23rd Nov2018

‘Pokemon The Movie: The Power of Us’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Features the voices of: James Carter Cathcart, Laurie Hymes, Michele Knotz, Eddy Lee, Sarah Natochenny, Lisa Ortiz, Ikue Ôtani, Jake Paque, Haven Paschall, Billy Bob Thompson  | Written by Aya Takaha, Eiji Umehara | Directed by Tetsuo Yajima


Directed by Tetsuo Yajima, Pokémon The Movie: The Power of Us is the second film in the rebooted anime film series and the 21st Pokémon released in total (gotta catch ’em all, etc). Brightly animated and filled with upbeat messages, it’s safe to say that fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed, though newcomers may find themselves a little lost.

The plot centres on Risa (Laurie Hymes), a schoolgirl who visits her younger brother in hospital and agrees to attend an island-based Wind Festival on his behalf, in order to catch a rare Pokémon. On arrival, Risa meets a number of other characters, including: heroic Pokémon trainer Ash (Sarah Natochenny) and his adorable sidekick Pikachu (Ikue Ôtani); brash Uncle Callahan (Jake Paque), who tells suspiciously tall tales to his poorly niece Callie (Lisa Ortiz); Mayor’s daughter Margo (Haven Paschall), who’s planning a secret mission; panicky Professor Toren (Billy Bob Thompson), who’s worried about an upcoming presentation; and dastardly duo Team Rocket (Michele Knotz and James Carter Cathcart as Jessie and James), who plan to win the Pokémon catching tournament by any means necessary.

The animation is true to the style of the TV series, focusing more on the colourful characters and their various fighting styles than on creating detailed backgrounds. Consequently, some of the wide shots have noticeably lazy renderings (particularly when it comes to depicting passers-by), while the shots of the landscape lack the intricacy and beauty of, say, the Studio Ghibli films. That said, the target audience are unlikely to notice, especially given the sheer number of cute characters on display.

The script is extremely simplistic, but it gets the basic job done in terms of conveying its central message, which is largely to do with self-belief and the idea that humans can accomplish more than they think they can, especially with a Pokémon by their side. Consequently, the message is explicitly stated a number of times, with each character’s personal obstacles cleverly mirrored by their accompanying Pokémon (e.g. Callahan has to stop deceiving others, as mirrored by Sudowoodo, a Pokémon that disguises itself to defeat enemies; Risa has to regain confidence in her running ability, post-injury, just as her Eeevee bravely pitches in despite being hurt, etc).

Unfortunately, with so many characters running around, none of the subplots make much of an emotional impact (Team Rocket get particularly short shrift) and there are plenty of loose threads left dangling by the end. In addition, the writers have a frustrating habit of duplicating story points – there are multiple deceptions, double-crosses and conspiracies, as well as two legendary Pokémon with a complex historic link to the city, and two large scale disasters that get unleashed in the final act.

On the plus side, the Pokémon characters are entertainingly cute (Pikachu and Eevee’s friendship is flat-out adorable, while Sudowoodo’s strange behaviour is likely to illicit laughs from dragged-along adults) and the various ways their Pokémon powers are used to fight a forest fire are inventive and fun.

If there’s a problem, it’s only that the bloated contest-on-an-island scenario means that there’s too little time spent on getting to know the various Pokémon and their ways, and it’s fair to say that a more streamlined plot (with, for example, Risa building her skills as a poké trainer) might have been more enjoyable.

Despite its flaws, Pokémon The Movie: The Power of Us delivers more than enough Pokémon action to keep fans happy, and director Tetsuo Yajima ensures that things keep moving at a decent pace. If you’re a Pokémon devotee, you can probably go ahead and add an extra star, but if you don’t know your Lugia from your Zeraora, you might want to Pikachoose something else to watch instead.

**½  2.5/5

Pokémon The Movie: The Power of Us is in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on the 24th November and 1st December; get tickets from www.fathomanimation.com


Comments are closed.