Last Friday saw the UK release of Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 on the Nintendo DS. So as I’m sure many Poké fans will want to rest their blister covered hands for an hour or two a day, over the next 2 weeks join THN as we take a look back over the entire series of Pokémon films.
Director: Tokuhiro Matsubara, Yuko Inoue
Cast: Sean Schemmel, Wayne Grayson, Marc Thompson, Susuma Chiba, Kelly Ray,
Plot: A trio that aren’t Ash, Misty, and Brock must stop two members of Team Rocket that aren’t Jesse and James, from capturing legendary Pokémon Raikou.
Who in the name of Arceus are these little twerps? They aren’t Ash, Brock and Misty. What’s going on? Did they die or something? Luckily not, this is merely a made-for-TV movie that was aired in our western world as a three parter for the show POKEMON CHRONICLES, which dealt with side stories in the Pokémon universe that didn’t directly relate to our heroes. It took over three years for it to be dubbed, but it was originally released after the Japanese version of POKEMON 4EVER: CELEBI – VOICE OF THE FOREST, which is why I’m inserting it here. Plus, I thought it would be nice to look at a different group of pals in the Pokémon world, and since Entei and Suicune got mentions in previous films, Raikou deserves his due. The film is also one of the greatest examples of 4Kids’ and their incessant need to edit and butcher the show.
We are introduced to Jimmy, a Pokémon trainer from New Bark Town. Jimmy isn’t exactly an interesting character as he is far too close in personality to Ash. I understand the need to have a loyal, considerate, and morally upstanding hero, but the only real difference I could spot was a deeper voice. There wasn’t a single line I couldn’t imagine Ash saying. Not a terrible thing, but it makes you wonder why they created a new character at all. Jimmy reveals the only two Pokémon he ever uses as a Typhlosion and a Beedrill. Just two! I swear this guy is trying to bore me. Jimmy has a female cohort named Marina, who dreams of becoming a star and uses dance moves to help her Pokémon’s agility. Now there’s something a bit more interesting. It’s just a shame she isn’t really utilised and mostly just gets horny over guys in capes.
Meanwhile in a secret lair, we are introduced to two members of Team Rocket, Atilla and…take a guess! Go on! That’s right, Hun. At first I didn’t register Atilla’s name, so I just thought he was calling his partner by a term of endearment. Their introduction is handled well, and it is clear these are not the bumbling buffoons that we have been used to. This makes them a genuine threat throughout the film and the lack of a comedy sidekick also gives them a stronger appearance. They are actually the most interesting part of the film. It gives us villains we can at least respect and we can see that Giovanni must have some kind of recruitment policy. Their plan involves capturing Raikou, the legendary electric Pokémon who reportedly looks out over all electric Pokémon.
Team Rocket has access to a crystal that can absorb and control electricity, making it a pretty destructive weapon and the perfect piece of equipment when going up against Raikou. Raikou just so happens to live in the area that our pal (I’m trying to like him) Jimmy happens to be. As he walks past familiar scenery it’s clear to see this as a made-for-TV movie, but you kind of wish they had put in a bit more effort. The art is nothing we haven’t seen in the series and the director wasn’t very daring with his shot choice. This makes all of the action feel less epic in comparison, and when dealing with battles that surround a legendary Pokémon, you want that cinematic feel even on the small screen.
Raikou shows up and is pretty much just a dumb beast. Unlike Entei and Suicune, although Entei wasn’t a real Entei, Raikou is very animalistic. He attacks out of anger and doesn’t learn from his mistakes. He is constantly shocked by his own lightning bolts due to the power of the crystal, and after being taken care of he decides to trash the Pokémon Centre. Raikou’s personality gets very repetitive over the course of events. He attacks, get knocked about, needs saving etc. No wonder he was relegated to a side-story made-for-TV movie. I have no time for a Pokémon that fails to learn from his actions. He probably can’t even use a litter tray. One idea that the film failed to capitalise on involved was the hysteria at the Pokémon Centre when fellow trainers realised a legendary Pokémon was being treated there. It could have turned into FREE WILLY in the Pokémon world.
Raikou’s best part comes when he leaps from a plane which he is being held prisoner on. But after that he fails to impress again. The final battle is of some interest, as Vinny, Marina’s wannbe boyfriend, shows up and at least adds some more Pokémon to the mix. I guess you should really be careful about what you wish for, as I genuinely missed Ash, Brock, and Misty and their chemistry together.
POKEMON: RAIKOU – LEGEND OF THUNDER is a nice little curiosity, but by this time we are starting to get spoiled by the quality of Pokémon films. It’s been hacked up into 3 20 minute episodes, which means the ‘fat’ has been trimmed. All of the music has been redone and is uninspired. I don’t know exactly what this entry was trying to achieve, but it has a very weak plot, characters we don’t get to learn about, Pokémon that don’t act in an intelligent way, and overall a film that really is just an extended episode of the TV series. Luckily for us, a monumental highpoint was just around the corner.
Best Performance By A Pokémon: There aren’t many standout performances in this one, but I did take a liking to Jimmy’s Typhlosion. Typhlosion is an especially brave Pokémon with no qualms about taking on a stronger type than he. This is shown when he doesn’t even question Jimmy’s decision to send him up against a Croconaw. Typhlosion also harbours a dark side. After Marina suggests that perhaps Jimmy likes her, Typhlosion looks up with a sinister grin and a seedy cackle. There’s something not quite right about that one.
Best Battle: Pokémon trainer extraordinaire Eugene, suggests an All Or Nothing tactic in order to defeat Team Rocket and save Raikou within the film’s climax. It becomes a huge mêlée of Pokémon fights with Typhlosion, Vinny’s Meganium, Alakazam, and Team Rocket’s Steelix and Skarmory all getting in on the action. Meganium and Typhlosion go to rescue Raikou, who still has no clue what is going on, while Steelix tries to crush Jimmy. Lucky for Jimmy, he has a very well trained Beedrill.
Come back tomorrow for our next PokéMovie Marathon article. Gotta read them all here.