It may be hard to believe but two weeks ago saw the UK release of Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 on the Nintendo DS. So as I’m sure many Poké fans still need to rest their blister covered hands, we’ve been covering each and every Pokémon film in celebration. Check out past articles here.
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Cast: Sarah Natochenny, Emily Bauer, Michele Knotz, Bill Rogers, Jimmy Zoppi, Ikue Ootani, Tom Wayland, Dan Green,
Plot: After he was betrayed by a human, the Pokémon known as Arceus, who has the ability to create life, returns to Earth to bring all of humanity to justice.
It’s the final chapter in a trilogy, a trilogy that has built up over time and space itself. The previous two entries in the Pokémon saga were great, but this is the epic conclusion they were setting us up for. Is it possible that this could be better than its predecessors? Or shall we be left with a sour taste in our mouths? Most importantly, how can the franchise possibly make it bigger and better than before? It’s already handled time and space, so the next stop is…creation itself. That’s right my Pokéfriends, Pokémon is treading the dangerous waters of religion and creationism.
It starts off with Arceus being betrayed. At this point we have no idea who this Arceus fella is. Maybe he deserved such betrayal. Perhaps, like Pikachu, he just refused to get in his Pokéball. No matter what the cause, we know it’s going to cause some serious problems. But before we get into all that nonsense, let us get reacquainted with our pals Ash, Brock, and Dawn. Not to mention Piplup and Pikachu. By now I am fully accepting of the vocal talent on display. Sure I still long for the old voice, and they’ll never sound quite right. But at least they don’t put me off in the same way they did in POKEMON RANGER AND THE WATER TEMPLE. Piplup and Pikachu run through a CG cornfield which is brought to life by some gorgeous lighting which recreates realistic sunlight.
The trio arrive in Machina Town, which is preceded by stunning green fields, and built against a backdrop of mountains. This time the animators had based their designs on various locations in Greece. The heroes swim in the river, where they get into a battle over watermelons. This made me laugh, as Ash has been in so many terrifying and important predicaments in the past that a battle over watermelons seemed quite refreshing. It’s a tag battle, with Dawn’s Piplup and Ash’s Pikachu making the perfect team. Their moves complement each other and help them to kick some serious arse.
After this quaint little exchange that reminds us how life is in the series, we are then thrust into familiar but dark territory. As the gang explore a world filled with beautiful ruins, waterfalls, and great use of textures, Piplup and Pikachu are suddenly caught in a water twister. Luckily Dialga appears and saves them, but it isn’t long before Giratina returns and attacks Dialga. It seems as though these two still have some issues to sort out and with no Pokémon equivalent to Jeremy Kyle it looks as though this is being handled with fisticuffs. Despite being good friends with Pikachu and Piplup, Giratina doesn’t seem to care that Dialga saved them, but soon they are able to calm Giratina down. Once calm a psychic known as Sheena, is able to communicate with Giratina and assure him that he has misunderstood Dialga. This is the message of tolerance and acceptance, but also trying to see things from other’s perspectives.
This is when we hear the first utterings of what some may see as religious talk, but I only see it as spiritual, which is never a bad thing. Sheena suggests that their meeting must be ‘fated’, which makes sense since Ash keeps bumping into these legendary Pokémon. Seeing Ash bump into so many legendary Pokémon brings about the same feeling I get whenever I see Kevin James with such ridiculously gorgeous co-stars. How does he do that? This scene is also finished on a comedic highlight for me. We’ve seen Brock chat-up women and have to be contained literally hundreds of times by now, but this is the cream of the crop. After Brock is subdued by his own Croagrunk, we are treated to a long take of Croagrunk dragging Brock off screen. All the other characters watch, but remain silent. It was just a well timed and fantastically executed rendition of a joke that should be old by now.
Once we’re back into the plot we discover that there are five worlds. The world of time (Dialga), space (Palkia), our world, the Reverse World (Giratina), and the world where Arceus has been sleeping and healing. We also discover the complex history of humans and Arceus. Arceus once sacrificed himself to save Earth from a meteorite storm. After he took serious damage a human named Damos healed Arceus back to health. Arceus gave Damos the Jewel of Life, which he made from his very own lifeplates, thus putting his own life in danger. The Jewel of Life has the power to bring life to the desolate land of Machina Town. It gave them crops and water etc. Once Arceus came to retrieve the Jewel of Life, Damos betrayed Arceus, fearing that without the Jewel of Life, all life would cease to exist. Crikey! With all this talk of sacrifice and judgement, how can anyone ignore these massive biblical references? It does offer a brand new way to look at Pokémon, and mixes surprisingly well with all the talk of multiple worlds and science. Evolution and creation coexisting in the same world? They should have a war and get it over with.
Arceus returns and Sheena, an ancestor of Damos, plans on returning the Jewel of Life, but unfortunately it’s a fake. This really pisses off Arceus and he decides to destroy humanity. The End! Or at least it would have been if not for Dialga showing up to send our heroes back in time while Palkia, Dialga, and Giratina fight Arceus. In the past Ash, Dawn, Brock and Sheena set about making up for the mistakes made. But unfortunately despite convincing Damos, there is the untrustworthy Marcus. We see Dawn, Ash, and Brock gradually fade away, but this time playing Johnny B. Goode isn’t going to help them. The past isn’t as easy to change as they had wished and we have to wonder if changing past events helps at all.
The finale is quieter than you’d expect, as the big battle takes place at the beginning. The film ends with life continuing thanks to hard work and not on the reliance of Arceus’ Jewel of Life. Could this be a strong critique of those that believe their belief in God will make everything better, rather than working hard and achieving their goals? Possibly not, but the interpretation can’t be avoided. I liked this film a lot, even if its ideas were grand to the point of convolution. The time travelling narrative was also a bit overdone, because as soon as characters were in the past, we were then subjected to many more flashbacks and retellings of previous events. Still, I’m not going to criticise ambition, and POKEMON: ARCEUS AND THE JEWEL OF LIFE is as ambitious as they come.
Best Performance By A Pokémon: Arceus certainly had the biggest character arc, even though I found his angry voice a bit whiny and childish for something so powerful. However, when he was calm he did sound very spiritual and in control. His selfless sacrifice and aid for Machina Town goes unrewarded and his betrayal is more than enough to justify his great rage and want to destroy all humans. Seeing him effortlessly fight against such gargantuan Pokémon as Palkia, Dialga, and Giratina, but struggle against the likes of little Piplup and Pikachu, just further served as a reminder of the sacrifice he had made to Damos.
Best Battle: The four way legendary showdown is exactly what you could have hoped for, with Palkia and Dialga giving it their all. We soon forget about the issues these two once had between them. Also with Giratina in the mix, we see the impact that Pikachu, Ash, and friends have had on such powerful beings. Arceus’ anger and rage just destroys landmarks and beats down such huge contestants, but due to his missing of certain lifeplates, Pikachu is able to put up a fight, reminding us that size doesn’t matter.
Come back tomorrow for our next PokéMovie Marathon article. Gotta read them all here.