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"Pokémon" It Is Your Destiny To Pick Up This Movie

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Anybody who hasn’t heard the name “Pokémon” has been living on Pluto for the past few years. If that describes you, welcome to Earth and allow me to explain. Pokémon is the mega hit franchise from Japan that swept America seven years ago and is still going strong. The current incarnation, Advanced Generation, has revitalized the franchise, giving it a much-needed injection of fresh. Not only that, but because of this new life, we now have seven Pokémon movies, with another one being released in Japanese theaters this summer. The latest movie to come to US DVD is called Destiny Deoxys.

Four years ago, a young boy named Tory, along with his father, a researcher named Professor Lund, were studying in the North Pole when a comet came crashing down. This caused a large group of Walrein to stampede and Tory got trapped, almost getting trampled by the walrus Pokémon. Out of the meteor came a strange orange Pokémon. Before it could take a few steps, however, Rayquaza, a Legendary Pokémon living in the ozone layer, attacked. The orange Pokémon defended itself, but was eventually defeated by Rayquaza due to a surprise attack. The green dragon, its task completed, retreated back home, leaving behind a piece of the meteor with a green jewel inside for Professor Lund to study.

Back in the present, Ash and company travel to La Rousse City, a technological wonder complete with moving sidewalks, elevators, and floating, talking, robots. However, the reason the gang is there is so Ash can compete in the Battle Tower, a huge building where Pokémon Trainers pair up and compete against each other in a huge arena (fans of Pokémon Crystal and Colloseum will know what I’m talking about). There, Ash meets Tory and they both find themselves in the first match of the day. Tory doesn’t have any Pokémon, so Ash gives him Torkoal so they can compete against Rafe and his Blaziken as well as Sid and his Blastoise. Unfortunately, Tory’s experience from four years ago has rendered him frightened of any and all Pokémon, costing Ash the match. Later, Ash decides to help Tory get over his fear by having a picnic. But suddenly, the orange Pokémon from before, who Professor Lund calls Deoxys, appears and practically takes over the city, kidnapping people left and right while shutting everything down. As if that isn’t enough, Rayquaza re-appears to continue the battle from four years ago, while Ash and company are cut off from the rest of the world!

This is the first Pokémon movie to forgo the pre-film Pikachu mini-movie, which means the creative staff has an extra twenty-two minutes or so to play with. Unfortunately, they need some practice on how to fill out a film. At one point, some robots start going haywire and take over the town, smothering most of our heroes. Both Deoxys and Rayquaza basically just disappear, only to appear near the end, after all the trouble has passed. Basically, the whole last quarter of the film only exists so Ash can be a hero yet again, making details like this seem very tacked on. Perhaps the writers should have read the manga adaptation, which instead depicted Professor Lund’s assistant betraying everyone to get control of Deoxys for his own purposes, lengthening the fight between Rayquaza and Deoxys.

Unfortunately, Brock, May, and Max barely do anything in the film and promptly disappear when it’s time for Ash to save the day. Their one contribution to the plot is spinning the windmills, which is really sad, especially since they can’t call out their Pokémon mid-way through the film. Speaking of Pokémon, there are two new Pokémon featured: Munchlax and Metagross. Munchlax is the pre-evolved form of Snorlax (as well as the first Pokémon we’ve seen from the fourth generation) and is basically comic relief, while Metagross, who is beyond cool in the games, just floats there throughout the entire movie, never even launching an offensive attack. Some wasted potential there, especially since its trainer, Rebecca, is supposed to be talented.

Not to say that the film is actually bad. The Battle Tower scene is very exciting, as Blastoise and Blaziken get to show off some pretty awesome moves, while Torchic and Pikachu get to play for laughs. I do wish they had kept May as Ash’s partner as shown in the original trailer, but the final version was still pretty good. When Deoxys and Rayquaza were finally allowed to battle, the results were spectacular, one of the best battles I’ve seen in the movies since Spell of the Unown. Unfortunately, their battle only lasts a few minutes due to Deoxys’ force field.

Deoxys, who is the fourth man-made Pokémon (after Mewtwo, Porygon, and Porygon2), was handled very differently from his predecessor Mewtwo. I expected Deoxys to rampage like a good monster antagonist, but that doesn’t happen at all. In fact, Deoxys is one of the most defensive Pokemon on the show, going so far as to block off all potential threats before commencing its invasion of La Rousse City. Rayquaza isn’t all that much different from Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Raikou, or Suicune in that it acts on instinct and attacks any invaders of its territory (makes you wonder how people in the Pokémon world ever got into space). Aside from being really powerful and cool-looking, it doesn’t display any defining characteristics, but really, “powerful and cool-looking” is good enough.

As usual, we get a large cast of one-timers in this movie, although this time they actually do something to progress the plot rather than gawk in the background. Rafe is the “cool” trainer, confident in himself and his Blaziken. He gets to help the random citizens of the town escape. His sisters, Audrey and Catherine, don’t really do much aside from interacting with Max in the background, though their Surskit and Masquerain help out a bit. Sid, who has a Blastoise, is smitten with May, though he doesn’t get to do much since he’s kidnapped mid-way through. Rebecca, who trains a Metagross, is basically the computer expert in the group. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get much of a chance to show off her Trainer skills. Lund is basically Professor Hale from the third movie except twenty years older, while Tory is interesting merely because he is one of the first characters in the series to be genuinely afraid of Pokémon. While I personally like Melody, Molly, and Sammy from the second, third, and fourth movies respectively, Tory is more interesting than most of the other one-timers in the movies. The relationship he forms with Ash as well as Plusle and Minun is interesting to watch, and you find yourself rooting for the boy.

Visually, the animation is as fluid as ever and features possibly the highest CG content of any Pokemon film yet. While it’s still easy to tell what’s CG and what’s not, it blended with the 2D animation very well and doesn’t look out-of-place. We’ve come quite a long way from the first and second movies.

As some may know, when Japan put out the DVD Special Edition of Mewtwo Strikes Back, the producers added various CGI effects (such as clouds and doors) to try to enhance the film. That video was the one 4Kids used to make their dub. This time, though, 4Kids uses the original Japanese theatrical video of the movie, eschewing the Japanese video edit. Most of the edits in that version were simply to cover up some animation mistakes (such as missing reflections or lighting), though a couple created some atmosphere (Deoxys was originally shadowed in the beginning) and a couple are questionable (Rebecca disappears from the top of her Metagross during one scene, even when she’s talking). Transfer for the most part is clear, though the movie seems faded or washed out at times, particularly inside the various labs, which didn’t set right with me. The main problem I have with the video, however, is the lack of widescreen. Again. We don’t even get the end credits or the trivia clips in widescreen like the last film! Really, what would be so bad about showing us the whole film?

Musically, we have a return to 4Kids’ standard practices. The peppy, sugary original Japanese theme, “L-O-V-E-L-Y ~ To Dream of a Lovely Boy,” has been dumped in favor of 4Kids’ own pop song, “This Side of Paradise.” While “L-O-V-E-L-Y” isn’t nearly as bad as some fans say, most would agree 4Kids’ replacement is better. It also proves that 4Kids can still make peppy pop/rock songs, which they really haven’t done since the days of Johto Journeys. The rest of the film uses the original Japanese background music, which works pretty well. The remixes of the TV themes that show up occasionally were particularly memorable.

Without the mini-movie to pad things out the extras seem thin. What little there is includes a poster art gallery (only three pictures long), Pokémon character profiles, a pitifully easy trivia quiz, and a clip from the Japanese making-of featuring the animation director, Katsuhiro Yuyama, traveling around Vancouver, Canada, which inspired the city of La Rousse. Unlike last time, though, Yuyama’s voice is dubbed over instead of subtitled. While a nice feature, it’s only a few minutes long, leaving me wanting more. The DVD also includes a promotional card for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, which is standard nowadays, though this card’s not foiled like past cards were. I wish there was a commentary or a bigger featurette or something else on this disc, because by themselves the extras are pathetic.

While this film won’t topple my current favorites, Spell of the Unown, Jirachi Wish Maker, and Pokémon Heroes, and the release certainly leaves a few things to be desired, this is still a highly entertaining film that any Pokémon fan will enjoy. Now if only all the characters would participate in the big battle next time.

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