Length: 97 mins
Dir: Kunihiko Yuyama (Japanese Production), Michael Haigney (US Adaptation)
Starring: Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ikue Otani, Adam Blaustein, Amy Birnbaum, Stan Hart, Ed Paul, Tara Jayne, Neil Stewart, Eric Rath.
The second of the Pokémon movies is made up of two features - the short, "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure," and the main movie, "The Power of One."
"PIKACHU'S RESCUE ADVENTURE"
Ash and the gang stop to rest somewhere along their journey, and as they sleep, Togepi wanders off, as is his wont. Pikachu and the other Pokémon are led to him by an Eleckid, and they discover that he's... er... well... joined an Eggsecute. After an entertaining little musical number from some random Pokémon, a storm whips up, and threatens the blow Togepi and the Eggsecute away - along with everything else. All the Pokémon team up to save him, with Pikachu and Eleckid using their powers to deflect the lightning, then a Chansey comes along with the missing Eggsecute that Togepi replaced. The Eggsecute evolve into an Eggexutor, and there's a typical Pokémon "wave bye-bye" sequence as the Pokémon return to Ash and co.
While it's no masterpiece of storytelling, "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure" is still more enjoyable than "Pikachu's Vacation," with nice animation that's better than that used in "Mewtwo Strikes Back." It's a cute little story with some particularly nice music, and Squirtle gets to whip out his ass-whoopin' shades, which is always a plus in my book.
"THE POWER OF ONE"
The animation quality of "The Power of One" is above that of "Mewtwo Strikes Back," but it gets iffy in some places, particularly when there's CGI involved - but we'll come to that later.
The movie opens up on an island shrine, as a crisply cool
British voice recites an ancient prophecy, regarding the titans
of fire, ice and lighting, the beast of the sea who will attempt
to stop the battle between the titans, and the Chosen One who
will save them all (the prophecy's actually in rhyme, but I
didn't notice that at first). The voice belongs to Lawrence III;
a Pokémon Collector (who's never referred to by name in the
film) who has plans all his own for the titans - the legendary
Pokémon, Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno (displayed on a
CGI-rendered computer read-out, which looks pretty nifty).
Lawrence, aboard his flying fortress (also CGI, but with a
horrible design), captures Moltres, setting in motion the events
of the prophecy, which will summon the powerful Lugia (who's then
shown in shadow, in the best example of cell animation being
mixed with CGI).
Then it's time to check in on Ash and crew, who are presently on a boat with Erin, another Random Beautiful Girl in the Orange Islands. We get a peculiar techno remix of "Pokémon World," and see that Team Rocket are on our heroes' trail, as a storm soon whips up and blows them off course, landing them on Shamooti Island, where they find they've arrived in time for a festival involving the legend of the Chosen One. Melody, the "festival princess," selects Ash to be the Chosen One for the festival, and gives him a "welcome kiss", which promptly drives Misty quite, quite insane with jealously, but Ash, bless him, doesn't even notice. That boy's a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Oh, and Melody, by the way, has that generic female voice that I mentioned in my review of the first movie. And also knows Misty's name when she hasn't been told it.
At the festival, Misty's rampaging jealous anger continues as Melody gives her performance, and then explains to Ash that it's his job to get three treasures from Fire, Ice and Lighting Island to fulfil his part of the festival. Ash is intent on setting out at once, and Pikachu steals his hat to get him moving faster (though Ash gets unusually pissed about this). Ash and Erin head out to Fire Island, but get caught in another storm, as the elements all across the world are disrupted - Moltres's capture has lead to a shift in the balance of power, causing the underwater current running through the islands to spread across the world, wreaking havoc with nature. Misty and Melody, arguing all the way, head out after them with Tracey (who does absolutely *nothing* in this film), and Team Rocket stow away in their boat. Everyone crashes on Fire Island, where Ash finds the first treasure, which glows in his hand. Enter Team Rocket, who once again don't get to finish doing their motto, and as Melody and Misty argue some more, a historical Pokémon scene occurs, as James outs himself, happily proclaiming that he stays away from the opposite sex.
Anyway... Zapdos then arrives on the island, intent on taking over after Moltres's disappearance - but Lawrence and his fortress then arrive and drain off Zapdos's powers, capturing him, but accidentally picking up the kids and Team Rocket, too. They are all pulled into the fortress in a particularly bad display of cell animation overlaid on top of CGI, and Lawrence introduces himself as Pokémon collector, much to Misty's disgust, as Pokémon aren't just things to collect.
Lawrence proceeds to make the biggest mistake a villain can, and leaves his captives alone in the room with Moltres and Zapdos as he goes off to capture Articuno. Ash uses his cure-all answer for stuff - he RUNS at Moltres, and gets zapped by the energy field around him.
(By the way, I'm serious about that running stuff. Ash does it ALL the time. First movie - he runs directly at Mewtwo. Third movie - he runs straight into the Unown's energy field. Mewtwo Returns - he repeatedly runs into the force field generators. The boy is DUMB.)
The kids and Team Rocket all use their Pokémon, and Moltres is freed. He then frees Zapdos, and for whatever reason, the two of them start fighting, fragging Lawrence's fortress in the process. It crashes onto Lightning Island, as the gang run out of it in what's definitely the worst use of cell-on-CGI. Ash finds the Lightning treasure, and they escape the battling birds and head back to Shamooti, where a Slowking directs Ash to put the treasures into the shrine there. I'm quite surprised that a bigger deal isn't made of the fact that Slowking can talk - likewise I'm surprised that Ash doesn't yank out Dexter first thing (or at all, actually). Then, the sea erupts, and Lugia appears, confronting the Legendary Birds, but being defeated by them. Slowking explains that Ash is the true Chosen One, foretold by legend, who will save the world - all he needs to do is get the third treasure from Ice Island. Melody plays the festival song, and Lugia is re-energised, protecting Ash from the attacks of the other birds as he and his Pokémon head out across the ice to retrieve the last treasure. Team Rocket arrive in a motorised raft they've cooked up, and want to help Ash - 'cause they want to be heroes for once! They all make it to Ice Island, Ash grabs the third treasure, and Lugia flies him back, as Pokémon from all over the world converge on Shamooti, to watch as the fate of the world is decided.
However, it's not to be just yet, as Lawrence attempts to capture Lugia, causing Ash to be hurled into the sea. Lugia destroys Lawrence's fortress, but falls beneath the waters, as Misty swims out to rescue Ash (I'm surprised she's not freezing her ass off... she's still wearing her shorts!). Ash puts the third treasure in place, and Melody begins to play the festival song, as a green liquid runs from the shrine, restoring nature to the way it should be. Lugia emerges, and he and Ash fly through the air as the underwater current, the "beast of the sea," is returned to normal and the legendary birds return to their islands. You have to wonder, though - what happens to all the Pokémon who were standing on the ice? It was specifically said that the land-based ones couldn't swim out to the island, so they certainly couldn't swim back... they all drowned, I tell you!
As Ash and his mother get huggy, Lawrence stands among the ruins of his fortress and vows to begin it all again. Team Rocket are happy to have been the heroes for once, but they're disappointed that no-one saw them. Slowking tells them that's not true, and they all turn to look into the camera as he says lots of people saw them and are watching right now.
"The Power of One" is a good story, that's better constructed than "Mewtwo Strikes Back," and mixes the best elements of Pokémon - action, humour and that little tiny bit of romance - all together very well, in a tale with an epic, world-threatening kinda grandeur that amps it all up. Musically, the film's score is largely good, aside from the oft-repeated few bars of "heroic" music that play mostly when the kids are out in the boats before they reach Fire Island, which just feels a little out of place, and the way in which the festival song changes from a simple tune played on a shell into a massive percussion-filled orchestral piece, making it look *very* odd when we cut back to Melody during it all, who appears to be producing all this noise from a single sea-shell. The film is better for not using soundtrack tunes during the feature itself, but anything that has 'Weird Al' Yankovic on it's ST gets my seal of approval. Everybody, Polkamon! The film also has COLOSSAL 'shipper appeal, as it's main sub-plot is basically "Misty Wants Ash Bad." It's one of those rare moments when they actually make it incontrovertible that Misty's hot for Ash.
The movie loses points, however, for lack on explanation on some things, especially Lawrence. A little time given over to his history would have been great - he made a good villain, but the reason behind his collector's mentality isn't really explained, aside from "I started with a Mew card." Some insight into his motivations would have been much appreciated. Also, for the most part, the CGI is unsightly, not because it's badly done, but because it doesn't blend well with the cell animation around it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
By the by, "The Power of One," like the third Digimon movie, is out of continuity with the series (which I suppose voids James coming out of the closet, but what can you do...). In the series, Moltres was apparently the flame at the Pokémon Stadium - I, for one, was content to believe that the flame wasn't *really* a Moltres, and just assumed the form of one 'cause it was lit from a Moltres's fires, which didn't go against anything this movie said, but then, in the fourth season, it was shown that in the anime continuity, Articuno hangs out in the Johto region, not in the Orange Islands, which definitely contradicts this movie. Of course, if you can't wrap your mind around that, you could always rationalise it and say that's his cousin, Fred Articuno.