that it burrowed its way into my mind for a good 15 years. They are terrifying, they are great, and they make the ensuing 20 minutes of chase sequences a lot of fun.

Though, they are not alone, as Yggdrasil also has a bunch of fossil Pokémon made of goop wandering around, eager to kill and assimilate all foreign substances within its innumerous halls. These constant and genuinely unsettling threats make this section an absolute blast, and one of the most fun action sequences in a Pokémon movie since… actually, these are about on par with Destiny Deoxys. Still, I give this section a solid A.

Then we get to the final twenty minutes. The true climax of the story. …Except the writers realized that, by this point, Ash and Pikachu were reunited and the threats introduced in the past 20 minutes already peaced out and exited stage right. So they decide to pull a new conflict straight out of their butt and have Yggdrasil start to collapse. Why? Because the balance was disrupted and it can only be saved with the first true death in a Pokémon movie.

I would say that the movie is 60% genuinely good, and the only problems I have with it are nebulous nitpicks. As for the remaining 40, while it is visually interesting and compelling enough on a micro-level, I simply do not think it fully ‘works’ as a story. I don’t want to say ‘you should’ve done X, Y, and Z’ for something like this, but I cannot help but feel that they went with the wrong initial draft of the script.

As gauche as the concept might be, having the heroes go to investigate a problem at the world tree would have made for a stronger central narrative. While I appreciate the attempt to make Lucario more… human than many other Pokémon, I think he would have worked better as an ancient protector summoned in a time of need. And even though I think adventurer Kidd Summers works, I think she should have been presented as more of an antagonist. Instead, she tries to snag Mew and gives up her ‘criminal ways’ awfully quickly.’

As a whole, the movie is very mixed. A lot of high highs and low lows. Something that could be a fun watch, but is not among the best movies in this series.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
This movie was the first ever content a younger me saw that was not based in the Sinnoh region. It was a decent watch at the time and once again I found myself enjoying the movie.

While both me and Natalie found something about the visuals to appear ‘different’, they are still excellent and the movie looks amazing with the vistas of the Tree of Beginning both inside and out appearing wonderfully. There is plenty of CG but it feels well placed and fits the scenes more than adequately. All in all, it’s another Pokémon Movie, they all look pretty good and Lucario doesn’t pull this punch with its ‘painting-like prettiness’.

The setting here is incredibly fantastical, featuring a centuries-old castle nearby a unique formation of rock known as the Tree of Beginning for its shape and even more unique ecology. Opening with a great battle between two ancient armies and a seemingly traitorous knight before continuing with a ball and festival thrown in said knights honor hosted at the now modern day castle. While somewhat similar to the mansion of ‘Unown’, this movie is distinct from the former in its feel in the castle setting before the characters go on their grand adventure.

The characters are a mixed bag here, with the usual Pokémon traits of having just a bit too many characters and some becoming negligible in contribution. Lucario plays a prominent role as the unknown and confused visitor from the ancient past and actively contributes during the entire movie, while Mew is less so. Despite being in the title, Mew can be said to do quite little beyond making key plot points happen throughout, such as providing the reason for coming to the Tree of Beginning and Living Phlebotinum regarding the latter times when the Tree naturally decides to die as the final movie conflict.

Special notes go to Kidd Summers who is the action girl of the movie, initially seeming an antagonist before quickly switching roles and serving as the driver and add-on for the film. Usually this type of character falls into being an unnecessary addition but this is instead taken by Team Rocket, who perform deceptively little this movie and could easily be written out if not for being such huge characters in the franchise. Similar words could also apply to Ash’s companions in later points here.

The Queen. Lady Ilene serves a role as exposition early on and is quickly removed as that job is completed. She is one of the best-looking Pokémon characters I’ve ever seen and I quite frankly want to possess and steal her body. I wish she got more screen time.

This movie is probably a 5-6/10 but feels closer to a 7 or 7.5 to me. While the plot has no shortage of holes in it, it is a fun and lovable ride through a delightful setting with interesting characters such as Lucario. I’ve seen this one at least 3 times and each time it was a pleasant experience.

Special 02 – The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon

Official Synopsis:
Dr. Yung, an enigmatic Pokémon scientist, has developed a new Mirage system that uses computer data to resurrect extinct Pokémon, like Kabutops and Armaldo. Professor Oak, Ash and his companions show up at the Mirage Mansion at Dr. Yung’s invitation, and watch a demonstration of the machine’s capabilities. In the middle of a battle between Dr. Yung’s Mirage Pokémon and Ash, the machine goes haywire and a Mirage Aerodactyl swoops in and kidnaps Dr. Yung. A man calling himself “The Mirage Master” appears and announces to everyone that the Mirage System can be used to create Pokémon with absolutely no weaknesses. Ash, Misty, and Professor Oak struggle to stop the madman and escape with their lives.

Natalie’s Thoughts:
This was the special that killed my interest in the Pokémon anime. It came out when I was 11— which is an awful transitional age between child and teen. It introduced an entirely new cast of voice actors— changing voices that I have known for almost my entire life. And while I did not remember much about the actual story or events, I remembered it not being good and… it somehow managed to be worse than I remembered.

Rather than trying something new for a tenth anniversary special, it is a condensed retread of some of the worst elements of prior Pokémon movies, but with a quarter of the budget and half the runtime. The story is too grand for its own good, woefully cliched, and generally uninteresting. The presentation is so flat and rushed that it feels like its budget was actually below the standard TV episodes. And the voice acting… sounds like it is the first time these actors brought these characters to life, and like they were only given enough time to do two takes.

Everything that happens feels as if it was laid out by the marketing team before being furnished by a single writer over the weekend, and sent in for storyboarding come Monday. Everything interesting is lifted from another anime, namely Yu-Gi-Oh! And Digimon, and the events are so inconsequential that I would not even recommend this to someone who wants to watch the entire Pokémon anime series.

It is a bad special, but not in a way that is interesting, or in a way that could be fixed. Because of that, I am calling this the worst thing we watched as part of this project.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
This one is another special, as such it should probably not be judged like the movies, but as I did with Mewtwo Returns I will make comparisons just for consistency’s sake.

The villain is unlikable, dare I say boring with a laughably easy to defeat plan that revolves entirely round impossibly strong Pokémon within a specific area using technology that feels more in place with Yu-Gi-Oh! than Pokémon. His plan or goal is to commit terrorism against the research institute that threw him out for obvious Poke-cruelty. This plan is inherently flawed in 2 ways, the first is the limited scope of the technology in only functioning where it has its emitters and that these emitters would be far easier targets then the Pokémon they create. This movie floats entirely on the idea that the viewer doest consider why the protagonists don’t attack the devices creating the Pokémon, that the computer systems could be hacked, that EMP devices exist or simply trying to take the remote that the Mirage Master uses to control it all.

The other characters are surprisingly basic, featuring a cast of all regulars of the series at the time with one returnee in Misty and Professor Oak. The usage of these characters ranges but I would consider it somewhat poor, as I cannot think of what Max contributed in the entire runtime. Brock also spends a good amount of time calling the most unresponsive Officer Jenny who features in all of two scenes. I believe this is the first on the list to not feature one-time characters made just for the movie.

The setting itself is fairly generic, featuring a castle/mansion in a forest. It is not really made use of by the plot and is not an inspiring vista like Mystery of Mew or even Mewtwo Returns with its representation of Uluru. This is what clues me into the difference between these two specials on the list, as Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon is tone for tone what I expect and remember from watching the Pokémon series itself. Mewtwo Returns is trying to be a sequel to Mewtwo Strikes Back, Mastermind is simply an elongated episode, a true to self special.

Consequently, this one is a 2/10. The result of comparing something that simply does not belong next to the others. Perhaps if I had seen this as part of a watch through of the series instead of movies, I would have come out with substantially different opinions.

Movie 09 – Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea

Official Synopsis:
There’s a legend out there, about a Sea Temple created by the People of the Water, where the Sea Crown is kept. No one has ever seen this Sea Crown, and very few people even know the story of the temple, except a few members of the People of the Water who wander through the Pokémon world. That all changes when a Pokémon Ranger named Jackie rescues a Manaphy Egg from a greedy pirate named Phantom! Phantom is absolutely determined to snatch the Sea Crown, and he’ll need Manaphy to get to it. To stay one step ahead, Jackie will need to enlist the help of the People of the Water.

A chance encounter with the People of the Water puts Ash, May and friends right in the thick of the action, and May forms a very special bond with the Mythical Manaphy, even as the specter of Phantom hovers ever closer! Together, they must find the Sea Temple before Phantom does, unlocking the secret that connects Manaphy and the Sea Temple!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
We’ve got another ‘adventure type’ movie this time, but it’s another good one, and the story is pretty direct. Titular action-hero-man Jack Walker is tasked with helping the legendary Pokémon, Manaphy, venture to the titular Temple of the Sea. Along his way, he seeks the help of Ash and his usual batch of companions, along with a family of traveling performers with close ties to the temple. As they try to bring Manaphy to his destination, they must deal with Phantom the pirate, who wants to use Manaphy to become king of the sea. Whatever that means.

Following an opening that feels straight out of an early 2000s action movie, the story quickly settles into depicting the journey. By land, by sea, and eventually reaching the mystical destination, where the predictably bombastic climax occurs. At this point in the series, this all feels somewhat routine, but it all works.

The pirate antagonist’s more goofball nature and unabashed selfishness is endearing after so many serious villains. Its mix of chase sequences, powerful vehicles, and environmental collapse add a good deal of action throughout the story, even if there is a considerable lack of Pokémon ‘battling’ until the very end. The ending is an absolute thrill ride, and far better than anything I could have expected. And the film is, as is to be expected, a visual treat that delivers a gorgeous rendition of the ocean, elaborate watercraft, and what was probably considered Atlantis in an early draft.

I know I keep harping on this, but I am continuously amazed by just how well the CG works in most of these movies, as one of the harder things to make look good in CG is water surfaces. With 2D Japanese animation, there are so many excellent examples of great looking water that I would expect most studios to rely on what they know. But this movie uses CG for most water surfaces… and it holds up shockingly well. As in, this same CG could easily be used in a TV anime, and there would be zero cause to complain about it. The same thing is true for the Pokémon themselves, who are frequently rendered in CG and… look exactly as they should.

The only parts that don’t hold up are certain rock surfaces and a few shots of a boat that really didn’t need to be in CG, because it’s a freaking boat, but those qualms are squelched by the sheer majesty of the film’s world design.

I only really have two criticisms to offer. One, the pacing of the middle chapter of the movie is a bit slow. Following an intense chase sequence, the story comes to a lull and remains there for arguably half an hour. There is some drama, some relationships develop, and the antagonist is re-established, but it feels like ten minutes could have been chopped off without losing that much.

Two, Manaphy is pretty much the ‘body swap Pokémon’ and this movie does not make the best use of its abilities. There is one gag swap early on with Team Rocket and another one used to keep Ash and friends tied to the plot at the 45 minute mark, but that’s it. It feels so inconsequential that I think I would have preferred it if they just didn’t even try… or if they just kept Team Rocket swapped for the entire movie.

This is definitely in the ‘unconditional recommendation’ aka ‘good’ bucket of Pokémon movies, but I would not consider it one of the best. While it does almost everything well, it does not feel as ‘original’ as some of the other movies before. I don’t know why, but ‘water-based’ adventures were super popular in animated films during the 90s and early 2000s, so it is harder for this movie to feel as distinct as I think it should. Still, it’s a lotta fun, and ends with an absolute bang.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
“There’s two types of Pokémon Movie in this world: Those who do childlike legendaries well and those that do not.”

A solid movie, it kept me hooked the entire time and I have all the appreciation for this movie.

The graphics on this one are the best yet of any movie. The CG is EVERYWHERE and it looks absolutely great, complementing the drawn scenes to create an almost two hour feast of visual delights. The most basic, average day sights are packed full with attention to detail like wear on the kitchen appliances and the action scenes are handled just as well. As the movie begins to reach its end, we’re greeted with amazing shots of the Eclipsed Moon, the protagonists bote at sunset, dozens of CG animated Pokémon swimming together, beautiful scenic shots of the Sea Temple on the surface and an amazing sequence of the crown-powered cast flying in great yellow, green and blue beams.

That’s the kind of visuals that could carry even a bad movie, but that’s not the case as the rest holds up the quality. The plot is relatively basic with “Get Legendary Pokémon A to Special Place B while avoiding Villain C” but it is exceptionally well executed with character development, especially between May and Manaphy. The two characters initially bond as the newly hatched Manaphy sees May as its mother, to which the latter responds. The movie sees the bond continue to develop as May teaches Manaphy words and Manaphy becomes more attached, sparking conflict as the Pokémon Ranger of the film decides that they are getting too close and askes Ash in private to help break them apart when the time comes.

This is probably my biggest gripe with the film, as I completely disagree with this sentiment. Jack Walker’s attitude in this movie irks me somewhat, he strikes me as the kind of guy to play guitar to impress and pick up women with his Pokémon rangering and it leaves a bad mark. This is very subjective but it definitely played a factor. More importantly is that this is not Jack’s decision to make, but something between Manaphy and May. It is their bond, their emotions and their own lives to live. The movie implies that Manaphy is a ‘super rare’ but not unique Pokémon making the onus of whatever responsibilities the ‘Prince of the Sea’ contains not solely his to bear more than giving them the option to stay together longer. Assuming they do this and don’t go their separate ways. What does the Ranger have to do with that?

Rant over, the characters in this movie are average with none standing out. This could be spun as being boring or bad but I choose to see it as the movie focussing on the more important factors of the plot. The Marina Group have and serve their role, contributing to the movie enough to be worth having but not stealing screen time away from ‘the good stuff’. However the Villain is another level, with Phantom the Pirate being a wealth of entertainment and a great antagonist to feature in the movie.

As a pirate his motives can be summarized as “get booty, get power” and that’s all he needs here, this character has a hidden MECHA SUIT that he uses to pick up rocks bigger than Pokémon and *throw* them, more than willing to get down and play dirty, like a pirate! This guy has great lines, which I paraphrased at the start and speaks like an actual human unlike most treasure island pirate-speak and an no-giving up attitude you’d more expect from the other side of the moral compass.

This movie is an 8 or an 8.5/10 for me. It is a genuinely great experience and a pleasure to watch, something I think even those who aren’t into Pokémon could easily appreciate. It is a nigh flawless movie with no shortage of good stuff.

Take THAT Jirachi, now this is how it is done!

Movie 10 – The Rise of Darkrai

Official Synopsis:
Ash may think he’s seen everything when it comes to Pokémon, but is he ready to face the mysterious Darkrai in his latest awesome adventure?

While on their way to a Pokémon Contest, our adventurers pass through Alamos Town, home of the Time-Space Tower. With the beautiful Alice, Ash and his friends discover that something is causing terrible nightmares for Pokémon and people alike! Baron Alberto, a dashing but arrogant fellow, immediately blames this turn of events on Darkrai.

As if it just overheard the accusation, Darkrai appears and confronts our heroes!

Who is Darkrai? Is it a friend… or foe? As the sky tears above Alamos Town and Legendary Pokémon Dialga and Palkia struggle through the rips in a newly created dimension, their ensuing battle threatens to tear a hole in the time-space continuum! Will Ash and his friends survive this showdown and learn Darkrai’s true nature?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Well, time to start off a new generation of Pokémon moves— again— and it is the generation that Cassie vehemently claims is the best.

Breaking down the events of the movie itself, I am reminded a lot of Destiny Deoxys, as both films have pretty much the same premise. Ash and friends arrive at a new place, encounter some trouble with the titular legendary Pokémon, and things get more complicated as other legendaries turn this city into a battlefield. It’s a perfectly good premise for one of these movies, and the most important thing that a movie in this series can do is offer something new, better, or interesting. Which… is not really the case here.

The introduction is a lot of comfortably familiar set up before Darkrai appears, causing a minor boost of excitement, before the film establishes more about its setting and lore until the 35 minute mark. This is where the conflict of the movie truly begins, which I can loosely summarize as two legendary Pokémon fight, gradually destroying the city in the process, while a third legendary tells them to “go away.” Confusion and running ensue, and the story concludes on a positively fantastical note as the two ornery legendaries are sent back to their rightful places and the city is saved.

The story does not have anything strictly wrong with it, and it is as workable a premise as any other, but there is a distinct lack of a firm identity or aesthetic that they are aspiring toward. What do I mean by that? Well, Rise of Darkrai is juggling a lot of disparate elements.

It has a fixation on time, as represented by its steampunk magical clock tower and recollections of things that happened 100 years ago. Music is a key element, as represented by the calming melody a movie character plays… on a leaf, and the fact that a giant bell tower powered by a music disc is the deus ex machina of the story. Dreams are a slight fixation, as seen with the idea of the dream reality blending in with the real world, and the fact that Darkrai can send people and Pokémon into the shadow realm. And as for space… the world is literally being destroyed, which is pretty boring for the idea of space, but I guess it fits?

None of these elements are bad, but they do not work together in a cohesive manner, and feel more like they were chosen due to corporate mandates for a movie with Dialga, Palkia, and Darkrai. Three Pokémon who easily could hold up a movie on themselves, due to how much one could do with a movie about time manipulation, spacial and dimensional manipulation, and nightmares/dreams. As a result, the movie feels less like an artistically driven idea, and more like something where the team behind it was trying their best to make the best out of a tricky position.

This is only made worse by the fixation on a trio of supporting movie characters who have a dynamic, but it feels more like something that was added because… that’s how you make a movie. Also, someone on the production team really wanted to have a character turn into a Lickilicky. Which both made for good comic relief and served as a TF fetish trigger for at least 1,000 people, so the movie at least has that going for it.

It all works, there are isolated elements in this movie that are genuinely great and well worth appreciated. Yet when taken as a whole, it feels like a bunch of stuff that is happening one beat after another. Stuff that is, without question, visually appealing to look at with its lush painterly backgrounds, subtle CG, and Dragon-Ball-like beam battles between draconic deities. The film has a good tempo to it, can easily be an enjoyable film if you go in with the right expectations, and I can easily see why someone would love this film if they watched it during their youth. Despite this, for me… the more I think about this film, the less I like it.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Now we’re in my kind of area. The companions, the visuals, the audio, all the Sinnoh goodness I know and love are on display in all their glory.

The setting of a town based upon Barcelona and Granada, with the central Space-Time Towers based upon the Sagrada Familia which is still under construction to this day, the scenes are beautiful and I love them to bits. Palkia, Dialga and Darkrai flying over the townscape battling it out is a spectacle even when it becomes simply background to the protagonists attempting to do their best in the slowly disintegrating battleground. The music is great, it fits and it’s Sinnoh. The opening theme is good, the ending theme is glorious.

The characters are… adequate with the primary interest being the guest star protagonists Alice and Tonio as they recognise and fulfill their childhood romance while coming to understand their ancestors legacies. The character of Darkrai itself is good, having enough personality to make it feel like a legendary and an individual but not much more than that. Special mention to Baron Alberto who literally becomes a Lickilicky in a unique transformation scenario for part of the movie. Which is wild, weird and wonderful.

I don’t have too much to say on this one, potentially because I’ve seen it so many times that it’s hard for me to know what to articulate here, but this movie is the first of a trilogy and I love how these three movies tie-in together and that gives it extra points from me for coolness factor. Again, it’s a 7.5/10. I love and enjoy this movie. I genuinely believe this is a good movie and especially to show those who aren’t “into” Pokémon as it’s not that hard to grasp and enjoy with an open mind.

Movie 11 – Giratina and the Sky Warrior

Official Synopsis:
Giratina is the sole Pokémon living in the Reverse World, a little-known realm adjacent to our own. Enraged when Palkia and Dialga disrupt time and space, it drags Dialga into the Reverse World for a battle—but the conflict is broken up by a tiny Shaymin, the Gratitude Pokémon!

After departing the Reverse World and meeting Ash and his friends, Shaymin—communicating telepathically—asks for help so it can be reunited with the other Shaymin in the Gracidea garden.

Soon after Ash and his friends agree to assist Shaymin, they’re dragged into the Reverse World and meet Newton Graceland, who’s been researching the mysterious realm. Little do they know that Newtown’s former assistant, Zero, seeks to harness Giratina’s power to rule the Reverse World, even if that means destroying the real world!

Can our heroes and their Pokémon thwart Zero’s evil plans and protect both worlds? Will Giratina resolve its differences with Dialga? And what will Ash and his friends learn about that special Shaymin?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
…Wait, we’re eleven movies in and only NOW are the movies even humoring the idea of continuity? What? I mean, that’s great, but still… what?

Following the space time shenanigans of the last movie, the banished dark god Giratina has reached beyond its domain in the Reverse World and sought revenge against Dialga. After a pre-credits clash, Giratina’s revenge is left unsatiated, and it seeks to enter into the Real World by using… the powers of Shaymin the sky warrior! Why is Shaymin the key to transporting between worlds? Because the marketing department said so, dang it!

What ensues is a multi-pronged battle between worlds. Shaymin is the innocent legendary who was tossed into this mess. Giratina just wants to break free. And some antagonist loosely based on Cyrus from the games, the creatively named Zero, wants to control the Reverse World because the Real World is too tainted to be saved!

Like with most Pokémon movies, the core premise here is solid, and it all comes down to how well it uses these elements. Fortunately, Giratina and the Sky Soldier learns from its predecessors and offers something familiar but refined, and a lot of it has to do with how strong its central players are.

Shaymin is the ‘friendly’ legendary of this movie, and rather than have them serve as a rehash of Celebi as a nature guardian, someone has the brilliant idea to make them into… a pompous little brat. Shaymin is one of the first legendaries in the entire series to act like an actual legendary and they act like a gosh darn ojou-sama. Demanding and stealing food. Plopping themself on top of Ash’s head like he’s their personal driver. And acting like nothing they ever do is their fault.

Shaymin could be a brat of a Pokémon, but they ultimately work for three reasons. Despite having the manners of an overly indulged wealthy child, Shaymin is utterly adorable. From their pouty face to their little feets that struggle to move their body, it is hard to get that made at them for acting like a jerk, because they can’t do anything more than talk trash and spit up smog. They have an alternate battle persona where they become a supporting character from a Sonic the Hedgehog game or Shonen manga, turning them from an ojou-sama into hot headed little scamp. And, as to be expected, Shaymin— the gratitude Pokémon— eventually learns how to be grateful and ends the movie as a changed… salad hedgehog thing that makes for a marketable plushie.

Giratina is an imposing dark monster of a Pokémon whose sound effects, movements, and general position make him feel like a truly destructive force, and a danger to the protagonists. Yet, they are ultimately presented as more than just a ravenously destructive kaiju and, in a way, it actually has more personality than the ruthlessly destructive Dialga and Palkia. Their domain, the reverse world, is not as cool as the Distortion World from Pokémon Platinum, with its darker color palette or nonsense waterfalls. But it does feel like a sufficiently twisted and bizarre world that provides the movie with some great imagery. Though, in all fairness, everything in this movie looks good at the very least. The lavishly illustrated forests, quaint Norwegian town, and imposing ice structures throughout this movie are a painterly treat, and when CG is used, it is up to the standard I’ve come to expect. It’s 15-years-old, but it holds up super well.

Zero and his AI-ssistant Infi are a welcomed return to a proper human villain who wants to control Pokémon using needlessly elaborate vehicles frothing with sci-fi technology. His edgelord design, arsenal of tech— including a fighter jet with a freaking sword attached to it— and appetite for destruction make him a conceptually simple villain. Perhaps even cliche. But sometimes that is exactly what you need— and want— for a movie like this.

While I criticized the structure of the previous batch of movies, this is one where it feels like there is never a stretch of five minutes without something cool, cute, or entertaining happening. It has no lulls in its run time, ends with an utterly bombastic final third, and also is the first (and possibly only) Pokémon movie to end on a cliffhanger. Normally, that’s a bad thing. But here, I was thoroughly satisfied and eager to see what came next.

It kept on surprising me, upping the ante, and offered a nice blend of peaceful cute moments interspersed with a blend of action set pieces, while consistently progressing toward a clearly defined goal. Some might call that movie making 101, but I call it everything you need to make a great movie!

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Shaymin is adorable, this Pokémon could almost carry this movie by itself. But it doesn’t need to, because it’s a brilliant spectacle in all manners.

The entire movie is beautiful, easily some of the best visuals seen yet, and Sinnoh is just a wonderful experience. The drawings, landscapes, the Pokémon, the people all look great. The visuals of water and mirrors proved exceptionally important as a key focus of the plotline, with the legendary Pokémon Giratina opening up portals on any reflective surface. The Norwegian fjords, town and mountainscapes are some of the best they have put out so far and they truly look great, not to mention highly fitting in the Mountainous region of Sinnoh. The visual effects in this movie also feel substantially improved, with Energy Balls being pearlescent orbs with greens and shining whites that land and explode with suitably green light. This is the first time I think I’ve been able to spot and notice these details and I appreciate them.

Sky Warrior starts with the most adorable Pokémon, Shaymin, scampering through the forest scared and afraid moments before being dragged into a battle between Dialga and Giratina inside the Reverse World, eventually escaping. The plot of this movie falls under “fantastical adventure to place X with new companion Y” after this, as the injured Shaymin meets up with Ash and the gang. The movie progresses with exposition over Shaymin, Giratina and the Reverse World as they head to the destination of desire of Shaymin’s Flower Garden. The plot is fairly fast paced with stuff constantly happening until Giratina is captured by resident antagonist Zero in order to buff up his Giratina-styled Fighter Jet.

The result of which is a sequence of high action packed aerial combat between the protagonists and the antagonists swarm of Magnemite over the menacing metal contraption containing Giratina, followed by combat inside the Reverse world itself. Giratina, Sky Forme Shaymin, Ash on a glider with his Pokémon and Zero in his MEGACOOL sci-fi Fighter clash in all-out combat, Giratina and Zero exchanging mutual Dragon claw attacks as Energy Balls, Flamethrowers, and Thunderbolts fly across the battleground. All of this taking place in the incredibly unique Reverse world with towering Ice-spires, floating islands and distorted or upside buildings. This is the best part of the movie and it’s amazing fun to watch.

The characters! Giratina is cool. Shaymin is a fussy princess and I love her for it and becomes a cool hero type in Sky Forme which is interesting! Giratina used to be my favorite Pokémon, and Shaymin currently shares that title alongside Zorua, so this movie is a delight for me.

Newton is this movie’s only ‘add-on’ character for most of its runtime, the dudes chill and I appreciate what he adds to the movie, his backstory and motivations are solid and bring the plot forward. Zero is the true star of the human characters here, voiced by Parker Anderson in the english dub, they have done well in establishing this villain as both calm and scheming at the start to maniacal and destructive when in control of his legendary-powered fighter-craft. The delivery of most of Zero’s lines are strong and I very much like the climactic fight, you can clearly hear that this character is struggling against something powerful just in the tone of their voice.

The music is wonderful, enhancing already good scenes with just that extra piece to bring you more into the scene. The fight scenes are powerful, the moments of tension are present even if you know the end-result is a happy one, and the farewells were enough to make my eyes water, but not quite cry. I have clearly forgotten over the years just how much I loved this movie and I am extremely happy to rediscover it now. It’s a 9.5/10 and I’m definitely biased towards this, throughout my life I keep coming back to this one movie over all the others and I have to do this justice. I love this movie.

And lest we forget… this is only part 2 of 3.


Movie 12 – Arceus and the Jewel of Life

Official Synopsis:
A Tale Untold. A Legend Unleashed.

Get ready for the latest Pokémon movie, Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life! This final installment in a three movie story arc reveals that the Legendary Arceus is at the center of the recent disruptions in the Pokémon World. First the epic battle that threatened to tear a hole in the space-time continuum took place between Dialga and Palkia. Then Giratina, the sole defender of the Reverse World, had to take action to protect the precarious balance of its home and the Pokémon World. Now, Michina Town is at the heart of the action. The town has a long history and checkered past in relation to the mighty Arceus—after Arceus granted the townspeople some of its power as the Jewel of Life, they betrayed the Pokémon!

Ash and his friends, accompanied by their new companion Sheena, travel in time with Dialga’s help to right the mistakes of the town’s ancestors before the world crumbles under the power of Arceus’s rage. Will they be able to fix the mistakes of the past? What really happened in the past—did Sheena’s ancestors truly betray Arceus? Watch the stunning finale to the trilogy when all of the secrets of the previous two movies will be revealed!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Welp, it’s time for the final movie of the ‘Sinnoh trilogy.’ One where the conflict between the ‘creation gods’ is finally brought to its climatic end and the mysteries of the universe are finally addressed as our heroes meet the GOD of Pokémon. To me, you basically had a premise strong enough to serve as a battle driven movie about Arceus correcting a deteriorating world with the help of Ash and company. Kind of like The Power of One. In practice though, the film is more of a typical ‘ancient time’ times travel movie. Which, surprisingly, is something that wasn’t actually explored in the series up to this point.

The story goes as follows: After establishing the world for the first 15 minutes, the story picks right off with the Dialga and Giratina battle that was implied at the end of the last movie, and even throws Palkia into the mix. But rather than allowing this conflict to build to its climatic conclusion, the resident movie character, Sheena, uses her magical powers of Pokémon telepathy to pacify these legendaries.

After this conflict resolution, the movie pauses to offer an exposition dump, explaining how the prior two movies connected, how the world of Pokémon is split between multiple dimensions, and telling the story of Arceus. A divine being who lent their power to humans long ago, only to be betrayed when the powers were to be returned. This forced Arceus to slumber for centuries, maybe millennia, before returning to this earth with one goal. REVENGE!

Hellfire rains from the sky, buildings are destroyed, and when the heroes attempt to quell the rage of the divine, they are branded as deceivers. But just as death looms, Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina show up to battle Arceus in divine Pokémon kaiju warfare! Yet despite their best efforts, they are no match for Arceus, and the heroes’ only hope lies in going back in time and finding the titular jewel of life. A plot shift that happens about halfway through, and hits pretty much every key trope.

The heroes are immediately arrested. They learn that things are not as they seem and the history they thought they knew was wrong. Their knowledge of the future is abused by a supposed innocent. Then once the pivotal turning point in history does happen, things play out very differently, and the heroes need to risk their lives to course correct. It’s a solid formula, well executed, and balanced out with cute antics involving Pikachu, Piplup, and other cute Pokémon as they try to free their friends. All of which culminates in an appropriately intense climax to save the future that genuinely surprised me with how intense it got. Seriously, Arceus gets about as messed up as something can get while still appealing to 6-year-olds.

As is the case with the preceding stretch of movies, everything is balanced well, there aren’t any significant lulls, and something compelling is happening regularly. The landscape of the movie is a lushly detailed fictionalized mesh of Greece (and probably some other countries) looks gorgeous, and the CG used to bring this setting to life has aged gracefully. There is a slight problem with the visual design in the latter half of the movie, as it takes place in a drab cave of browns, oranges, and grays, but the setting is elevated by a robust attention to detail. Heck, they even designed ‘saddles’ for a couple dozen Pokémon. That takes some design work, and I appreciate it.

There are no outstanding major problems with this movie, but there are a lot of little things that are not quite as strong as they could have been. The supporting characters are archetypical to a fault, despite their importance to the story. Despite Arceus being presented as such a divinely powerful being, capable of sending ripples throughout dimensions, they spend most of the movie getting physically brutalized. The whole Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina connection feels more like a remnant that the story had to pursue, rather than something essential to the story. And… How do I put this? It does not feel adequately creative considering this the culmination of a trilogy and the theatrical debut of ARCEUS! You have all of this lore and build up and then go through the motions of a time travel movie.

Frankly, I would have preferred it just be a trippy kaiju movie where space and time are warped as characters try to obtain a mcguffin by traveling through time and space. Heck, maybe they could even travel through past movies and get help from cameo Pokémon who are trying to defend all of reality from being destroyed by a vengeful Arcues. That would have been way more expensive, but it would have been way cooler!

As it is though, Arceus and the Jewel of Life works. It can be great fun in spots, and definitely manages to feel epic both in its framing and destruction. But it is weirdly lacking a certain spark that separates a good movie from a great movie.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
The finale!

This movie is great, I highly approve of it. Arceus is cool, Dialga is cool, Palkia is cool, Giratina is cool and they are all here to fight! Okay sure it’s not much of the movie in terms of screen time but they are memorable moments interspersed throughout and there’s more.

The visual department is excellent, with the CG being bigger, grander and more impressive then the movies before it and the graphical effects for the Pokémon moves and their dimensional portals are really nice to look at. This combines well with what I would argue is well choreographed battles, such as the opening theme synching to the actions of Pikachu and Piplup. The background music is noticeable and adds all the good stuff to the parts it needs to.

The characters are… eh. I mean we all know Ash, Dawn and Brock so SKIP! Leaving those aside, we have Sheena whose outfit is cool, hair is weird, and contribution to the plot is substantial. Sheena has the power to connect to Pokémon’s hearts, which she uses to great effect alongside her ancestor Damos to help solve Poké-Conflict. Damos himself serves a role as the big figure in history, making a pact with Arceus and being tricked into betraying him which is the primary plot of the movie. Kevin exists, and the only reason I can find for him to do is provide a boyfriend and a happy ending for Sheena to come to in the end. He is utterly insignificant.

The Pokémon themselves get an amount of characterisation in this movie, with Dialga, Palkia and Giratina even undergoing small development as they resolve past differences in the greater threat. Dialga and Palkia working together to help the heroes with a spatial distortion is great, and Giratina’s expression upon recognising Ash while in a danger zone is very heartwarming. Arceus is a main character and the story is very much about them, everybody needs saving from him at the start to everyone saving Arceus from Marcus. Arceus is voiced by Tom Wayland and the delivery of the lines is great. You can feel the emotion in the lines and it really sells the character for me.

The plot itself is a bit of ups and downs, with bouts of very cool action and fighting between legendary/mythical Pokémon in the skies of Greek-styled Michina Town. Eventually the pacing slows down as the characters undergo exposition of the past, then literally go to the past to fight for Arceus. There is a period where Pikachu, Piplup and a Pichu run around ancient Machina and it’s just not as interesting vs. the rest. Team Rocket could also be entirely cut from this movie, they don’t interact with any other cast members and are solely slapstick comedy material as legendaries fight around them.

Overall, this movie is an 7.5/10 for me and I do believe nostalgia is raising the score a bit. I like this movie, the action is amazing, the plot and characters are serviceable but it’s all about the action. I just don’t think it’s quite on the level of Sky Warrior or Sea Temple, even if Arceus was some sort of estranged awakening for a younger me.

Movie 13 – Zoroark: Master of Illusions

Official Synopsis:
The Fury of Zoroark Has Been Unleashed!

The Pokémon Baccer World Cup.

It is the most anticipated event of the year, and as hundreds flock to Crown City to watch the exciting competition unfold, Ash, Pikachu, and his friends encounter a mysterious new Pokémon they have never seen before.

But when the three Legendary Pokémon Raikou, Entei, and Suicune suddenly arrive and begin rampaging through the streets, it’s up to Ash and his companions, along with their new Pokémon friend Zorua, to uncover the secret behind the immense and powerful forces at work.

What strange and dangerous powers are afoot in Crown City? Why did Celebi suddenly return after vanishing for twenty years? And why is the mighty Zoroark unleashing its fury upon the town? The quest for these answers leads down an uncertain path filled with peril—can Ash and his companions find enough courage, strength, and friendship to unearth the mystery in time to save Crown City?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
We actually started this project by watching the Zoroark movie, and we had such a good time that we decided to watch every Pokémon movie! With that new perspective in mind… It’s actually pretty easy to read this movie as being something of an amalgamation of other Pokémon movies, including the ideas and even the Pokémon themselves.

The setting is a city isolated from the outside world. The central ‘desired Pokémon’ is a Celebi who the antagonist wants to use as a tool to amass power, and whose time travel abilities are more incidental. The main legendary Pokémon is a rude little child who manages to get away with things because it’s cute and doesn’t really know any better. A legendary trio is interjected in order to serve as antagonists, but only for a brief stint of the movie. And the antagonist likes to ride on a little hover podium while surrounded by flying minions.

It’s nothing too unique, but it’s also a movie that does what it needs to do, without any major hiccups or big faults. It starts as a rescue mission by a Zorua who wants to save his memaw from the mass media mogul, Kodai. Briefly shifts into a faux disaster movie as Zoroark is used to attack the city. The antagonist takes advantage of the now isolated city by capturing Zoroark, and continuing their search for the legendary Pokémon they actually want. But even when that little onion is in his hands, Ash and friends come to the rescue, regroup, and things prepare for the mad rush of the final battle, where the group needs to get to a location before Kodai to stop him.

While I’m skimming over a bunch of details, that’s the gist of things, it all works, and everything is paced and balanced well enough that the movie remains entertaining. It blends in enough Pokémon battling and collateral destruction to remain exciting, while also taking time to just show cute Pokémon being cute. The antagonist nails being a reprehensible evil businessman with zero redeeming qualities, while also being closely connected to the main legendary Pokémon, who all have a personal grudge against him. Which definitely adds something to their relationship. The theme of illusions, being something both mythical and technological, is brought up and used to an extent, though in more of a supplementary and additive way. And the setting’s use of lush greenery and Dutch architecture, combined with the predictably polished CG and effects make for a gorgeous movie.

It’s a fun watch, but I do think that the film suffers from lacking a distinct goal, and weirdly feels like just another Pokémon movie when viewing things chronologically. And I think this is weirdly mirrored in the official synopsis, which does not really seem to know what the movie is about, and is more inclined to say things it contains while asking questions.

What could it have done better? Well, there are a lot of answers to that. They could have focused on the Pokémon Basketball Soccer championship more, instead of making it a red herring. Or placed more emphasis on the relationship between Zorua and Zoroark and make them more important, rather than tools to get to another unrelated legendary.

There are a bunch of alternatives but as it is… I would just say it’s one of the good ones, and not one of the great ones. Here’s hoping that things get better, but based on what I know about Black and White… it won’t!

Cassie’s Thoughts:
I like this movie, Zorua is my joint-favorite Pokémon alongside Shaymin and this movie is what established that placement. The CG is good, the settings look good, the Pokémon and characters are pretty. Yeah they’ve pretty much nailed this style by this point.

The usual cast aside, we have a 4 member cast on the protagonists side of two reporters and two shopkeeps. They fit their place, contribute to the movie but aren’t that memorable, as side-characters tend to be.

As usual the Pokémon characters shine through, with Zorua and it’s adoptive mother Zoroark being the best here. These two show more of a mother-child bond then Spell of the Unown and it’s kind of humorous, I also find both of them naturally endearing and they are a treat to watch.

The villain is a billionaire in the form of Kodai, who stole temporal powers from a Celebi and learned to see the future cementing his wealth. They push the movie forward throughout and the pacing is thus quite good, but I find their motives lacking. As they are already so successful that they simply have no need of this power anymore.

Honestly I thoroughly enjoy this movie and love it to bits. It has action scenes, Pokémon fights and while not as bombastic as previous movies, it delivers much more on an emotional side. Marking quieter moments of sorrow as the titular Pokémon fights the world to get to it’s loved one.

9/10. I am always willing to watch this movie, again and again. I’ll cheer for Zoroark and Zorua and highly recommend it.

Movie 14 – Black: Victini and Reshiram

Official Synopsis:
During their travels through the Unova region, Ash and his friends Iris and Cilan arrive in Eindoak Town, built around a castle called the Sword of the Vale. The three Trainers have come to compete in the town’s annual battle competition, and Ash manages to win with some unexpected help from the Mythical Pokémon Victini! It turns out Victini has a special bond with this place…

Long ago, the castle watched over the Kingdom of the Vale, and the partnership between Victini and the king protected the people who lived there. But that kingdom has since vanished into memory, leaving behind powerful relics and ancient Pokémon. Damon, a descendant of the People of the Vale, is trying to restore the lost kingdom with the help of his Gothitelle. His quest has taken him to the far reaches of the frozen tundra, and he has convinced the Legendary Pokémon Zekrom to help him!

Damon plans to trap Victini and harness its power, and as that plan gets under way, the entire town of Eindoak faces disaster! Can Ash use the courage of truth to convince the Legendary Pokémon Reshiram to help stop Damon? Can they rescue Victini? The greatest adventure in Pokémon history approaches!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Yeah, we’re only watching one of these movies, because they’re basically the same film, just with a few scene changes and other adjustments. Cute idea, but the review would basically be the same regardless, and after watching this movie once… I don’t want to watch it again.

The core story of the Victini movie is pretty simple. Ash and friends go to a magical place where they meet a powerful child-like Pokémon whose power is desired by a shady human who wishes to use it to power an ancient machine of some variety. Ash and friends, but mostly Ash, fight against this human and the power at their disposal to save the legendary cutie, teach the villain a lesson of some variety, and move on to greener pastures.

It is a basic formula, but it works, and based on the prior track record of movies 4, 5, 6, 9, and 13, it can produce some good, if not great, movies. …But if the formula isn’t adhered to properly, then you can wind up with a movie that is 20 or 30 minutes longer than it should be. This is sadly the case for Victini and Reshiram, which spends the first 50 minutes of its run-time engaged in set up.

It spends this time explaining a needlessly elaborate backstory about a decayed land, a destructive force that threatens to tear the world apart, and a group of people whose home was lost 1,000 years ago. Engaging in a tournament for 10 minutes before dropping that subplot. And introducing Victini as the latest cute legendary Pokémon with the mind of a playful 5-year-old. It all could work, but the screenplay is bloated and meandering, the exposition reads as noise, and the story dabbles in a load of different ideas without ever finding a core. It is not about the balance of truth and ideals, it is not about a group of people trying to reclaim an ancestral right, and it is not even somewhat related to the idea of Victini being the victory Pokémon.

It’s one of those stories where I cannot understand what the writer was even going for, or where I can really determine what it is trying to be. It clearly has ideas, but not enough to fill the runtime, nothing to glue them together, and no ideas about how to effectively use the titular Pokémon of the film.

The idea of venturing deep down the crystalline catacombs of a shadowy castle to uncover an ancient power only accessible by the worthy? Great. The imagery of a castle lifting up from the sky to form a goldarn sword? Awesome! Using thousands of psychic Pokémon as a power source for anything? YES! Having a sky battle where a dragon fights a giant ghost golem and some dude flies around like a dollar store Porco Rosso? Sick! Having Victini just chill out with a bunch of cute Unova Pokémon one time? Love it. Sending the castle into SPACE where Ash nearly dies of asphyxiation and hypothermia? That’s one of the best scenes in the entire series!

But beyond these occasional high points, the movie is just… sort of there. Not really aspiring to much or offering much beyond pretty scenery. It’s aimless, boring, and thematically, a ripe mess. If you took out the ‘good bits’ you would be left with about 20 minutes of content, surrounded by 70 minutes of subpar anime slop. If you isolate the best parts, you can make the movie seem good, but as a whole, it’s easily down in the lowest tier, with the specials and Jirachi.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
I wanna go home…

This movie wasn’t great, apart from one moment. I don’t know what it is precisely but excessively large portions of this movie just come off as “noise”, scenes are happening but nothing is progressing. Nothing is developing and I feel actively disassociated from the movie. If a good movie pulls you in, then this one feels like it is actively pushing me away.

The initial start of the movie is a typical “Find the cute legendary and do cute stuff with it”, we’ve seen this plenty of times now and it hits okay. I like watching Victini make friends and float around being an adorable munchkin, you could sell me on an hour long Furret documentary gosh-darn it, but there is simply too much. It also is filled with simply dull points of exposition of a plot that I felt like I already knew, and these pull down the entire experience dramatically.

There are way too many characters here. There is a “round man with a helicopter”, who exists to fly a helicopter around later on. “Mother with Golurk”, whose Pokémon achieves more than *any human character does* in the action, and her child, who does some exposition and guiding at the start for Ash and the gang. All of these characters could have been melded into one singular person, like at no cost. There are many other, even more side-ier characters than this, like a platoon of people who are meant to be colonizing the revitalized land and they do NOTHING but stand around in almost every scene. They are just a CROWD here, and WHY?

The antagonist is also unusual, being both that and also not in a sense. The motivations and evil plot are decidedly good in nature by his desire to basically heal the damage from a long ago cataclysm that destroyed a kingdom. He even has the assistance of one of three movie legendaries of its own free will. It is an interesting moral dilemma whose potential was squandered by making neither “good” nor “bad” side endearing enough to lead to me wanting to route for either.

The movie characters aside, the main characters also seem to be lacking. Ash feels markedly less smart and seems to lack the maturity he had before, I have little to say on the girl which shows what she added to the movie in itself. I dreaded whenever Cilan would speak. And this to me is the problem with the movie.

The characters are unlikeable, they are not endearing. Same as the Pokémon, even Victini is fairly usual by small movie legendary standards. The movie does a poor job of selling the characters to me and this in turn makes me almost tune out parts of it when it loses its luster. When previous movies dumped exposition, other dialogue or simple introductory scenes I was invested and interested to see what happened to these characters. The loss of Brock, Dawn, the new Pokémon style that I don’t vibe with, and this movie’s poor selection make me simply lose interest in it’s happenings.

I could go on regarding the plot in detail, but I know for a fact Natalie will have covered it. So for short, the buildup was slow and dull, but the movie gets slightly better as the antagonist kicks the action and plot into gear. There is this weird lull when Victini is being abused and tortured and everyone seems to forget and watch the passing scenery but then it turns into battles around the skybound stone bastion as the second movie legendary fights for the antagonist. The peak was absolutely reached when the Sky-Sword-Castle literally entered space, Ash started getting hypothermia and sound started cutting out from the lack of a medium to travel through.

This movie is a 3/10, with potential to have been a high ranking 7 or 8. You just need to cut out the dull parts and get to the action fast, and make me interested in these characters.

Have a participation trophy macaroon.

Movie 15 – Kyurem Vs The Sword of Justice

Official Synopsis:
Ash and Pikachu, along with their friends Iris and Cilan, are on a train headed to the next stop on their journey. From the train, Ash spots an injured Pokémon—one he’s never seen before. He’s trying to figure out how he can help when the train is attacked by the Legendary Kyurem, a Dragon-type Pokémon with immense power! Ash and the others barely manage to escape the rampaging Kyurem’s attack, and as the dust settles, they turn their attention to the injured Pokémon. Their new acquaintance turns out to be the Mythical Pokémon Keldeo, and it’s on a mission to rescue its friends—Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion, the Legendary Pokémon known as the Swords of Justice—from Kyurem’s icy clutches!

But Kyurem’s rampage isn’t over, and it’s drawing power from Reshiram and Zekrom, changing into Black Kyurem or White Kyurem to make its attacks even stronger! Why is Kyurem attacking Ash and his friends with such unrelenting fury? How will they be able to overcome this danger?

To protect its friends, to discover true power and genuine courage, and to preserve its bond with Ash and its companions, a hidden strength awakens within Keldeo…

Natalie’s Thoughts:
The story of Kyurem Vs. The Sword of Justice is pretty simple. A headstrong young hero raised by powerful warriors wishes to fight a mighty dragon to prove his might. However, he takes on this trial before his prime, winds up sealing his family away, and is left to run away, wounded and demoralized. After going on an adventure where he sees the world and gains the power of bonds, he tries to redeem himself by freeing his family and battling the dragon once more. While things go poorly at first, he winds up awakening hidden might, and proves himself to be a real hero.

Conceptually, this is actually a very strong premise for a Pokémon movie, as it gives more agency to the legendary Pokémon themself, and provides the film with a clear character arc. While also organically incorporating a family of legendary Pokémon as a… family. In practice though, the story is littered with so many holes that it feels like the entire script was written in a weekend after the writers were given a series of executive mandates.

Why is Keldeo battling Kyurem to prove his strength? …I don’t know. He’s just a dragon chilling in an abandoned mining facility doing whatever dragons do in icy caves. He’s not hurting anyone, and only leaves his domain after Keldeo runs away instead of… giving up and begging for mercy? So he’s not an evil threat that the ‘Swords of Justice’ need to fight. And it’s not like fighting him is the only way the Swords of Justice can unlock their true power.

It does not really make sense, and neither does Kyurem’s inexplicable ability to channel power from Reshiram and Zekrom to unlock new forms. In the games, these forms were unlocked by fusing the Pokémon together into one incredibly powerful being. But here, Reshiram and Zekrom are never seen and are never mentioned beyond a single line.

It is clear that something bad happened when the film was in the scripting stage, but fortunately, the film is more of an ‘action and chase movie,’ where the most important thing is the spectacle. Which is something that it ultimately succeeds in being, but with more mixed results.

The environmental designs are once again excellent. There are a lot of wonderful set pieces ranging from a train battle, a chase sequence through the streets of Tokyo, and a scene where a character steals a blimp as a diversion. And the choreography for the battles between Kyurem and Keldeo is some of the best in the entire series. The storyboarders and animators had a high task assigned to them: make a unicorn fight a shapeshifting dragon, but they took to this challenge and passed with flying colors. The effects are flashy, environmental space is used well, and the contrast between the mobility and size of these characters is extreme.

However, this film also marked a major shift in the way the Pokémon anime handled lighting and visual effects, and the results are… not great. The prior films have always adjusted the way characters looked to match the lighting of the setting, but here, the effect is far more pronounced, and gives far too much of the film this dark desaturated look. Characters wind up blending into the background, and the effect just completely defeats the purpose of having these bright and colorful characters. Which, for the record, is a pretty big problem, as so much of the movie takes place at night.

This shift in lighting also carries over to a shift in the way CG looks and is incorporated. Some implementations, such as the CG train during the opening credits or the CG model used for Kyurem, neatly blend in with the 2D elements and the incorporation is fairly seamless. While most CG backgrounds… look like bad green screen effects. The lighting does not match, the textures don’t match, and everything just looks weirdly uncanny. I don’t want to say that it looks worse than other films in the same series released a decade before, but it does. It’s not a bad looking film, but there are more than a few instances where it looks like a clumsy step backwards, rather than a confident step forwards.

It’s also not a bad film in general as there is a core of a solid action movie here, and when the film is in its element, it triumphs. It’s just that these highs are countered by some of the lowest lows, not helped by how ancillary Ash and the crew are this time around. It’s one I wouldn’t really recommend outside of the first 12 and last 20 minutes, along with maybe a few clips from the middle.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Huh, that’s weird.

I remember this movie being terrible the last time I watched it.

But plot aside, this one’s actually fairly good. The story is terrible here, with essentially no exposition as to the role of Kyurem with the Swords of Justice, beyond the viewer loosely assuming it’s a trial one must pass. That’s pretty much it, the rest of the movie is action as Keldeo meets up with Ash and friends, who battle and flee as Kyurem chases them on a train, through a Tokyo-esque city and the like, wrecking havoc til a final battle at the films starting arena.

This is the good part of the movie, with these action scenes being exceptionally choreographed and entertaining to watch. The visuals added to the experience, mostly. This is balanced out by the relative lows of the non-action scenes, specifically at the start.

I don’t like the characters, especially Cilan. This movie has some deep lows, with the Swords of Justice doing surprisingly little beyond martial art sense tropisms. Kyurem is a grump calamity that causes freezing everywhere he goes, and he’s one of the best here. In the end, some of his lines are great chuuni material. Keldeo is a Pokémon I happen to quite like, and they are enjoyable to watch, however there is fairly little explanation for why he has such strong ambition to become a sword. I guess we are meant to infer something like following the footsteps of his family/friends/comrades?

Special attention to the visuals, I already mentioned the choreography looks good and the visual fx does a great job bringing it to life. The ice specifically is amazing, I would go so far as to say it is beautiful. The way it emerges and grows to form an arena, the reflections and translucent nature or how it breaks into pieces and falls onto the floor. Really cool, do like.

However there is a slight strangeness to this movie, which I believe has to do with how they have handled the lighting of scenes and characters here. It seems as though there are different light sources causing shine/reflections for the characters and background. This causes a break and dissociation between them, slightly impairing what was potentially one of the best visual experiences they have done so far.

All in all, this one is a 4 or 5/10, broken down it has its shares of high ranking 7/8s and low ranking 2/3s. The visuals are great, the plot is shaky. The characters are enjoyable to watch, but shouldn’t be dug into.

You can watch this one. The experience will highly depend on the individual viewing it, in my opinion.

Movie 16 – Genesect and the Legend Awakened

Official Synopsis:
When big trouble threatens the big city, it’s up to Ash, Pikachu, and their friends to stop it!

A vast Pokémon habitat amid the hustle and bustle of the big city seems like the perfect new home for a group of five Genesect. The arrival of these Mythical Pokémon quickly becomes a problem, though: their nest threatens the city’s power supply, and they keep attacking anyone who approaches it. On top of that, they’ve attracted the attention of the Legendary Pokémon Mewtwo, who sympathizes with them because its own origins also involve human tampering. The group’s leader, known as Red Genesect, doesn’t trust Mewtwo, and their confrontation quickly rages out of control! Can Ash and friends stop these two powerful Pokémon before they destroy the city?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Now that we are 16 movies in, it’s pretty clear what does and does not make a good Pokémon movie, and one of the most surefire ways to make something thoroughly entertaining is to make an action movie. Get two or more legendaries, have them fight in a cool location, and tie everything together about a moral about getting along, friendship, and unity! And when you’re working with a runtime of… about an hour, that’s pretty much the best model to use for your movie.

The story itself centers around a group of five Genesects, cyborg Pokémon created using fossils from 300 million years ago, trying to find their homeland from eons ago, and choosing to settle in… New York City! Rather than aim to co-exist however, they choose to kick out the Pokémon living within Central Park and use it to create a hive, because they’re bugs and, despite being robots, I guess they can still lay eggs. Their destructive tendencies catch the attention of Mewtwo who, with the help of Ash and his annoying friends, try to kick these Pokémon out before they destroy the city.

Super simple story for a story that is, itself, very simple, but the most important thing, as always, is that everything about it works. The story opens up with action and spectacle, pauses to introduce the viewer to the setting and characters a bit more, and once it reaches the halfway point, it indulges in a bombastic action sequence. One where Mewtwo, Ash, and the Pokémon of Central Park battle the Genesects in a nature preserve/power plant. No bits are dull, the lulls don’t last long, and there are enough adorable moments or general spectacle to keep the film entertaining from start to finish.

Partially because of the intense, almost Dragon-Ball-esque, action action sequences and beam struggles between the characters, but also because of the visuals. This version of Central Park is as lush and beautiful as any other forestry environment in a Pokémon movie. The depiction of New York City is a feast of details, and the choice to depict it as a city of vibrant lights nicely mirrors the more naturalistic locations. While the various flying sequences are visual highlights that really make the most of the abilities of its two legendary Pokémon.

There is a lot good about this movie… but there are also a bunch of little things that just irk me. Due to changes in technology and art direction, the CG for more naturalistic environments looks, by 2013 standards, pretty bad, and really only works in more urban or industrial areas. The textures just don’t match, and the bad greenscreen effect from Keldeo is in full force here.

Rather than bringing back the Mewtwo from the first movie, the creators decided to create an entirely different Mewtwo with a female voice and the ability to transform into Mega Mewtwo Y, as part of the hyper cycle for Pokémon X and Y. She has the same basic backstory, same basic personality, and there was next to nothing stopping them from making this an indirect sequel to the first movie. I mean, it probably would have made a bunch more money if they marketed it that way. And I would have LOVED to see some closure on the original Mewtwo’s unfinished story, where he is basically Pokémon Batman but also Superman.

I actually really enjoy the idea of a team of antagonists working together around a single goal. But instead of making them a unique team, assigning each member a unique color and personality, the creators only really distinguished two of them. The shiny leader, who wants little more than to conquer and destroy all who dare to give them orders. And a softer spoken Genesect who merely wants to return to their home. What’s there ultimately works, and these characters do not need to be anything more, but it feels like there was a lot of wasted potential to create a memorable evil super sentai team.

Also, the latter half of this movie, while a deluge of great action, is also a section that clearly went through a lot of revisions during production, and has remnants of earlier drafts lingering about. Such as how there is a Chekhov’s bazooka thrown in, and how there are a few very similar scenes that happen during this prolonged encounter.

It’s definitely got a few rough patches, but it’s short, keeps the viewer engaged, and offers a sort of fast-paced action that really has not been seen in a Pokémon movie before. There’s enough good that I would definitely recommend it, but also enough missed potential for it to go into the second highest tier.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
This movie was entertaining, the near Sentai squad of Genesect, altruistic Mewtwo and other characters all bounce off each other in such a way that the movie can switch between emotional, action combat and exposition without problem.

The action really sells this movie here, with the battles between Red Genesect and Mewtwo being high pace speed battles that devolve into Dragon Ball style blurs as they literally rip across the screen in their frenzy. contrasting to the David vs. Goliath of the previous moment, you can feel the energy of these Pokémon’s speed and I can’t help but be pulled in by the vacuum they leave behind. It is FUN!

As if that wasn’t enough, there are FOUR other Genesect in this movie, one of whom fights for Ash who already has an army of native Pokémon by his back. This leads to another layer of conflict between the minion Genesect and the protagonists as they try to compel them to stop laying waste to the nearby landscape and find a peaceful solution to the homeless and displaced Genesect.

Debatably the weakest point of the movie is the plot here. The Genesect are lab built/grown fossil Pokémon, given new robot bodies and timely escaped afterward. 300 million years after they died, they find themselves completely lost in the modern world. They are found by a Mewtwo, but a different one to the previous (which opens a very interesting can of worms as to how or why they got hold of that destroyed research) that decides to help them after psycho scanning their minds and memories.

I like the cast in this movie, the younger Genesect who likes flowers makes a good contrast between the hard metallic exterior and their gentle personality. Mewtwo is a bornbred hero of Pokémon and is clearly respected by the native Pokémon as such and they are cool, however they can also be a bit stubborn and refuse to acknowledge humans at the start nevertheless they act like a proper hero trope and this means they fight and otherwise act gallant, which is cool. Ash is surprisingly good in this movie, what he adds feels a step above the usual.

Overall, this movie is a strong 7/10. The action is great and fun, the characters bounce off each other nicely and the plot is.. serviceable at worst. The visuals don’t awe like other movies have as well, but they are still great. Absolutely watchable, just not as great as some of the others.

Movie 17 – Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction

Official Synopsis:
In the underground Diamond Domain, where many Carbink live, the Mythical Pokémon Diancie serves as ruler. The Heart Diamond that sustains the land is beginning to fall apart, and Diancie is not yet strong enough to create a new one. While seeking help from the Legendary Pokémon Xerneas, Diancie encounters a group of thieves who want to take control of its diamond-producing power–and who awaken the Legendary Pokémon Yveltal from its cocoon in the process! Can Ash and his friends help Diancie discover its true power, stop Yveltal’s rampage, and save the Diamond Domain?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
By now, the Pokémon movies are pretty much just recycling various elements, and with Diancie here, we have another ‘travel to save the homeland’ style movie. With the story centering around a princess of the diamond rock Pokémon learning that her land is on the brink of destruction, and heading out on a great adventure. One where she meets up with Ash, goes to a couple different locations if only to facilitate fun little vignette style scenes, and avoids both the clutches of both Team Rocket and a trio of baddies. A ninja with a Greninja. A witch with a Delphox. And a father daughter duo who fly around in an invisible airship with the entire Honedge line, and also a Chesnaught.

The story sets itself up efficiently, albeit with a bit too much prophecy for my liking. The titular hero is well characterized as a prim but pleasant princess, who is easily one of the best ‘legendary protagonists’ in the movie series. The opening scene nicely blends Pokémon battling with a chase sequence through a classic European city, but is kinda ruined by this season’s garbage cover of the original Pokémon theme. And the flurry of scenes that build out the movie’s second quarter do a wonderful job of establishing the characters and keeps things visually interesting with regular scene changes.

Up to the halfway mark, it is pretty much everything I could expect and ask for from a Pokémon movie, and is nothing but the good stuff. …Afterwards though, things start to get mucked up by the decision to focus on other legendaries. The film reminds its characters and the audience that Diancie needs to create a magical Heart Diamond to prevent her homeland from collapsing, and needs to visit a magic deer named Xerneas. …Who they have been looking for the entire movie. They find the deer, Diancie is given the power despite not really doing anything but go on a long walk, and before she can solve the prevailing conflict, the baddies show up again. They trade Diancie around like a hot potato, hop around in a pool, and awaken Yveltal, the god of destruction.

What follows is an excellent scene of destruction as characters are petrified (the TF meaning of the word, meaning they turn into stone) and the lush forest is rendered into a lifeless husk. But rather than have the titular protagonist use the strength within to defeat this destructive menace, the film has her unlock her powerful Mega Evolution and… block one of his attacks before turning back to normal. Instead Yveltal is defeated by the magic deer who… just sort of stares at them, and pacifies them. Forever, I guess. Then, instead of Diancie, the diamond Pokémon, freeing the other character from their stone prison, Xerneas sacrifices themself and becomes a tree who saves the day with THE POWER OF GREEN!

This leaves Diancie with nothing more to do than go home, make a big diamond, and somehow save her subterranean kingdom from collapsing. The characters say something about friendship, Yveltal is just chilling, and the Diancie hunters decide to take up more honorable careers.

This latter half of the movie is frustrating to me for three reasons. One, Xerneas really did not need to be in this movie, and their role as a divine protector distracts from Diancie’s role as a hero princess. Two, the script could have easily tied together the Heart Diamond and the awakening of Yveltal far more than it did. Yes, doing so would be playing fast and loose with the lore, but that’s never stopped other Pokémon movies from doing so. And three, Diancie does not really get to do much in her movie, and due to the utter lack of a battle between Xerneas and Yveltal, the movie does not really have a climax or final battle to call its own.

The movie clearly has good ideas, features some absolutely gorgeous imagery, is home to some of the best designed supporting characters, and clearly is trying something new with Diancie being a literal princess. However, this is an example of a movie that was screwed over by what I can only assume were corporate mandates to feature three legendaries, and it only really goes to hurt the movie.

A movie that… I would still put in the ‘good to watch pile’ so long as you go in knowing it kind of screws up its final quarter. The characters are still a lot of fun, some of the set pieces are great, and oodles of the cuddly feelings that Pokémon movies are so good at providing.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
My god this movie was a journey.

This movie starts off incredibly strong, straight heading into an opening scene discussing the cutie of the movie, Diancie and how her and the Carbinks’ kingdom is at peril due to the termination of the heart jewel and its service. Unable to produce a new one to replace it, the pink Pokémon princess embarks on a journey to find Xerneas who can help her awaken the fairy power needed to create it.

The plot is both a godsend and a disaster. The action segments are a special blend of enjoyment with so many different factions at play, especially against each other and this leads to something fairly unique in a Pokémon movie so far. It highly reminds me of later Ranma ½ episodes where similar martial arts battles would take place between the rival suitors, the fact these scenes make up a decent period of the movie lends well to the experience up to and including the arrival of Yveltal.

Yveltal starts off strong as an avatar of destruction, petrifying the forest and people inside with insidious breath attacks before the movie writers decided the fun was over by denying Diancie her chance to save her newfound friends as Xerneas deer-ex-machina’s them. The climax is a joke here, as Xerneas and Yveltal simply stare at each other before the latter leaves and the former leafs. Like literally, Xerneas turns into a tree to save the forest. This is objectively the worst part of an otherwise golden movie, it simply does not provide for a climax here despite the fanfare of the forest’s rejuvenation. Even without this potential spot for character development, Diancie still manages to create a new Heart Jewel and save the kingdom.

Diancie really is this movie’s saving grace. I absolutely adore her, I love her to bits in a way I haven’t for other Pokémon before and the only way I would like them more is if they were human instead of Pokémon. Every moment, every scene with this character is precious and makes my heart melt. From this princess dabbing her mouth with a tissue after eating, to her happy smile or airheaded moments like chiding Team Rocket for being thief’s before agreeing to give them poke-diamonds without a concern of their motives. Diancie elevates every scene she is in, and the highlight of the movie is the shopping trip mid-way through as Serena and her perform a fashion show.

Diancie has good character development in this movie. Starting off unaware of the world so much as to not even know what friends are and going on a trip, overcoming conflicts with newfound friends to become a better version of herself. Such that she learns how to achieve the goal she set out for and save her kingdom. It is great to watch and root for, even during the aforementioned ‘weird’ parts of the movie. The other characters are also pleasant, with 4 different human antagonists and each of them unique and contrasting as they engage each other in battle. Ash’s companions are not Cilan, and Serena is very cute alongside Diancie. Ash himself has felt more endearing throughout the movies and this one is no exception, being more than just ‘the protagonist’ by fighting every battle but also contributing by helping other characters verbally.

The visuals of Pokémon movies are almost always good, even down to the two decade old 1st movie, but Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction show true what the advancements of over a decade have done for the franchise. The scenario shots are simply beautiful, the visuals of moves stun and instill a sense of intensity deserved of their power and the CG of objects both everyday and remarkable rarities shine and gleam. I was frequently and repeatedly impressed by what I was watching and I know this would remain if I watched this again.

This movie is a 9/10. I really, really enjoyed this one even with its small peculiarities later. Diancie is an amazing character, everyone else is great and the movie just keeps on making me smile big dumb smiles and go ‘aww’. Also the ending song is a banger.

Into the sunlight indeed.

Movie 18 – Hoopa and the Clash of Ages

Official Synopsis:
The Mythical Pokémon Hoopa is the star of Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages! When Ash, Pikachu, and their friends visit a desert city by the sea, they meet the Mythical Pokémon Hoopa, who has the ability to summon things—including people and Pokémon—through its magic ring. After a scary incident, they learn a story about a brave hero who stopped the rampage of a terrifying Pokémon long ago. Now, the threat that has been bottled up for years is in danger of breaking loose again! Can Ash help his new friend overcome the darkness within…or will a dangerous secret erupt into a clash of legends?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
The way I see it, Clash of Ages is one movie with a 78 minute runtime trying to be two very different movies. It is trying to be a movie about Ash and the gang helping out and saving a legendary Pokémon from their evil side, which aims to strike a balance between the cute baby legendary and a destructive god legendary. But it is also trying to be a crossover movie chock full of legendaries whose big centerpiece is a climatic high flying battle in the city of Dubai.

Both of these are workable concepts similar to what the series has achieved before, but in trying to achieve both, it manages to be a lesser film on both counts. Let’s start with the first plot. The film adopts a vague Middle East setting and positions its titular legendary, Hoopa, as a sort of reformed spirit whose evil half and true power were sealed away, and gradually learned how to behave over the spans of generations. He is still mischievous, and is working with the brain of a 5-year-old, but is generally harmless… despite his immense power to break the laws of space by creating portals to anywhere in the world, perhaps even the multiverse.

However, the people who took this power from Hoopa eventually decide that Hoopa is reformed enough to try and regain his former power, and go to get a magical lamp hidden in a cave . Except the lamp is evil, and contains a malevolent Shadow Hoopla (not technically a Shadow Pokémon, because that would be too cool). Shadow Hoopa wants to kill the regular Hoopa, and it is up to Ash and friends to find a way to stop him, protect the normal Hoopa, and eventually restore the normal Hoopa’s power.

Simple, effective, and easy to map out to a logical throughline featuring a big battle between the empowered Hoopa versus Shadow Hoopa, using their unique powers and biology to do some bonkers and destructive stuff. Combined with the background and emotional core added by Hoopa’s guardians, then you’ve got enough to make a solid movie.

Instead though, the creators of this film decided that this would be a good excuse for them to shove in a bunch of cool legendary Pokémon. Partially to show off new forms, like Mega Latios, Mega Latias, Mega Rayquaza, Primal Groudon, and Primal Kyogre. And partially to help lure people in by making them think that this movie would be the Destroy All Monsters of Pokémon movies. I mean, the trailer basically promised as much.

Now, do I have any problem with a Pokémon movie just being a Godzilla, Gamera, or other kaiju movie with Pokémon instead? HECK NO! That would be close to the perfect Pokémon movie if anything! …But the problem is that this movie only tries to be this for a mere fifteen minutes, contains a seemingly random scattering of legendaries, and makes Shadow Hoopa seem like the most powerful force in the entire Pokémon movie series.

There is some great stuff in these fifteen minutes, especially with the environmental destruction and ways that enemy legendaries are used to damage or incapacitate each other. But it also feels weirdly conceptually under-developed as well. I could go on a tangent asking why X does Y instead of Z, highlighting inconsistencies, and so forth. However, I think the biggest problems are twofold.

This is not a battle as much as it is a prolonged chase sequence, which completely changes the context of the fights, and turns what would be battles into brief seconds-long encounters. Also… this section kind of looks like butt. You have these massive world shattering creatures attacking this gorgeous modern city. But not only is the city rendered in obviously inserted CG, but things are so dark you’d have to wonder if these people have ever seen a city at night. It is a great idea, and the choreography is good in general, but they just did not have the right resources to execute this concept.

All of which is before getting into the actual ending section of the movie which… is just kind of bad. The movie actually ends at the 64 minute mark, but the story needed to contrive one final conflict to pad out the runtime and give further additional stakes. But this conflict is done in 6 minutes after Arceus comes in for a 15 second cameo and obligatory deus ex machina.

It’s just not very refined storytelling, and the fact that this all could have been something better only goes to make this movie feel like a wad of wasted potential. Something that can be fun for its occasional absurdity and small bouts of action, but as a whole, left me with an underwhelming ‘bleh’ sort of feeling. I haven’t really been doing the rating thing, but yeah, this is a 5/10 in my book, and not the fun kind.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Now I remember this movie being horrendous and… It’s not as bad as I remember, but it’s no blockbuster either.

The premise of this movie, or at least what I feel is advertised in its trailers is that of a giant clash of ~~ages~~ legendaries duking it out for whatever plot-based reasons the movie needs in order to provide this fanservice. And it’s about half of that. Legendaries are summoned, ages are clashed upon, and plot-based reasons are provided, but Hoopa never manages to reach a stage of continued excitement.

The start of the movie is pretty default, setting up and expositing a powerful Pokémon that Ash and Co. befriend in order to go on an adventure with. It’s typical stuff but it’s not particularly endearing as Hoopa is a childish trickster Pokémon who mostly causes trouble for its giggles. Unlike Diancie, Shaymin or Zorua from the previous movies, who each gave me strong reasons to root for them to succeed in their journey, Hoopa is the opposite, with his power quickly being shown as a menace. I felt weirdly hazy/headache-y watching the early part and I’m not sure if this was the movie or not.

Once it gets going, the movie does some cool stuff. With legendary Pokémon battling it out in the skyscraper skyline of Dubai. Roars of Time, Spatial-Rends and all other manners of super moves are thrown and dodged, letting them crash and annihilate millions of property in damage. This part is genuinely fun with high intensity action that you’d expect from this movie, the CGs are cool in most regards. The snaking movement of a Mega-Rayquaza like a gosh-darn Chinese Dragon firework with its bloom glowing tendrils is a sight to behold and looks really great alongside the speed of the Latios/Latias duo.

Sadly this part of the movie simply does not last long enough. This movie lacks ‘fun’, feeling too much of a need to follow the plotline set-out with Shadow Realm Hoopa searching the streets and crannies to find and banish the original Hoopa and escorting Ash Ketchum. These scenes are just a lull and I really wish they’d neglected this area for the sake of going full-ham on the legendary battles, they really are the strength of this movie.

Another positive I can probably give it is the setting. It is very Arabian nights from the clothing, to the scenery, the music and even Hoopa’s speech. I vibe to the atmosphere it gives and it certainly makes the movie that little bit better for it. Meray is also a cutie, but not as much as Diancie was, or previous characters.

Yeah, I haven’t got much to say here on this one. It’s a 3/10 with a concept that simply could have been more.

Movie 19 – Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel

Official Synopsis:
In this latest cinematic adventure, Ash meets the Mythical Pokémon Volcanion when it crashes down from the sky, creating a cloud of dust—and a mysterious force binds the two of them together! Volcanion despises humans and tries to get away, but it’s forced to drag Ash along as it continues its rescue mission. They arrive in a city of cogs and gears, where a corrupt minister has stolen the ultimate invention: the Artificial Pokémon Magearna, created 500 years ago. He plans to use its mysterious power to take control of this mechanical kingdom! Can Ash and Volcanion work together to rescue Magearna? One of the greatest battles in Pokémon history is about to unfold!

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Like with most of these movies, I went into Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel knowing basically nothing about its quality, and only knowing it as the last movie in the ‘original continuity.’ Before the movies started being their own thing starting with the next one. As such, I was expecting it to be anywhere from bad to average— something to justify a reboot— but instead… it’s one of the best Pokémon movies, period.

Why do I say that? Well, unlike a lot of movies we’ve covered so far, Volcanion knows exactly what it wants to be, balances everything in service of this vision, and has virtually no instance where it falters or fumbles. To the point where I’m not sure what to say… other than walk through some of the coolest stuff this movie has to offer.

At the start of the movie, it’s an unlikely pair buddy story, where Ash and Volcanion are magically bound. Both giving Ash a darn good reason to be involved in this plot, and forcing Volcanion to accept this unwanted partner. Their dynamic is that of a grumpy old man and a young plucky kid, a staple dynamic for a good reason, and the regular insertion of cartoonish violence only makes it more endearing.

The journey to their destination is filled with good character moments and actually gives Team Rocket an opportunity to actually act as antagonists in a Pokémon movie— which they basically never do. Hell, they are an active part in this story from start to end which… I don’t think I’ve seen since the fourth movie? The battle sequences are well choreographed, have a good weight to them, and are surprisingly elaborate despite dealing with so many creatures with unusual body types.

The tranquil valley for abused Pokémon is filled with a litany of adorable moments, but has enough progression and plot purpose to never feel like the movie is dragging on. Also, I’ve got to give this movie major points for even acknowledging that Pokémon can be hurt, experience PTSD, and acknowledge the power of healing. Sure, we have seen plenty of abuse in other movies, but here it is presented as something systematic, insidious, and somewhat common. Which is a far more mature take than I would expect for a film with such a young target demographic.

The start of the second half does an excellent job of selling the power and lack of humanity of the antagonists as they utterly wreck the heroes and initiate their deliciously absurd master plan. The setting of the third act is a gosh darn fantasy steampunk flying fortress with a Death Star laser beam attached to it. That’s just plain cool! The climactic battle sequence between Ash and friends’ Pokémon against a dozen Mega Evolved Pokémon is, genuinely, the best battle sequence in the entire series so far. It is fast, dynamic, and gives every Pokémon a time to shine, without playing favorites, and spans both land and the sky. It freaking owns, and it feels more epic and important than anything in Hoopa!

The climax similarly delivers, really doing a great job to showcase the antagonist as an independent and motivationless scumbag who seeks only destruction and death. Emotions run high, lasers are fired, and after the plan is thwarted, there’s a dope escape/destruction sequence to cap things off with a literal BOOM!

This right here is how you do it, this is how you make not only a great Pokémon movie, but a damn good movie overall! However, it is also helped by the original characters.

Volcanion is a grumpy grandfather who is slow to warm up to Ash and friends, but never in a way that seems malicious, and is clearly the start of an arc that the film fulfills to its natural conclusion. Magearna, despite being incapable of speaking beyond mechanical chirps, has a lot of personality thrown her way by how she moves, how others treat her, and her habit of both tripping and curling up into a ball. While the supporting cast are pretty basic, but they do what they need to, and serve as active characters who play a role in the story, rather than just being set dressing.

This is all in addition to how the movie looks very good from start to finish, lacking the same lighting/brightness problems from other films, and really delivering with the imagery. From the usual gorgeous forests to the elaborate steampunk city filled with all sorts of cool gizmos and minor details. Along with vehicle designs that have way too much work put into them and human character designs that nicely balance the more fantastical elements with something that people might actually wear in this world. Also… this was probably one of the best soundtracks to a Pokémon movie in a while, and I’m pretty sure that’s just because they repurposed music from the anime. Remember kids, a more memorable soundtrack makes a movie more memorable.

So… yeah. This is easily in the top tier for Pokémon movies, and if you like Pokémon, give it a watch.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
There are two things I judge things on, the first is what something does badly and the second is how much do the good parts land home?

Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel have reached what feels like the apex of the Pokémon movies we’ve watched so far. From the visuals, the audioscape to the characters and the plot I was not only unable to find faults but was also distinctly impressed.

The plot is a fairly usual approach, with one legendary going on a journey to find or recover another and experiencing an adventure and growing as an individual by the end. However unlike most movies, I never found myself questioning the movie or asking why something is happening. Everything just makes sense, scenes flow and it’s great. The movie is also good at evoking emotions, the usual heart-melting cuteness to begin with, followed by high stakes climatic battles to ending on emotive final resolutions and re-unions. This movie goes hard with things like the death of both titular Pokémon, an identity death, a literal deathray and a scene involving a huge explosion destroying untold populations of Pokémon including everyone that the protagonists have met.

The action scenes are extremely fun with their intensity, choreographing and the sense of power/speed. The visuals really help set this down and I would argue this is the culmination of years of experience in making the anime and movies. The main battle takes place on a floating fortress with aerial battles through the architecture, high speed chases in narrow areas and group laser beam battles to protect nature using the power of GREEN!

I was initially unimpressed by Volcanions design but his character throughout the movie is halfway between grandpa and knight-protector and I love it. His interactions with the cast, especially Ash, the human characters, and the contrast with Pokémon really show his personality as a protector of Pokémon hurt by people. What really sells this is how sincere and understandable this character appears, his dislike of people is from a long experience of seeing their worst and Volcanion has no interest in being around them for this reason. However his reason for disliking them is how they treat others and Volcanion is more than willing to work together with them if it allows him to help Pokémon, showing his priorities are good in nature. His character development is fairly obvious as he grows to realize that not all people are bad et cetera, but it is still really pleasant to watch.

The other characters are all used efficiently, the princess serves as the movie Taxi and contributes much more in various ways as a member of the party than just that. The prince serves as a puppet for the antagonist but where a normal movie would leave it at that, Volcanion gives a backstory, motive and a realization of how they went wrong to this character. Helped along by Ash in their realization, allowing Ash to show their understanding of Pokémon and their trainers in the world. The weakest parts are probably the antagonist, who I don’t remember their motives for resurrecting their sky-fortress but not every villain needs a motive and Magearna doesn’t show much character development, partially because ‘her story’ is 500 years in the past in the movie, instead she’s an all-round good character.

Another great thing this movie does, is actually making use of the Team Rocket trio. Employing them as henchmen of the antagonist and having them chase the legendary over some other no-face lackeys really puts a shine into it for me, especially considering how the last movie to memorably have Team Rocket do something was Power of One.

This movie is a 10/10. It is near flawless and hits hard on all the places it needs to. The characters and how they grow is really something, the plot is more than just a weak excuse for things to happen and Pokémon to battle. And those battles are simply excellent in execution. I’m genuinely impressed by this, considering how it’s done so well in my eyes without my own nostalgia or a cute/pretty character making me biased toward it.

A really good, high quality movie. Like, really really good.

Movie 20 – I Choose You!

Official Synopsis:
Pokémon returns to its earliest memories in the full-length feature film Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! Classic moments with familiar friends and new encounters come together in the 20th Pokémon movie.

When Ash Ketchum oversleeps on his 10th birthday, he ends up with a stubborn Pikachu instead of the first partner Pokémon he wanted! But after a rocky start, Ash and Pikachu become close friends and true partners—and when they catch a rare glimpse of the Legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh in flight, they make plans to seek it out together, guided by the Rainbow Wing it leaves behind.

Trainers Verity and Sorrel join Ash on his journey. Along the way, Ash catches an abandoned Charmander, raises a Pokémon from Caterpie to Butterfree and then releases it to follow its heart, and meets the mysterious Mythical Pokémon Marshadow. When they near their goal, the arrogant Cross—Charmander’s former Trainer—stands in their way! Can Ash and Pikachu defeat this powerful Trainer and reach Ho-Oh as they promised, or will their journey end here?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
After the wild success of Pokémon Go, a title that the core gaming community has struggled to acknowledge as a continued success even though… it is, it was natural where the Pokémon movie series should go. The nostalgia barn! Yes, instead of making a new movie that tied in with the ongoing Sun and Moon series, which I have heard very good things about, the creative team decided to do a reboot of the entire series. Which is a move that I find to be… conflicting.

I’ll just jump straight to the point. I Choose You! is a film that cannot decide if it wants to be the start of a new movie continuity divorced from the ongoing anime, or a condensed retelling of the first season of the anime. It tries a lot of things, yet just about everything it does, but pretty much all of them come with a caveat. Resulting in a film that is not bad, just bizarrely misdirected and ill-conceived.

The film begins with an abridged version of the iconic first episode of the series, with the greater production values of a modern animated film. Going in blind, it appears that it is just going to be a more structured rendition of the ‘narrative heart’ of the first season. Not a substitute, but something that captures the same spirit of adventure and many iconic moments. Which the film does. Ash saving the Charmander, saying goodbye to Butterfree, defeating gym leaders, and being a reckless fool who stares down danger. If the goal of the film were to be a ‘best of’ collection while building up to Ash’s fateful encounter with Ho-Oh and proving himself to have the marks of a great trainer, you would have a good movie right there.

Instead, the film interjects this retelling with stuff that is new… but derivative of what came before. Ash gets two partners and a new rival, who are solid characters with ample potential to be members of a supporting cast in a proper anime series. But the Pokémon films have always struggled to give its movie characters arcs or make the existing supporting cast feel necessary, and the same is true here. They have backgrounds and their own Pokémon (singular if you don’t count one scene), and I like them, but they never really feel like they need to be there. While the rival character suffers from both overdesign with his impossible anime hair, and a background that just feels too condensed for a movie like this. Is he supposed to be a rendition of Paul, a Nega-Ash, or something else? I honestly don’t know.

The film deliberately tries to take things into a slightly darker and more methodical direction with near-grayscale dream sequences that send Ash into a world without Pokémon. But it does not really have much of anything to say or convey to the audience beyond how Pokémon are the light in Ash’s world which… is obvious. It clearly wants to take things into a more serious and introspective direction, but also does not really know how to do that while adhering to the stated or assumed requirements of what it means to be a Pokémon movie.

The decision to fixate on Ho-Oh is a great one, as Ho-Oh is such a majestic and imposing Pokémon who really has never gotten the full love it deserves outside of the games. It was a big reveal from the first episode, but it was never followed up on in the anime, so this was THE big opportunity to make Ho-Oh relevant… and they just don’t. Instead, Ho-Oh drops a macguffin that fuels Ash’s journey, fails to be a deux ex machina during the most obvious time, and then starts a battle with Ash… that the film gets bored of a minute in. Not only is it bad, poorly conceived, and deeply underwhelming, but… it is straight up worse than nothing.

The film really emphasizes the bond between Ash and Pikachu, but it does so at the cost of giving Ash a proper team, and hammers home their bonds to a bizarre degree. All of which culminates in a climax that aims to one up the iconic death from the first movie, and is so brazenly absurd that it actually works. It should not work, but you can feel how much somebody on the production team wanted it to. Seriously, minutes 80 to 85 of this movie are nuts, and I love them.

The decision to shoehorn in Marshadow as the antagonist of this movie is… a bad one. It robs the movie of having a more natural or human antagonist, introduces a dysfunctional subplot about Ash being corrupted, and justifies an unnecessary conflict against a group of the most menacing Gen I Pokémon. Marshadow’s lore is confusing and arbitrarily ties into Ho-Oh for the sake of plot synergy. The Pokémon has no real personality or goal beyond destruction. And the best thing I can say about its design is that… It makes for a great opponent for Pikachu.

Which leads into the positives I have for this film, which are almost all visual. The film tries something different, builds off of what was learned in the stylistic shift to Sun and Moon, and looks genuinely great from start to finish. It uses lighting and color well, without feeling too reliant on filtering or brightness effects. Despite being a journey-based movie, you can really see the amount of environmental design that went into each location. And the battles are all excellently crafted and choreographed.

You can practically feel the amount of effort that went into I Choose You, but when you add everything together, it’s okay. It does a lot, and plenty of what it does, it does well. But the film is ultimately less than the sum of its parts, and feels more like two script’s worth of ideas that were snipped and chopped together to make… this. A film with good moments, and could possibly be someone’s favorite if they are exposed to it in the right way, but one that, the more I think about, the more I see it as wasted potential.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Oh no, I really dislike Gen 1 nostalgia baiting…

Wait no, that’s not even this movie’s problem. In fact I actually enjoyed seeing the whole Ash & Ho-Oh arc and such. However the plot feels very bland and uninteresting during the early parts of the movie. It is an incredibly standard set of lines for a Pokémon movie with Ash meeting new friends and bonding with Pokémon while giving us snippets of the greater story arc, such as teasing the antagonal legendary etc.

I’m not quite sure why, but the feeling I get looking back at this condensed anime series of a plotline is that it simply isn’t memorable. Ash meets two new companions while battling Entei, continuing to sleep in the same cave as the legendary. We watch Ash befriend and grow a Charizard, lose his first trainer battle, experience a dream sequence inside our god-forsaken barren reality devoid of Pokémon, color, and dreams and witness the first actual Pokédeath in a movie and most of this simply doesn’t stick with me. The start and medium just don’t grip me, despite my enjoyment of it.

I enjoyed and liked the characters of— quickly checks Google for names— Verity and Sorrel. They were pleasant to watch and sufficiently endearing with the snippets of their backstories that I’d be invested in learning more about them further in this series, if it was one. Sadly this is a one-shot movie and the potential of these new companions as a foundation for exploration is wasted in that they are simply not meant for this purpose. Marshadow has no personality at all, and is more akin to an object than a character, making their involvement in the ending a slight downside.

The visuals of the Pokémon movies are almost good, and it’s fairly repetitive discussing them now. However this movie’s visuals are indeed fantastic, feel like an improvement over the previous with its focus on rainbow color effects. Sadly despite Bulbapedia stating a 4K release for this movie, we only saw the 1080p version, there is a slightly oversaturated frame at the start of the movie and the style chosen for representing bruises looks a little odd. Extra points for the visuals of the Spearow Swarm were glorious.

This movie is a 4.5/10. It’s entertaining but not exciting. I enjoyed watching this one but I’m not interested in doing it again any time soon and I’ll likely forget most of it. Addendum: I just learned this movie’s japanese dub has a vocal ending song using Oracion from Darkrai and it’s one of the highlights of the movie.

Movie 21 – The Power of Us

Official Synopsis:
A young athlete whose running days might be behind her, a compulsive liar, a shy researcher, a bitter old woman, and a little girl with a big secret—the only thing they have in common is the annual Wind Festival in Fula City.

The festival celebrates the Legendary Pokémon Lugia, who brings the wind that powers this seaside city. When a series of threats endangers not just the festival, but all the people and Pokémon of Fula City, it’ll take more than just Ash and Pikachu to save the day! Can everyone put aside their differences and work together—or will it all end in destruction?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
…Well, this was a pleasant surprise. After I Choose You! I was less than optimistic about this reboot continuity trilogy. But instead of getting what sounded like a rehash of The Power of One, I got… one of the most original and overall best Pokémon movies in general.

The most obvious distinction it has is how it treats its cast. Previous Pokémon movies have almost universally cast Ash into the role of a hero and continuously struggled to give much of a role or agency to its supporting human cast, making them feel disposable. This was somewhat addressed in the last movie and its new characters, but is part of this movie’s modus operandi. To tell a Pokémon story not about a savior coming in to help the world, but about people from all walks of life banding together around a singular cause.

You have a former track star with a fondness of gyaru fashion who wants to get a Pokémon for her hospitalized brother, but the Pokémon winds up healing her emotional wounds instead. A crusty old uncle who is a compulsive liar, trying to do everything he can to impress his niece, but only learns the power of HONESTY from a wonderfully animated Sudowoodo. A timid researcher who knows all about Pokémon and loves them dearly, but struggles to speak to humans, and needs to learn the confidence to save the day WITH SCIENCE!

A bitter granny who abashedly hates Pokémon from the outset, but after accumulating a menagerie of cuties, gains the strength to address her latent trauma from decades past. And a discount Minky Momo loli type who just so happens to be friends with cat Lucario and represents the goodness of humanity. As little girls do in both film and reality.

They are familiar archetypes, and the resolutions to their stories are pretty clear from the get-go. However, they have enough personality, screen presence, and narrative utility to feel like essential parts of this movie. The only main character I would say this doesn’t really apply to is Zeraora, the promotional legendary Pokémon of this movie, whose role could be fulfilled by just about any other speedy critter. They work just fine, and have a detailed backstory that ties in with this town, but they still feel like a somewhat arbitrary inclusion.

The characters are truly the heart of this story, but I also have to admire just how seamless and effortless the structure of its narrative is. It starts plenty exciting, with a vibrant festival in a beautiful city. Continues with a Pokémon catching contest— which I’m shocked the series hasn’t depicted before. Before steadily bringing the characters together, giving them some cause to become a group, while making time for just about everyone to shine.

Honestly, it is so well executed that there is enough depth and potential present to warrant a series, or at least a mini series, following these characters and their antics as they go about their lives. But then things start to get real at the 50 minute mark, and by the 60 minute mark, things are SUPER real! There are a lot of Pokémon movies with rock solid or engrossing final thirds, even in movies that aren’t all that good. But this one had Cassie and I cackling and shouting like a bunch of 6-year-olds because of the tension, emotions, and general coolness of everything happening. Things are constantly happening, there is a DOPE moment every few minutes, and seeing these characters do their part to save the day is downright glorious.

I’m just going to say that this is the markings for a good movie in general, and is a downright great Pokémon movie, something that I think even casual fans, and especially kids, would really enjoy. However, I did have three nitpicks.

One, the introduction of the movie feels a bit chaotic, introducing characters one after another without much throughline or clean transition. Scenes just stop and cut to someplace else, following someone else. It makes sense in the end, but trying to follow the plot during the first twenty minutes can be a bit messy before things come together around 40 minutes in.

Two, the travel time during the final third of the movie is a bit too fluid. Characters all start from a central location, head to different destinations, then rally to a central location in the end. For Ash’s group and the group heading to the power plant, this works out mostly fine, or it would if not for Risa. A former track star who has the shortest route of any of the characters, but does not show up until the very end of the film. It both undermines her skills, and does not make much sense.

However, figuring out where people are and doing timing based scheduling for a story is tricky (I wrote a globe-trotting adventure story with eight protagonists), so I’m willing to cut the story some slack. Besides, pacing is more important than logic.

Three… the ending kind of sucks. The film spends its entire runtime hyping up Lugia, presenting them as an almost divine figure who brings prosperity to windy San Francisco. After their excellent portrayal in The Power of One and bad portrayal in Clash of Ages, I was hoping for something that truly pays tribute to this Pokémon. …But instead, they just show up, use Rain Dance, and then peace out. They are a textbook example of a Deus Ex Machina, and are the biggest stumbling block in this entire movie, by far.

I’ll save the definitive ranking of the movies for the end, but I’ll just say that The Power of Us is so good that I’m genuinely a bit upset that they stopped doing animated Pokémon movies. Because this production team, and new director, clearly have a good creative vision and ideas for what the Pokémon movie series can be.

Cassie’s Thoughts:

It’s a great movie with far too many characters but uses them all so well! There are so many little scenes at the start and I enjoy it greatly. The actual overarching plot doesn’t begin till like two thirds of the way in and somehow they make this work.

The Power of Us is a movie that dilly-dallies around, but is never boring. This movie manages to find time for pretty much every character to not only undergo development but even have a gosh-darn ARC. The Blondie Runner Risa, who goes from catching their first Pokémon to having a friendship strong enough to overcome her and her Pokémon’s fears enough to start running again after an injury.

Then there’s the ‘sleazy lying uncle’ character, who irked me at the start for his compulsive lying behavior, yet shows frequently throughout the numerous scenes his awareness of the problem and bonds with a Sudowoodo, also known for its ~~lying~~ mimicking behavior over their similarity. I really like the contrast of how this character initially appears as someone no better than Satoko’s uncle in Higurashi, but also shows that they are in fact a genuinely good person who is simply on the wrong path for being the best guardian figure for his niece. Throughout the movie this protective nature shows more and more as the uncle does everything he can to help those he loves.

The granny ‘who is world famous for hating Pokémon’, whatever that means, is a level-headed person who while having a strong dislike of Pokémon is more than willing to be around them when the context requires it. Over the movie we learn the origin of their dislike, actual PTSD and they learn to overcome it with the POWER OF ~~US~~, ~~GREEN~~ BONDS! I really enjoy how this movie and Volcanion have both handled characters/Pokémon that have a strong dislike/hatred for the other by showing them as still being capable of working with one another despite their differences or opinions. Too often I feel like a character that “hates” Pokémon or a similar vein is written as solely this and is incapable of doing anything but being afraid or hating them regardless of scenario, so when the films show that you can have someone function even with this phobia is great.

The worst parts of this movie, of there are a few, are small and negligible. Such as nibbles like the movie drawing attention to Risa being a runner and being fast at taking the Lugia-summoning device to its location when another character takes a car twice that distance and doesn’t really acknowledge or give brevity to the distances and times of other characters moving between locations of scenes. Normally this is raw pedantism but when you draw attention to it and make this a plot device, otherwise cutting a character out of the movie during the climax, you’d better make sure your timelines match up on your storyboards. My other plot complaint is that the gas itself would prevent Toren from being able to get inside the city or take the car ride back to deliver the antidote. I mean c’mon this POISON GAS CLOUD is being animated like a friggin pyroclastic flow and you simply CANNOT outrun those on normal human legs.

The character of Zeraora is kind of weak and generic, being an in-movie legendary that protects natural living Pokémon and had a falling out with humans. As you’d expect it battles Ash and gets drawn into working as a team with the cast to save the forest. The best I can say about this is that it’s not abrasive to the rest of the movie and does not actively diminish the enjoyment by being basic. Partially due to its shortness limiting the effect it has, this does however limit the amount that could really be done with it.

The visuals are glorious, most effects on screen are great. This is the worst rendition of the move ‘Swift’ I’ve ever seen outside of DS era games. Jessie looks kinda weird to me in her changed outfit but at least Team Rocket contributed a small amount to the movie. The music is a similarly odd bag with the intro being entirely devoid of anything, and other parts of the movie being well done, fitting alongside the usually good choreographing of action sequences. There is no intro theme and the (English) ending theme is an okay but weak entry.

Power of Us is thusly a 9/10 movie. It does everything right, has great highs and very little lows. There are almost two decades of movies, alongside the on-running series, behind this one and the experience shows. I really like when the Pokémon movies are just simply good. The only way this movie could reach higher on the score was if Zeraora had a better plotline, the little niblets of plotholes weren’t there and the movie was just that touch bit better at tugging my heartstrings.

…What do you mean this is the penultimate original Poké-movie?

Movie 22 – Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution

Official Synopsis:
The first CGI animated Pokémon movie has arrived. Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution is a reimagining of Pokémon: The First Movie, which was originally released in North America in 1999. Whether you’ve loved Pokémon since that movie’s premiere or you’re a more recent fan, this is a fun way to take a modern look at Ash and Pikachu’s original big-screen adventure.

When researchers discover and exploit a fossil of the Mythical Pokémon Mew, they unleash a creation that goes against the very laws of nature: Mewtwo, a Legendary Pokémon intended for use as a tool of destruction. But as Mewtwo becomes aware of its own dubious origin, it begins to resent its human creators and seeks revenge—and Ash, Pikachu, and their friends find themselves at the center of its rampage! With the future of the Pokémon world at stake, will our heroes be able to overcome Mewtwo’s challenge…and will Mewtwo be able to find a new meaning for its life?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
I swear, corporations are so bad at remaking their own intellectual property it’s almost like they are doing this on purpose. I don’t like to say that the act of creating anything is easy, but if your only goal is to copy something and only make minor changes… then it kind of is. Yes, there is a lot of technical work that goes into making this transition, especially if you are dramatically changing the way something is made. Such as remaking something from 2D to 3D, as is the case here. But all in all, you have a template, a base, and every deviance from it should be justified and explained to various people in order to be approved.

That’s more or less how I think remakes should be approached. You take the original, decide what you want to change, write a detailed summary of what you want to change, and retain everything, or almost everything, that made the original so special. Now, Mewtwo Strikes Back was a good movie, but far from a perfect one. Its antagonist could have used additional fleshing out. Its introduction to the world of Pokémon could use some work. Certain characters could have been given more depth or purpose. And its ideas about violence needed some refinement. There were plenty of things that could have been improved.

Instead of doing that though, they just changed things that didn’t need fixing, and replaced the art style with one that, while technically impressive, also looks… pretty bad. You know what, let’s actually start with the art style.

3D animation in films is something that has been figured out and solved for about 20 years. Look at most Hollywood CG movies from that time frame, and they hold up pretty well. Creators have figured out how to convert and adapt the principles of 2D character design into 3D, and make them look like they belong even in fairly realistic environments. However, and I hate to generalize here, this is something that I have rarely seen work out here with more anime flavored projects.

The games industry figured out how to make good 3D anime characters sometime during the tail end of the PS2 generation, and they have only gotten better over time. But the film and anime industry largely… hasn’t. I don’t really understand how or why this is, but I think it is due to different philosophies behind animations, and different ideas of what a CG anime movie should look like.

…All of which is to say that MSBE would look FAR better if it tried to mimic the flat 3D anime look of the Pokémon games of this era, rather than gleefully leaping into the uncanny valley. The realistic hair, realistic lighting, realistic terrain, and realistic everything look good in isolation. The environments of this film look excellent. The effects are wonderful. And the Pokémon… are honestly a mixed bag, but generally look worse the more realistic their textures are. Gyrados looks like a cartoon character with a realistic texture pack. Pidgeot looks like a real bird mutated to get insane cartoon proportions. And Pikachu… has the hairline of a balding man.

But then we get to the humans and… I think they would look fine if they didn’t have realistic hair and more deliberately flat untextured skin— like something from an anime game. But with these things, they look simply unsettling. I simultaneously understand where they were coming from, and wish that they took any other approach with how they look. Because they look like ‘what anime characters would look like in the real world,’ and I hate them.

This film is also a prime example of how… films and anime have just been getting worse with color over the past decade or two, and it just makes certain scenes look lifeless by comparison. Tinting and filtering are good tools to evoke a sense of mood and tone. Hell, I use them occasionally when making my little pixel art header images. But when entire scenes are bathed in a dark green, I need to ask… why? Why make things so dark you can barely tell what is going on? Because that’s seen as more realistic, and people have been duped into thinking realism looks better than the fantastical. Personally, I blame them cellular phones and that social media! …But seriously, I do think photo filters have rotted some people’s brains.

Going back to the things that were supposedly ‘improved,’ I feel that I should start with the script. 4Kids has a bad reputation for supposedly butchering their dubs to adhere to American broadcast standards, but they did an almost undeniably great job with the original run of Pokémon. They simply knew how to modify and rework a script to be more palatable to an American audience, and if they screwed up… it’s because they were given a raw deal from the get-go. They’re jelly donuts, because what else could they be? And while the more ‘in-house’ translations of the past… however many movies were all good, the script here is considerably worse than the original. Especially whenever they have Mewtwo say almost anything…

It’s been almost half a year since I watched the first movie, but I could almost immediately tell when a line was altered to be more ‘faithful’ to the Japanese original. Because it sounded awkward as hell. This particularly plagued many of the most thematically relevant and effective lines in the movie, which made the message scattered and less refined.

However, the entire film is operating at a deficit from the third minute, because it removed what was almost inarguably the best chapter from the original movie. Mewtwo’s backstory. It is a section that did a LOT to make his character work, but they just cut it. Why? Probably because this was not part of the American theatrical cut of this film.

I could go through a list of changes, pointing out how good moments were cut, detracting moments were added, how the framing and color balancing detracted from some scenes. But I think the most succinct way I could describe this is that… this movie was made by people who wanted to superficially replicate the original, to pace things to follow the same beats and events. However, they did not understand why the original did what it did. And in trying to do something different, it almost always replaced it with something worse.

…The one major exception was the boat section where, instead of dressing up as vikings, Team Rocket takes on the guise of singing sailors in a rocket powered Lapras boat. That was just hilarious, and I laughed for 30 seconds straight.

Whoever was in charge of approving changes to the original in this movie… I’m sorry, but you were TERRIBLE at your job. You could have been replaced by a drinking bird desk toy, and it would have done your job better than you. Because then we would just have a true shot for shot remake which, while pointless, would still be better than what we have here.

Also, what even is that subtitle? Evolution? You didn’t evolve anything. You just did the same thing they did for what had to be a fifth of the budget in 1998, and made it worse on basically every level. Which also includes the music. The opening theme SUCK in comparison to the original— it’s just a bad cover. And while Brother, My Brother is a corny song, it is infinitely better than the silence of the battle between the clones and the original.

No, no. I’m not going to talk about how much they botched the clone battle sequence. I’m just going to end this.

MSBE is a prime example to use against remakes of culturally significant or beloved pieces of media. As its own movie… it’s fine, I guess. But this was never meant to be viewed as its own movie, and its entire genesis is a product of nostalgia. And as a nostalgia-driven remake, it’s actually worse than Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Because at least those were more faithful…

So, yeah. Actual bottom of the barrel stuff for me, and near the absolute bottom of this list. Stick with the original, it holds up, and while it could have benefitted from a remake, this one is worse in basically every possible way.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Back to an oldie!

This one’s not a goldie!

Same plot, just with differences. Not much to talk about here and I’m sure Natalie will cover this one in detail. Cutting out the iconic meme scene “I’ll use my frying pan, as a drying pan” didn’t sit well for me for sure.

The visuals are the main part of this movie, due to being a remake. This is uncanny valley real estate, with the characters looking initially horrifying, calming down into very unsettling as you get used to it throughout the runtime. Thank god this is a Pokémon movie and the Pokémon don’t look as bad, although the 3D models do strike me as strange and unusual after so much time seeing them in a 2D space. It really makes me question what the direction of this movie was. The main audience for this movie is surely the people who saw this originally, right?

So then why are they not trying to stay with that direction and feel they know?

The visual effects, such as Thunderbolt or Energy Ball are a weird mix of working very well or not much depending on the instance in question. I am personally not a fan of the way smoke clouds are represented, something that is incredibly frequent throughout the movie. Although I will give them props for the attempt at a realistic cloud of gas. The best part of the remake’s visuals is definitely the environments, as these are often pleasant to look at and the water effects in particular are incredibly detailed. I could watch these oceans for days.

Sadly the visuals, toning and other small parts of the movie all add up together to form less than their original. Key moments, such as Ash’s revival or the flight of Mewtwo’s Pokémon simply don’t compare to their parallels. The revival scene looks good, but considering the sheer difference in what these movies had to work with regarding budget the remake is just not nearly making as much use of it. Scenes, such as Ash walking out with the non-clone Pokémon or the shots of both sides battling to their mutual DEATHS simply do not hit nearly as hard in emotive value.

The entire experience is like eating a meal, but all the tastes and textures are bland and dulled compared to the vivid sensations in your memory of your last time trying said dish.

Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is thusly more of a devolution in terms of experience and overall enjoyment. Trying to think objectively, I feel like this should be a 6/10 when seen in an isolated environment, but this is a remake. My gut therefore labels this as a low 4/10 closer to 3, you can’t just remake a movie and make an overall worse experience like that.

It just doest hit hard in the places it needed to.

Movie Hollywood – Detective Pikachu

Official Synopsis:
Ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son, Tim, to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth Detective Pikachu. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.

Natalie’s Thoughts:
Pretty much any discussion with a Pokémon project released after 2016 needs to be framed as, in part, a reaction to the smashing success of Pokémon Go. While the games and series remained popular for years, that game marked a phenomenon and really emphasized how broad and global the series’ appeal truly was. As such, it was only natural that a Hollywood movie would follow. …But that immediately presented several difficulties. How would Pokémon look in live action, when the series is so deeply ingrained in its anime aesthetic? How would the story be constructed, in order to appeal to… everyone? And what genre should the story take in order to be the most palatable.

There are many ways one could go about this— the simplest one probably being a condensed adaptation of an animated Pokémon movie. But instead, they decided to impose a pretty typical modern Hollywood story onto the Pokémon world. And the end result is… a film that, from a more clinical and analytical perspective, is deeply committed to a plethora of tropes and familiar elements. One that is is really only held up by the Pokémon themselves and an endearing cast of main characters. Fortunately… that’s pretty much all you need to make an entertaining film and a surprisingly good Pokémon film.

The story itself centers around Tim, a young adult who has largely chosen to live his life without Pokémon and get a white collar job. But then he is called to Ryme City, a haven for human-Pokémon relationships, following the death of his detective father. He plans to simply pack up his father’s things, but while ruffling through his apartment, he meets a talking Pikachu with a detective cap and gets thrown into a conspiratorial caper.

From here, the movie takes on familiar trappings of the genre. The duo investigate shady characters in the underbelly of this city in search of clues. They partner up with a competent and ambitious action reporter girl with her own iconic gen I Pokémon. Their relationship gradually grows from bickering and begrudging to something more heartfelt and genuine. And once the story reaches the halfway point… it honestly stops having any veneer of mystery and just becomes a full on action film. One where revelations are thrown around casually, the spectacle is brought to the forefront, and things get… really freaking weird for the first live action Pokémon movie, I’ll say that much.

The characters, while unabashedly archetypical, are brought to life in a way that felt both earnest and genuine, like the actors and director fully understood how to work with what they were given. The script… was surprisingly funny, featuring a lot of cute quips and gags that, while definitely a bit juvenile, felt completely at home in a franchise like this, and got more than a few laughs out of Cassie and I. But the part that really stole the show was the magic the VFX team did with both reimagining the featured Pokémon and bringing them to life.

When you initially see them, there definitely is something uncanny about how the exaggerated fur, giant eyes, and general choice in textures look on these creatures. But rather than barreling into the uncanny valley, there is just enough realism in place here for things to work, for these Pokémon to look right in this world. The way fur looks and ruffles about, following the general design enough to be immediately recognizable, but not look too ‘fake.’ The level of thought put into how these creatures should move. And the occasional glimpses of these creatures working and helping out in this world.

Rather than try to make every Pokémon look cute, it lets them look cool and creepy, and even has the confidence to display Pokémon as aggressive figures. It’s one thing to do that in the anime, but another when you have a swarm of rage monkeys chasing the protagonist across rooftops.

On that note, I also have to say I was impressed with the general world design and look of Ryme City. It is definitely derivative of a lot of major cities in the world, but every time it is shown, it is shown in a particularly deliberate manner. The congested back streets to the flashy underground battle pit, and the dingy apartment filled with Pokémon references to parade that… looks like an actual parade, crummy overcast weather and all.

Now, there are definitely some questionable elements about this film that I could rag on about. The secret lab with no security guards. Surprise giant Pokémon who exist for a largely unnecessary, if visually spectacular, action scene. A slightly implausible third act set piece. Questionable motives from the antagonist, whose master plan is a bit underdeveloped and… untenable. Or many visual elements that look cool initially, but then raise a lot of questions.

However, I still had a great time with this movie, and feel it did just about everything it set out to do. It’s not the most unique or original take, definitely, but it’s a confident, if not proud, to be a Pokémon movie, which I think was my biggest worry with this title going in. But instead, it’s a good movie, and also one of the best Pokémon movies.

I would end by saying that this movie should pave the way to a series of live action Pokémon movies, but that hasn’t happened, and might not happen for a while. The film was more of a modest success due to its proximity to the generational event that was Avengers: Endgame, COVID undoubtedly delayed the production on any follow-up. And with Hollywood getting shut down because of protests, it seems like it will be at least a few years if a successor emerges.

Which really sticks, because with the animated movies no longer being produced, and Pokémon still making hundreds of millions a year, I’d like there to be more movies.

…She says after having gone through 25 of the bloody things.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Whew. This one’s DIFFERENT!

Detective Pikachu is, as my dad would probably say, “an actual movie” meaning it’s live-action and big budget! Both me and Nat were apprehensive about this, but I certainly came out impressed. This movie does an excellent job blending elements together in a way that is thoroughly enjoyable.

The showing of Pokémon as both cute cuddly creatures we know and love, to the Serum R(ocket) making Aipom turn into literal demonspawn gremlins that made me scream at their raw unadulterated horror in a chase sequence moments after making me thoroughly laugh at the Pikachu-protagonist comedy duo. This movie has the flow n’ show and is constantly keeping viewers engaged in each scene with action, comedy or just generally interesting worldbuilding/character development. It has strong Jurassic World vibes in many places and I would not be surprised to learn they had learned from past movie experiences but had also built upon it. Afterall what’s the difference between a CGI Dinosaur and a CGI Pocket Monster?

Character development that’s cliche but done well. The protagonist used to love Pokémon but now strongly dislikes them because their father ‘abandoned him’ to be with them, very typical but this plotline is handled in a natural way and also over around halfway into the movie rather than getting bogged down by it. I called out Pikachu’s development at the start so I want to say this was not a surprising twist but it does excellently tie up a bunch of loose ends such as “why can they speak together” so props there. Not much to mention both of these characters are funny and bounce each other well, making for a good protagonist pairing.

The plot twists and turns, starting out with a focus on the disappearance of his father before gently moving the plot closer to the ‘real stuff’ as the investigation progresses while picking up various little side things on the way. Everything feels like it happens for a reason, all the goings are good and entertaining keeping you reeled in exactly like a good movie SHOULD! …Apart from two factors the Torterra garden has an absurd scale that is simply never addressed beyond being an excuse for a great action sequence, and the abandonment of the lab so strongly is very unusual and I feel like it makes little sense that they seemingly did not return to it apart from the oh-so-convenient moment.

The visuals of this movie are a definite talking point for a Pokémon movie, mixing both real world live action with incredibly impressive CGI Pokémon in a very unusual artstyle which unlike the Mewtwo Evolution remake, actually works well in most instances. The super realistic interpretation of Pokémon is by itself quite unusual, and in some instances doest quite fit (poor Audino) but in other instances works wonders and blends perfectly with the scenes used. The ‘underground fight club’ put the spotlight onto Pokémon and they fit naturally with the world such that it all comes together nicely. It’s a very nice change to the uncanny valley that Mewtwo Evolution had.

The downside is the lack of Pokémon variety, and it hits hard. There are now over one thousand Pokémon, one gosh darn thousand and this exceptional and strongly marketed movie has barely 50 or 5% of them. (There were just over 800 Pokémon when this movie came out, but the point still stands!) That by itself seems like a substantial amount, but this movie puts downright excessive focus on Gen1 Pokémon and specifically the starters. Quite frankly I’m both tired of it personally and think this is a poor idea. There are so many Pokémon designs and many of them are memorable but the spotlight is constantly handed to the same Pokémon over and over again, wasting the potential of so many.

You first see the Ryme City and almost immediately are slammed by Squirtles on a semi-prominent display, the main antagonist of the fight club is a Charizard and a group of bulbasaur appear later on. The enjoyment of Pokémon to me is the variety of there being so many, que the long ‘world of Pokémon’ narrator sequences, but the franchise cannot break free of a select number. It sucks, plain and simple.

However, I must give credit where it is due for the use of Mewtwo during the latter parts as an entity of mass chaos and psychic prowess. Something that other movies have lacked is a focus on Mewtwo’s psychic abilities and focus on simply its strength. While Detective Pikachu goes full ham into it with the primary antagonist possessing the Pokémon and using it to put the souls of an entire city of humans inside of Pokémon to FURTHER HUMANITY’S EVOLUTION. That’s some crazy funk stuff and right proper usage of a psychic type legendary. This naturally makes Mewtwo, once freed, the perfect solution to undo the problem as a reasonable deus ex machina.

Ultimately, Detective Pikachu is 8.5/10 for me. It does all the good stoofs and has little bad stoofs. The mass possession scene no doubt caused an awakening for part of the movie’s audience, although not me. It’s a Jurassic Park movie, but with Pokémon, and it’s done well.

Movie 23 – Secrets of the Jungle

Official Synopsis:
Deep in the jungle, far from any human settlement, you’ll find the Forest of Okoya—a Pokémon paradise forbidden to outsiders. In this jungle lives Koko, a human boy who has been raised as a Pokémon by the Mythical Pokémon Zarude. Koko has grown up never doubting that he is a Pokémon. But one day, a chance meeting with Ash and Pikachu leaves Koko with his first human friend. Is he truly a Pokémon? Or is he, in fact, a human?

Natalie’s Thoughts:
At this point, I’ve said this multiple times before, but Pokémon movies are at their best when they are free to be their own thing. When they don’t need to be restrained by corporate mandates, too many legendaries, or an overly expansive cast. And with Secret of the Jungle, that’s more true than it’s ever been as, seemingly, the only obligation was to include the jungle monkey Pokémon, Zarude. They could have done anything with this, but the creative staff chose to use this to explore the feral child genre. Which centers around humans who were raised as animals, often in a jungle, and become disconnected from human society.

It’s a very… turn of the 20th century genre, with a less than ideal history, and one that really appeals to people who want a clear divide between nature and nurture. However, in a setting like Pokémon, where the relationship between humans and Pokémon are so different from the traditional relationship between humans and animals, it’s a genuinely fascinating idea. …And the movie pretty much nails it. How does it manage that? Well, let’s start with a synopsis.

The human protagonist, Koko, was abandoned in the jungle as a baby, where he was found by a Zarude, referred to as Dada. 10 years later, the two are closely bonded father and son whose relationship comes ahead as humans begin entering the jungle under the guise of research. Koko is then brought into the human world, series protagonists Ash and Pikachu help introduce him to the world of humans, shows him that humans and Pokémon can live in harmony, and that he is a human.

This revelation strains Koko and Dada’s relationship, and Koko is then brought to a group of researchers who, in typical fashion, are led by a corrupt power-hungry megalomaniac. This leads into the latter half of the movie, where the relationship between Koko and Dada reaches its peak, themes are followed through, and we get a Pokémon version of the climax of James Cameron’s Avatar.

It’s a perfectly functional storyline, but what really sets it are, of course, the characters of Koko and Dada. In Pokémon movies, characters like this are often kept pretty simple and don’t have much in the way of depth or screen time. But here, it is their story. The story of how Dada came to care for and love Koko as his son, the struggles he has in trying to raise him without knowing how to care for another being, and being forced to realize that the natural laws he abides by are… not true. And the story of Koko finding out who he is, who he wants to be, and experiencing the best and worst that both humans and Pokémon have to offer.

They’re both also very well realized characters, and visually, you can practically see the path the creative team took from bringing these characters from concept illustrations into the final work. The way they move through and interact with the jungle, how they stand and walk. And the wide range of expressions that do a lot to both accentuate their character and give them a clearer visual identity. Yes, Dada is an aggressive, almost evil-looking, monkey thing, but from the way he smiles and looks at his son, you can tell how much he cares for his son.

This could have all been undermined by a subpar dub, but no, both of the guest actors did a great job with this material. Edward Bosco’s Dada manages to be rough and assertive while still having enough range to feel kind and sympathetic. While Kimlinh Tran’s Koko manages to shine even when a good chunk of her dialogue is just a mixture of sentence fragments and Pokémon names.

However, I think the one area where this all could have been botched was with the ending and overall message. I’m not familiar with the feral child genre, but I’m pretty sure that stories like this typically end in one of two ways. Either the human is left to live in a jungle as an irregularity that should not be repeated, or a defender who maintains the wall between humankind and nature. Or the ‘humanity’ of the human is ‘saved’ as they are ‘returned’ to society. But Secret of the Jungle has a more nuanced and… twenty-first century look on things. Its ending harkens back to the power of unity, diversity, and how special people who do not fit into certain categories, who are complex in a world of booleans, should be celebrated. For they are the ones with power to change the world in ways other people could scarcely imagine.

It’s a powerful message— part of the reason why I thought The Power of Us worked as well as it did— but the movie is also perfectly comfortable with its identity as a Pokémon movie. It still has Looney Tunes style slapstick, a gosh darn poop joke, a cackling mad scientist with an appetite for destruction, the magic of green, and a dope action sequence boss encounter for good measure.

If anything, the boldest, and possibly best, change to the status quo is the choice to turn Ash and Pikachu into side characters, there to help Koko bridge the line between humans and Pokémon. He’s important enough to feel as if he belongs in the story, while knowing when to step back and let the actual protagonists do their thing.

Visually, the movie feels refreshing after two CG affairs, and I have to say that the artists did a positively bang up job here. The vividly detailed, beautifully painted lush greenery of the jungle is a treat for the eyes. The sci-fi research base strikes a balance between idealistic and contemporary that wonderfully contrasts the meticulous details of the jungle. The tranquil village shows the cozy marriage between these two extremes in a way that is so subdued that it might have not even been intentional. And the animation? It carries the more expressive look the series adopted with the Sun & Moon anime, and executes it with a film budget.

Looking back at this movie, it’s really hard to see anything it truly does wrong. I could point out a few nitpicks about scene pacing or highlight some extremely minor things that strike me as remnants from an earlier draft, but they really don’t matter. Secret of the Jungle has such a strong emotional core, characters, and overall payoff that I think it just might be the strongest film in the series, or at least in the upper echelon.

It’s so good that I cannot help but think it’s a shame that it never received a follow-up. I could ask why, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that they probably just needed more staff on the ongoing anime series. A more consistent moneymaker for the IP that was negatively affected by the pandemic… and recently underwent a reboot. Which means a lot more work had to be done to maintain a consistent style guide and general look.

However, if this movie series had to end, I have to say that it couldn’t have ended on a better note. Because Secret of the Jungle isn’t just an excellent Pokémon movie, it’s a great movie, period.

Cassie’s Thoughts:
Oh my Oh my Oh my it’s another 10/10?

Really, really? Heck YEAH! This movie is a friggin’ BLAST!

We ARE the voices of the jungle!

The animations are so good, like all the Pokémon are so emotive and vibrant! Things like confusion, anger or happiness are so easily conveyed through sheer imagery alone, it’s powerful! Not to mention the handling of Koko’s language, the Zarude/Koko speak normal English for the first part of the movie until you switch to the human perspective and all you hear is “Za Za Zarude!” and you’re like I GET IT. It oozes goodness!

Every scene has something happening, everything happens with purpose, ~~the trees become the jungle~~, all characters have a place and contribution. The development of Dada and Koko is so heart meltingly warm and that makes the climax of the movie hit so well because of it, the Protagonists of this movie are them instead of Ash. The earlier scenes, which originally just seem like fluff or showing Koko’s growing up turn to become actual factors in the final battle! The parent-child relationship is probably my favorite part of the movie as you can clearly feel the bond between the two characters, supported by things like the previously mentioned animation etc. The movie goes out of its way to show that the bonds of family are not based in blood but the BONDS and it’s great. This reminds me of Mewtwo Strikes Back and its unsubtle approach to telling a ‘moral’, Secrets of the Jungle does this so much better.

The Tribe of Zarude are done well too, seemingly appearing as the initial antagonists before the Researcher Zed rears his ugly head! During the entire movie they are shown as a force to be reckoned with and powerful as a large troop claiming the jungle for themselves but also manages to show how they can be prone to weakness as various members, mostly Dada, get injured or hurt and ganged up on by the other jungle Pokémon. The consequences of Zarude’s draconian actions are shown by the disapproval from the other Pokémon, setting up for a reconciliation during and after the climactic final battle.

The action in this movie is nicely paced throughout, never once feeling close to dull regardless of scene. The visual effects complement with nothing feeling out of pace and the choreography is simply mad at times such as the final battle where Pikachu is thrown between the Zarude tribe like a gosh darn yellow baseball! It is fantastic to watch.

This movie is also FULL of music! The Song of Zarude is incredibly good, referenced throughout the movie and has a different variant near the end, including being sung by the characters during the final battle. There’s at least 2 other insert songs throughout the movie alongside more standard instrumentals and they all elevate the movie up above. Actually this is my one complaint about the movie, the full length Song of Zarude track is only 1 minute long and that’s far too short for listening on repeat for several hours at a time.

This is the best Pokémon movie, it is the only one that managed to straight up silence both me and Nat because we were so invested in watching the movie itself alongside almost making me diddly-dang cry! It is an undeniable 10/10 and a remarkable movie all in all, single-handedly making my day. A shame this is the last, but what a movie to end it on.

Woo, can you hear it!

Conclusion – Natalie Version

So, what did I learn through all of this? Well, most of the Pokémon movies are actually pretty good. 10 of them are okay to bad, and the specials I remembered being disappointing as a child… are still not a good time. But more broadly than that, this experience helped me appreciate Pokémon as an IP, as a franchise, rather than just viewing it as a dedicated games series. Which is honestly one of the most wonderful things about Pokémon as a… thing. It is a show, a card game, a comic series, a series of turn-based RPGs for Nintendo handheld video game entertainment systems, and so much more. It’s a series with such broad appeal that I truly think you can do just about anything with it, and these movies sure proved that.

While there are definitely a lot of tropes and familiar elements across these movies, they still impressed me with their level of diversity and creativity. A willingness to play around with settings, concepts, and overall imagery while holding true to a few principles. It kept the movies engaging even after going through over twenty of the bloody things, and that’s a testament to the creativity and effort of the people behind these films.

Now, it did not always work out, and I have gone in great detail about the problems with some of these works. But, as a creator, I know how projects can collapse as deadlines loom, and the fact that they put out one movie a year is a testament to their craft. And as a critic, I found it fun to go through something so short and breezy, doing quickfire reviews at the end of each watch session, and flexing whatever critical/analytical muscles I have developed over the years.

All of which builds up to me saying that… this was a lot of fun, so much fun that Cassie and I are going to keep doing this, but with other movie series. And next time it will be something completely different!

As for the movies themselves, I’m not really one for ranking things into a numbered list, as my number six and number seven would typically fluctuate depending on the day and what I’m in the mood for. But I did divide them into four tiers. Great, good, okay, and bad. In fact, I even made a little tier list for good measure, but won’t be using that because it butchers the image quality of the posters.

Also, watching all of these movies with Cassie was a treat! That girl is a hoot I’ll tell ya, and by doing this rigmarole for half a year, we sure strengthened our BONDS!

Conclusion – Cassie Version

That was a lot of movies, gosh time sure went by doing these one a week.

I can certainly say this was an experience, beforehand I had seen Movies 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 18 as well as most of the D&P anime so it’s fairly accurate to say I’m in my element with this region of the Pokéfranchise. Nonetheless I still found myself impressed and excited by watching these 20+ films back to back every Sunday. Some of these were nostalgic visits, but most were new experiences.

Needless to say, there is a spectrum to these movies with some being better than others. However they are almost enjoyable in their own way with only three being actually bad experiences, and I think this is a testament to the continuing quality of what was a two decade long run of yearly releases. The Specials are simply not as good, understandably so when compared to a movie and I’ll reiterate that I’m not sure they belong here in hindsight.

Some of these movies are however very memorable in this sea and they will most likely be sticking with me for much longer in various fashions. Diancie has become my third joint-favorite Pokémon and both “Open my Eyes” & “Soul-Heart” are songs I listen to this day. Funny that my three favorite Pokémon all come from movies, Zorua/Shaymin/Diancie. Ufufu~

Based on this and the fact I’ve rated most of the movies I’ve watched, I feel that the best way to end this would be to discuss the movies that are simply the most memorable to me as opposed to how I would rate them critically or objectively.

1. Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction
Quite simply put, I love Diancie as a Pokémon and the character given to it. I think about Diancie several times a month, the ending theme was great and the movie is all round a great experience. Easily one of my favorites

2. Giratina and the Sky Warrior
Once again, I adore Shaymin as a Pokémon and the same for Giratina. This movie’s finale is amazing, Zero’s jet is one of the best things they’ve done in these movies and simply unforgettable to me.

3. Volcanion & the Mechanical Marvel
This movie was just really good to watch and I’m still impressed by it now. Also the ending was a banger. In time this position might be contested by Secrets of the Jungle but it simply hasn’t had time to set in, and the Zarude song doest have a long version to listen on repeat to.

4. Jirachi: Wishmaker
Oh god I just remember how TERRIBLE this was! My review actually turned out to be wrong looking back on it, as I actually do remember this movie for the wrong reasons. Throughout this the on-going joke was “It can’t be worse than Jirachi right?”

5. Detective Pikachu
This one still stands out as more of a ‘normal’ movie than a Pokémon movie, being all fancy live-action and being advertised quite etc etc. More importantly, suddenly veering into a TF/merging situation at the end caught me very much off guard. And as any person acquainted with Natalie.TF I just think about that sorta stoof!

So that’s my most memorable movies, good and bad but Natalie requested I make a tier list after I did this so this one is the more objective rated version. Loosely anyway, these things can change depending on how I’m feelin’ afterall.

Ultimately I would do this again. This was great fun and I looked forward each week to the scheduled movie. Despite all the ratings I can’t say I wasn’t ever enjoying myself and I really attribute this to Natalie herself, she is simply such a FUN girl and the joking between us such as giving lines to the characters when dialogue dropped or simply having discussions during the movies really made this experience to me. Thanks Nat, yer a charm!

Cassie: “It’s really a shame there’s only so many Pokémon movies…”

Natalie: “True dat, girl!”

Cassie: “Let’s watch the entire anime as well!”

Natalie: “Hahahaha! NOPE! How about this, once the Pokémon Horitzons anime series gets localized, we can watch 3 or 4 episodes a week and do seasonal Ramble about them.”

Cassie: “Haiii~”

Natalie & Cassie Will Ramble Again…
See Ya In October 2023 ;D

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