In 2 days the world will go mad in unison for the latest Pokémon games, Pokémon X & Y.The English language dub of the latest film is also set to premiere one week after that. Over the next 2 weeks join THN as we take a look back over the entire series of Pokémon films.
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Cast: Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Madeleine Blaustein, Ikue Ootani, Amy Birnbaum, Wayne Grayson, Megan Hollingshead, Kerry Williams,
Plot: Ash, Brock, Max and May are on the lookout for a comet that only appears once every 1000 years. After Max hears voices coming from a meteorite owned by a magician, they soon realise that inside is the Pokémon Jirachi, who has the abilities to grant wishes. However, Jirachi is also capable of resurrecting one of the biggest and most dangerous Pokémon that has ever existed.
It is a time of great change in the cinematic world of Pokémon. When we first heard that Misty would not be returning for the 6th theatrical outing many rumours started circulating. Would she be recast by a younger actress? Would she regenerate into a completely different looking person, revealing herself as part timelord? Or would they simply recast the part and never mention it like they did with James Bond? It turns out none of these were true, partly because Misty left on amicable terms, but also because she is just a cartoon character.
It seems as though once Misty finally got her bike repaired she wanted nothing more to do with Ash Ketchum. Well fine then. Like we care! Just go! In place are brother and sister duo May and Max. The two of them together are actually quite the team and do add some new dimensions to the group dynamic. Obviously we have the sibling rivalry which often forces Ash to act in a more mature way as he helps find solutions to issues raised. May is a food obsessed young woman who brings the feistyness of Misty without the underlying obvious romantic connection with Ash. Max is a precocious know-it-all, who really does seem to know it all. He’s a fascinating character to have around as he is too young to be a Pokémon trainer and thus has none of his own. This comes into play in POKEMON: JIRACHI – WISH MAKER
Now obviously, with a title like that I was hoping for something akin to Robert Kurtzman’s classic WISHMASTER. I wasn’t too far off but there’s a bit less violence and gore. Just a bit. A brief prologue details something about Team Magma, though don’t worry too much, Team Rocket are still around too. Team Magma wish to raise the legendary Pokémon Groudon and wreak some havoc. This runs parallel to the arrival of a rare comet. Ash and the gang gather at a circus that has been erected to celebrate the arrival of the comet, which will be visible to the naked eye for 7 days. The opening credits take place as the circus is set up, making a change from the usual battle sequence. There’s one lovely moment where a truck drives along and effortlessly lays track down for a train to arrive. It was just a small inventive moment but one that really stood out. The circus setting and the magician character Butler, serve to express the themes of dreams and illusion, and wishes coming true.
After a few tricks of Butler’s Max overhears a voice from inside a meteorite that Butler has. They identify the voice as belonging to Jirachi, a legendary Pokémon with the power to grant wishes. From here the film takes a brave turn of putting Max at the emotional forefront of the film. Ash still gets his share of the action, but after Jirachi hatches, this is really Max’s tale. Part of the reason that makes Max take such a shine to Jirachi is probably because he is too young to have his own Pokémon. This leads to what is essentially a tragedy as Jirachi can only stay for 7 days. At first the friendship is filled with fun, but as the day approaches when Jirachi will have to leave, Max finds it hard to let go. This gives setup to a moving scene in which Ash comments on Misty having to leave. It’s a good idea to teach children about changing friendships, and how even long distances won’t stop people from caring about each other.
After Jirachi first hatches, the gang decide to test out the theory of the wishes coming true. Max wishes for a lot of candy and their caravan soon fills with all different varieties. This leads to a rare spike in greed for our heroes as they yank Jirachi back and forth, hoping to make the next wish. However, it is quickly revealed to them that Jirachi can’t actually grant wishes, but she can use teleport and the candy has been teleported from an honest carnival vendor’s stall. The message of not getting anything for nothing is another morally responsible to express to children, and it isn’t done as ham fistedly as in the earlier films.
After an Absol, a Pokémon that appears before disasters, seems to attack Max and Jirachi, it soon becomes apparent that he was actually trying to rescue the pair as Butler reveals himself to be a member of Team Magma. It turns out Jirachi’s energy will resurrect Groudon. What’s interesting about Butler is that his magician persona isn’t just an act or disguise. He seems to have fallen in with the wrong crowd when joining Team Magma, and after a failed attempt to bring Groudon back, Butler is more about proving Team Magma wrong than he is about creating devastation. The fact he has trained to be a magician since he was very young gives him a bit of innocence which allows for us to hope for some form of redemption.
Eventually Goudon is resurrected and his size is immense. It puts him on scale with the massive monsters of classic films, and I’m pretty sure I heard a cheeky nod towards the GODZILLA theme. I wonder what size Pokéball could hold Groudon. It soon transpires that this isn’t a real Groudon, but it is going to suck the energy and life from the earth using massive liquiddy tentacles, PRINCESS MONONOKE style. We are then treated to a rip-roaring action packed climax. POKEMON: JIRACHI – WISHMAKER has some overall good messages and great action sequences, but when compared to the last outing it certainly appears as though the quality of animation and storytelling have taken a back seat again. But at least we get a line about reversing the polarity, which makes any film/TV show instantly better.
Best Performance By A Pokémon: Jirachi turns in a character that is both childish and wise. Jirachi really needs a friend, but knows full well he will have to leave in just a week. We see early on that Jirachi doesn’t always understand social interactions, as he removes Max’s glasses from his face as part of a ‘game’. Jirachi is used for his power, but never turns malevolent or vengeful, and the final goodbye with Max is a sad one. Seeing Jirachi grow over the course of such a short time is one of the highlights of the film.
Best Battle: The final battle against Groudon is successful due to the beast’s sheer stature. This requires an aerial battle with a Flygon at first taking on Butler’s Salamence, but soon the two have to team up to take on Groudon. The scenes of bizarre tentacles approaching our heroes while Salamence and Flygon use their fire breath techniques in a spectacular aerial display of great manoeuvres and extreme skill.
Come back tomorrow for our next PokéMovie Marathon article. Gotta read ‘em all here.
Pokémon X & Y are released for the Nintendo 3DS on 12th October 2013. POKEMON: THE MOVIE: GENESECT AND THE LEGEND AWAKENED will premiere on CITV’s Movie Club at 9:25 am on 19th October in the UK, and on Cartoon Network in the US.