12th of October 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, we’ve been covering each and every Pokémon film in celebration. Check out past articles here.
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Cast: Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Madeleine Blaustein, Ikue Ootani, Amy Birnbaum, Lisa Ortiz, Tara Sands, Sean Schemmel, Megan Hollingshead,
Plot: Pokémon from another planet land on Earth, but as they enter our atmosphere they disturb the Pokémon known as Rayquaza. He seemingly destroys the unwelcome visitors. Years later one of the alien Pokémon returns looking for its mate, but this time the showdown with Rayquaza is going to take place in a densely populated futuristic city.
Holy mother of running times! This is the longest Pokémon movie yet. Skipping a needless animated short, POKEMON: DESTINY DEOXYS decides to take that extra 20 minutes and add it to the running time of the main feature. And it’s all the better for it. Now I’m not saying that all Pokémon movies need to be this long, but POKEMON: DESTINY DEOXYS has enough story, character, and action to effortlessly take up nearly 100 minutes of screen time. This is in contention for the absolute best Pokémon film, and is certainly the one that would work best as a live action feature.
We start with a brisk fly through the world of Pokémon. We see many different species that decide they wish to leap at the screen, giving the impression that at one point or another, this was/was meant to be shown in 3D. This is of course unnecessary for us dedicated Pokémon researchers/trainers, but for the less educated it probably helps set the mood. Next thing we know we are sent deep into the cosmos where a meteorite harbouring two glowing orbs (one purple, one green) is hurtling through space. It crash lands in one of the polar regions of Earth and an intergalactic Pokémon known as Deoxys appears from the purple orb. This starts a stampede of Spheal, Sealeo, and Walrein. The stampede traps a researcher’s son, but he is eventually saved by his father. The arrival of Deoxys also disturbed, upon entry to our atmosphere, Rayquaza. Seeing Deoxy’s arrival as a threat a huge battle takes place which eventually destroys all of the research equipment. Rayquaza defeats Deoxys turning it back into the purple orb where it falls into the ocean. The researchers take the green orb with them, and that’s just the beginning.
4 years later and Ash, Max, Brock, and May arrive in LaRousse City, a futuristic place where everything is controlled by computers and you need your own individual passport to activate everything from moving sidewalks to hotdog vending machines. They meet Tori, the young boy caught in the stampede at the beginning of the film. Tori is an amazing character. He suffers from a severe phobia of Pokémon ever since that stampede. It’s sad to see somebody in a world full of Pokémon be so scared of them. He can’t even be near one, and has certainly never trained one. What’s also great is that it doesn’t play this out quickly. It isn’t a simple fix for Tori, even when he knows he can trust Pokémon. It takes him a huge amount of effort and time to accept Pokémon.
Ash and company go to the Battle Tower, where we get to see an honest to God actual Pokémon battle. However, Tori is unable to successfully command Ash’s Pokémon due to his crippling fear. Tori runs off, but we see his kind heart as he helps a Minul that is stuck in a bin. It shows his compassionate side, and how he doesn’t want to be as terrified of Pokémon as he is. I’m surprised we haven’t come across more Poképhobes, considering their ability to roast your face off or electrocute your eyes out. The Minul along with a Plusle and a Munchlax have their own little side stories going on, a bit like Scrat in the ICE AGE movies, but they do eventually move the film along in terms of both plot and character development. This 30 minutes of laying the groundwork really works in the film’s favour as we are totally invested in what happens next.
The purple Deoxys from four years ago has regenerated again and is now in the big city looking for his partner. Deoxys is a weird but wonderful design for a Pokémon. It has a sort of humanoid form, but with bendy, stretchy arms that wave in the wind. It’s similar to ULTRAMAN, and it’s humanlike appearance makes it seem more dangerous. Deoxys begins to take control of the city’s power, and multiplies into a number of dark servants that begin carrying people away. The city is evacuated, but a small team of survivors is trapped within the city limits. Oh yes, this is horror/action territory and it knows it. The plot is very similar to many a zombie or horror film, especially Frank Darabont’s THE MIST, but POKEMON: DESTINY DEOXYS came first. The difference here is that the group learn to work together pretty quickly.
You’ll recognise the mechanics of this setup. The group cautiously navigate their way around the streets, and have to make a trip in the darkness to gather food. Of course, this being Pokémon means that characters don’t quite get ripped apart when they are caught, they are just held prisoners. Just when it looks as though the gang have discovered a way to subdue Deoxys, Rayquaza has gotten wise to his old nemesis’ return. As Rayquaza enters the city he is set upon by the clones of Deoxys. They surround him as he flies into the air, and we get a bit of solar flare off the camera lens. I always like it when animated films try and convince us that they are real in that way. It’s just a tiny detail, but one that is much appreciated.
Rayquaza and Deoxys set about destroying the city as they battle. Buildings crumble, and the sound effects work is some of the best in a Pokémon film. The computers in the city have also started to go haywire and it’s up to Ash and Tori to stop them. The pacing of this climax is absolutely brilliant. It never trips over itself, and just when you might get a little tired of the monsters smashing each other to pieces, we cut to the race against time tension. Seeing a battle that the humans have no real influence over is exciting stuff as the creatures are battling to the death, and it also allows for their subplot to revolve around teamwork for both the humans and their Pokémon.
POKEMON: DESTINY DEOXYS has it all. A lengthy running time that is used exquisitely to build tension, characters and pace. It’s never boring and it hits the right notes in all arenas. Tori’s character arc is one we really care about. The whole team of trainers and Pokémon have moments to shine, and I’m surprised at how well the script brings in elements of action, mystery, and humour to make a film that deserved to be a high grossing blockbuster.
Best Performance By A Pokémon: This award goes to the duo of Plusle and Minul, a pair of electric mouse Pokémon that aren’t Pikachu. At first they seem like simple comic relief, and their cute little foibles are a sweet distraction, but don’t seem necessary. It isn’t until later when we see them connect with Tori, that we realise how important they are. I love how ecstatic they seem after being rescued by Tori, but then they are struck with confusion at his fear of them. They work together to help in Ash’s mission and they are also teh catalyst of Tori overcoming his fear.
Best Battle: Too many great ones to count if I’m honest. But the opening fight really lets you know what you are in for. Rayquaza’s ferocity at Deoxys sets in motion a battle that can’t simply be stopped. It goes from the air, to the ground, and Deoxys has a number of skills and formes to mix it up a bit. We see the damage a real Pokémon fight can cause, rather than a sanctioned and controlled battle. Millions of dollars worth of damage must have occurred, and the fear humans must live in of these increasingly large Pokémon doesn’t bare thinking about. We get a real sense that Rayquaza feels threatened as he gives it his all when fighting, while Deoxys is a stranger to a new planet that gets a terrible welcome. Despite the attack Deoxys suffers, he seems to restrain himself knowing the discomfort he has caused Rayquaza.
Come back tomorrow for our next PokéMovie Marathon article. Gotta read them all here.