[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]
A couple weeks ago, I discussed the history of and my personal fandom of Pokemon, as well as my thoughts on the first Pokemon movie. My discussion of the games ended with Red, Blue, and Yellow. However, in 1999, the world saw the release of the next generation: Silver and Gold. Personally, while I did buy these games, I never got more than halfway through, as I was (at that point) at an age where I was moving on into other types of games.
But this new generation put the player in a new "region" (as opposed to what came to be known as the "Kanto" region of the original games) called the Johto region. Not only was there a new region, but 100 brand spankin' new Pokemon, bringing the total up to 251. The story of the games isn't really all that important since, as you might have guessed from the previous article, the films are mostly adaptations of the TV show. Now, the TV show gets its ideas and whatnot from how the games evolve (no pun intended), but that's about it.
With the show starting to get new types of Pokemon introduced, the movies, of course, are going to capitalize on this, as well. Therefore, in 1999 (ironically), we were given the second film, Pokemon: The Movie 2000.
It has come to my attention that practically every Pokemon movie (and there are roughly a dozen at this point) actually had a theatrical release--mostly just in Japan, though. Due to this new-found information, I came to a conclusion for something I had only been thinking about doing before. In a spin-off series to this one (yeah, MORE work for me), I'm going to actually watch and review not only the remaining Pokemon films, but the anime series itself (since I stopped playing the games, I suppose I'd need a frame of reference to new characters, new pokemon, etc.). These PokeReviews will be given every so often--no real specified time--so as to not interfere with and/or slow down the rest of this current project. I'm sure I have nobody really interested in this whatsoever, but... truth be told... I guess it'll be mostly for me anyway. And hey, if you want to read and comment anyway, cool. Anyway, back to the film that actually is on this current project list.
Whereas the first film focused on the most powerful pokemon of the original games, this film goes back a step in line and looks at the 3 Legendary Birds, plus a new one from Silver and Gold. This film centers around The Collector who, well, collects legendary pokemon. He's after the three Legendary Birds, Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno so that he can summon and capture the most powerful of them all, Lugia. Of course, it's up to Ash and friends to stop him and save the day before the imbalance of nature caused by taking the birds destroys the world.
There is a great, epic adventure idea behind the film. But, as with the first film, it fails to fully capture that idea. But here, whereas the first film just fails at the more adult themes, this film fails on a few other levels. First and foremost, there is no real sense of dread or menace. MewTwo, despite everything, was a very menacing villain and presence. Here, we're just given a rich douchebag who doesn't care if the world is destroyed through his bird collection. Even the eventual fight between the Legendary Birds isn't all that grand because everything is pulled back and focused on the characters rather than the epic scale and destructive nature of the fight. It just kind of happens in the background.
There is also somewhat of a failure in the character department, too. The film assumes you follow along with the show, as Brock is gone and there are a couple new characters. Even the Power Rangers movies gave you continuity in the films while changing thing in their own ways on the show to suit the changes of the films. Anyway, Ash is kind of annoying in the film--very wishy washy. One minute, he can be crying and terrified. One second later, he'll be cocky and stubborn, as if he hadn't been crapping his pants just seconds before. Then there's the fact that the movie decides to explore the relationship between Ash and Misty... but it goes absolutely nowhere. You're exactly where you were before. Misty likes Ash, but does nothing about it. The only cool character moment is with Team Rocket. They decide to be good guys and help Ash for once. That's cool. Except it's only because Lugia has him crossing through a battlefield on his own instead of just flying him across--which is exactly what he does for the return trip. Not to mention he was at his side most of the trip over, blocking attacking. If he can do it there, why not just let him ride him across? But there's also the moment they're willing to die for the cause, which is fantastic and kind of shocking.
The animation isn't even as good as the first film. The first film was cool looking and stylish. It felt very cinematic. Here, it felt like just an extended episode of the show. The 20-minute short film before it centering on Pikachu's rescue of Togepi has better animation and has moments that are fantastic artistically. A totally different style. But in the main feature, none of the animation ever made me go "Oh, that's pretty cool." They even dropped the ball on the flying fortress that the collector lives in, which could have been some cool Miyazaki-esque thing, but instead is just this boring CGI thing.
So what you get is a film that is rather dull and nonsensical with a story that leaves you wanting something more. It's not poorly drawn, but it's nothing new or exciting. The scale wants to be grand, but the direction was off, taking out the suspense, excitement, etc. that it could have had. There are no menacing villains, either, and it really pulls back in the ambition and emotion department. At least the first film attempted something with more punch to it (and from what I've heard, the unedited Japanese version of the first film is actually much better, taking out plot holes and adding even more depth and emotion to MewTwo's backstory). It seems to know where it faltered in the original film and didn't tread that territory again, but it also took out some things that made the first film good. Here, we get a few hints at an Ash/Misty romance and Team Rocket having some character growth. The overall film just could have been... more than what we had.