I’m not gonna lie. This was painful. There have been some bad movies in this series, but this is the first time that I was dragged along kicking and screaming.
There are a number of reasons why Pokemon games generally come in twos. For starters, each individual game within a generation has minute differences, forcing players to use the trading system if they truly want to “catch them all”. While it’s more tradition than anything else at this point, recent releases have experimented with exclusive content, and the extra cash that having two separate versions of the same game provides is also good.
Notice that while this marketing strategy works arguably well for video games, it doesn’t work so well for other types of media. Nevertheless, 2011 gave us the Victini movies, released separately in theaters in Japan and the United States alike in order to kickstart the fifth generation of games.
With another region, we got new partners. Our token female/mandatory love interest for the next few films is Iris (Eileen Stevens), who you may recognize for being the best of the in-game champions.
The powers that be also realized how swiftly Brock was becoming redundant and replaced him with Cilan (Jason Griffith). His primary aim is to be a Pokemon Connoisseur, which apparently means that he’s attempting to set the record for the most food puns delivered in a single lifetime. Needless to say, I hate Cilan.
I do want to say more about these characters, but this movie doesn’t really have much of them. Or much of Ash, for that matter. Or Pokemon. Or a plot. You’ll see.
The two films have two different prologues, but in the interest of time I’ll just speak of them in broad terms because they’re pretty much the same. Both scenes feature a tribe in some sort of extreme climate (a desert in White, a tundra in Black), vague enough in their manner that you can tell that they’re probably offensive stereotypes in some way but you can’t quite put your finger on how. Both tribes (as we see the other film’s version in flashback form later on in the film) are visited by the character Damon (J. Michael Tatum), who hopes to revive their past homeland to its former glory.
I don’t even know what’s up with Damon. He has hair that’s stupid even by this series’ standards.
After being rejected on the grounds that he is clearly delusional, a natural disaster occurs causing the wildlife to stampede and local children to be placed in danger. Since any deaths that occur are only allowed to happen in the climax of the film, Damon is able to prevent catastrophe with the help of the Legendary Pokemon Zekrom (in White) or Reshiram (in Black) (both voiced by Marc Thompson).
Those of you that have actually played that games have probably realized by this point that this makes no sense. The concepts that the dragons represent (either truth or ideals) are presented as polar opposites within the context, so having them interchangeably associated with the same character goes against the fundamental purpose of the duo. Either way, you’d think that “I have power over a literal god” would probably be the first thing that you would bring up in this kind of situation.
It’s around here that the major differences between the movies end. Although the two films feature a different dragon, any further changes are merely cosmetic and if I had to estimate I’d say that the movies have about ten minutes of alterations at most. A lot of the dialogue is exactly the same as well, only with the word “ideals” switched out for “truth” when appropriate for extra redundancy.
If I had to pick one I’d suggest that you go with Black because Zekrom sounds like a three-pack-a-day smoker and it’s not pleasant.
Anyway, the story proper opens with our heroes on their way to Eindoak Town (based off of several locations in France) to participate in a tournament there. Along the way, they come across a pair of Deerling in danger of falling off a nearby cliff, so naturally Ash’s natural reaction is to go running towards this precarious situation.
We’re (unfortunately) saved from the untimely demise of these characters by the intervention of an invisible Victini (Nana Mizuki), who has the power to grant extraordinary power to others like a really good motivational coach. Nobody seems too concerned that Ash has gained the leaping powers of the original Superman, and they agree to meet up after he magically makes his way through the nearby caverns.
Everyone eventually emerges at the local castle, called the Sword of the Vale. According to legend, the entire castle flew through the sky before landing in its current spot, which raises several questions about the building’s structural stability. Even though macarons are French and not Japanese, I’m surprised the dubbers didn’t try to Americanize it by calling them cookies or Pokepuffs or Pretty Patties or whatever. Everyone chows down, but Victini, staying hidden steals as many as it can for itself.
I hope you like cute critters chomping down on pastries, because that is literally all this thing does. It doesn’t even have the decency to ~love nature~ like the last few imp Pokemon. But at least this one doesn’t talk.
Back on track, the tournament itself is conducted by the participants going around the city, getting into fights, and continuing this until we have a winner, which is more of a battle royale than anything else. The film doesn’t bother to see this plot point through to the end, as it’s dropped immediately after the obligatory rendition of the opening song.
This does, however, allow Ash to meet the movie’s supporting protagonists: saleswoman Juanita (Khristine Hvam) and her daughter Carlita (Leah Clark), neither of whom have any personality to speak of. They’re related to Damon, which apparently makes them important by proxy, but at the same time they don’t actually do anything.
Victini also reveals itself after powering up literally every single Pokemon that Ash uses in battle, which is why these things should have some form of drug testing. It has a grand time playing around with the marketable Pokemon of this generation, but appears unable to leave the town limits, fleeing instead to the castle.
Upon catching up to it, the town’s mayor invites them all in for Exposition Fest 2011, the most anticipated event of the season. The Sword of the Vale used to be associated with the People of the Vale in the Land of the Vale (where I guess they were known for Crops of the Vale or something), led by a king and his two princes because that’s how a monarchy works. The princes used the power of the two legendaries to control the land using something called the Dragon Force.
If you think I’m going to take this opportunity to work in as many jokes as I can about a certain British power metal band then you are sorely mistaken.
Eventually, an argument caused Zekrom and Reshiram to lash out against each other, before retreating into stones to recuperate. This caused the Dragon Force to become corrupted, and the king was forced to use Victini’s power to move the castle to its current location, dying shortly thereafter. The brothers hid the stones, and the Victory Pokemon was trapped in the town.
People familiar with the game’s canon have most likely noticed that this is close enough to the core series’ version of events that the writers had to have been paying attention, yet distinct enough that they clearly determined that they didn’t care.
Damon’s goal is to restore the tribe to its former glory, which seems a bit redundant. They appear to be doing just fine on their own. He has managed to find one of the dragons deep within the castle, and just about everyone from the prologues has gathered like it’s a pit stop on a really lame road trip.
Meanwhile, Victini shows the crew the sunset, and they determine that its ultimate dream is to see the ocean, which is pretty presumptuous of them. Maybe it really wants to go into the sun, or maybe it just thought the scenery was nice.
That night, Damon uses psychic types to power the inner machinations of the castle. As Victini investigates, he asks to borrow its power (which is pretty cool of him) and then overtakes it anyway without waiting for a response (significantly less cool). The Legendary is trapped in a small barrier, writhing in pain the whole time and this person is still convinced that he’s the good guy. Tribe members and protagonists alike gather at the roof as the Sword of the Vale begins to levitate, thus setting off a million terrible Howl’s Moving Castle jokes.
I’m gonna be honest, I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. Who should we be rooting for? What are these people’s motives? If Victini’s the one that’s doing all of this, why couldn’t it lift the barrier by itself? And most importantly, why should I care?
Look, this scene goes on for about ten minutes, but it feels longer. It’s just the castle flying around and green things turning pink, which we all know is bad because anything green in this universe is automatically considered to be good.
After a while the leads realize that they should probably be doing something to stop this. Damon’s legendary dragon was found somewhere within the castle, so naturally the other one is hidden somewhere in there as well because this is the world’s worst scavenger hunt. It’s uncovered in record time, because in one thousand years nobody thought to check the basement, but only Ash is deemed worthy enough to seek it out.
Of course this means he needs to prove himself to the awaiting Legendary by passing an oral exam. Needless to say, the goal of helping Victini achieve its lame dream counts as staying true to his ideals and/or truth, and the remaining dragon agrees to fight for him.
This huge epic fight only lasts for about two minutes, because we don’t want to animate too much new footage, after all. Damon sees that things have gone less well than expected (a term that here means “everything is on fire”), and asks the two dragons to help him, causing the Sword of the Vale to go into overdrive. Normally this would be considered the opposite of helping, but I guess adopting a position of isolationism is the best one can hope for in this situation.
Most of the human characters manage to evacuate by plane, but Ash is trapped in the castle as it continues to rise higher and higher. Although he should be experiencing a number of symptoms ranging from shortness of breath to vomiting to hemorrhaging and bleeding out, Ash’s adventures in the mesosphere only result in him getting really cold. It takes far too long for them to remember that this movie’s featured Pokemon is actually a fire type.
After a while, Victini remembers this aspect of its character and uses an attack to warm the group up and get everything under control. In the process it destroys the very constructs keeping it trapped in the first place, but disappears. The castle safely makes it to the ground, and everyone gathers on the beach to mourn the fallen pokemon.
You can probably tell where this is going. Victini’s revealed to be fine (through the usage of macarons, no less), everyone’s happy, the villain promises to do better next time, the Legendary flies off to accomplish the most generic dream ever, everyone parts ways, the adventure continues, and I scream into a pillow out of sheer frustration.
Hate. Let me tell you how much I’ve come to hate this movie since I sat down to critique it. The Victini movies were hyped up enormously upon release, given the gradual reemergence of the series into the public eye and the popularity of the associated games. But the final product disappoints- nothing of interest happens, nobody worth mentioning is introduced, Furthermore, the audacity to claim that ten minutes of swapped-out footage and a few different words creates a different movie is beyond astounding.
But ultimately, the biggest flaw with the “films” is simple- they’re boring. Utterly so, in fact. I’m writing this less than an hour after I watched them and I can’t remember a single thing that happened. It’s probably the first case of me actively forgetting a film while I was watching it. It’s the cinematic equivalent of nothing and they released it twice.
While the visuals keep this from getting ranked too low on the overall list, it’s probably the least enjoyable experience thus far. I’d really suggest you find something more productive to do with your time, like reading a book or chopping off a couple of fingers.