Tuesday 17 November 2015

Pokémon The Movie: Hoopa And The Clash Of Ages (2015) - Movie Review

With how sequelised Hollywood apparently is nowadays, it’s understandable to get a sense of déjà vu from any given film. Or, to be accurate, to worry about getting that sense of déjà vu from any given film. If you’ve seen one horrible piece of fossilised pelican faeces masquerading as a love story, you’ve seen them all. However, every once in a while, a film comes along that offers a better-than-average chance of proving my assumptions right. And, of course, this is yet another example where I happily accept the idea of being wrong: The latest Pokémon movie. Yep, we’re shooting for No. 18 this time around, as if this franchise isn’t already reaching Disney levels of money-grubbing prevalence. Really, the best I can hope for is that this isn’t quite as crap as last year’s effort.

The plot: One hundred years ago, the legendary Pokémon Hoopa wreaked havoc, summoning other legendaries to battle with to prove its own strength. After its power was trapped in a Prison Bottle, Hoopa turned into a more docile state. But, when one of its keepers is tricked into letting the power out, Hoopa begins to decimate Désser City as it fights with other legendary Pokémon once again. Now, it’s up to Ash Ketchum and his friends to stop it before it’s too late.

The animation here is better than it has any damn reason to be. While the more traditional line animation is fairly rudimentary, that’s a substantial improvement over the series as a whole far as I’m concerned. As for the CGI work, no joke, it’s probably some of the best I’ve seen in a film all year. I don’t know if that says more about me, this film’s budget prioritising or Hollywood as a whole, but this is gorgeous stuff. The element effects look surprisingly realistic, the legendary Pokémon are well detailed and the fight scenes make for the best parts of the film, which at least shows that they have some idea when it comes to what audiences want from a Pokémon movie. Hell, I’ll even admit that while the integration of the two together is shaky in places, it makes for a marked improvement over last year’s effort.

This is the kind of writing that would make Alfonso Cuaron’s head explode; about 90-95% of the dialogue is just pure, uncut exposition about the plot. They could have had subtitles on the screen that had the really important words highlighted in big fucking neon red and that still wouldn’t have spelled things out as badly as the dialogue here does. I am sick to death of this mindset when it comes to films aimed at kids: Even if they aren’t as mentally developed as adults (for better or for worse), that doesn’t mean that they are rock stupid. Children are more than capable of keeping up with the plot of a 70 minute film without needing to be reminded every step of the way about what’s going on and what needs to be done within the plot. The weirdest part about this writing is that it is probably the main aspect of this film that is most like the games: All of the dialogue in the games is done in text boxes that explain exactly what to do and where to go. And with this in mind, it seems that the filmmakers not only know jack about writing for kids’ films but that they also know nothing about how adaptations are supposed to work.

What makes the dialogue feel even worse is that the characters speaking it are so damn annoying. Ash and crew have gained nothing in the way of personality and are still dumber than a Godlike Productions post, as if the writer was trying to justify the heavy-handed script by making the characters so stupid that they would have to be explained everything to the nth degree. The worst offender here would be Ash himself who, despite having lived in this world for over 20 years (without ageing), is still unnecessarily confused by what happens around him. It shouldn’t be that difficult to see Hoopa Unbound, looking like someone in Japan wanted to draw a ringed octopus just going by the name alone, and know that it’s a Pokémon in this world. Then there’s the acting, which sounds like the English dub was done in only a couple of months; probably because it was.

Then again, the only rational reason why a person would go see this movie anyway is if they’re a fan of the franchise and they just want to see properly animated fights between Pokémon. Well, in that regard, this might be the best use of fan service I’ve seen in an anime film in a very long time. There are few things in the world more awesome for a geek than to see several of the characters it knows and loves duking it out, especially on the big screen. It is this mindset that made us hope that The Avengers would turn out as well as it did. Here, we have what is essentially a big scale Pokémon Stadium game between several legendaries; all that’s missing is Giovanni and Mewtwo facing off again, and even I would geek-out over this. While their efficacy is weakened as a result of what passes for a script in between the fights, they are still nicely done and make for some really good visuals. What helps this is that, on some level, I think the filmmakers were aware of how Rule of Cool this film’s premise is; I mean, the legendaries fighting is literally causing a rip in time and space? That’s ‘Chuck Norris list’ level of aggrandising, except here it’s actually warranted.

All in all, this is still a film in a series meant solely to entertain people who are already fans of it; if you like Pokémon, you’ll probably dig this. That said, I can at least give this film enough credit that it’s worth seeing over Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction, as its higher production values and battle setups are actually at a decent cinematic grade. This is in spite of the frankly embarrassing dub, the cardboard characters and the godawful writing that pretty much highlights the attitude that I so thoroughly despise when it comes to writing kids’ films. If you’re enough of a Pokémon geek for the idea of seeing legendaries fighting on the big screen in a battle royal to sound appealing, then this is your kind of movie. If that doesn’t interest you, then I’d strongly advise looking elsewhere.


  1. I agree with every fucking word, this movie has some REALLLY high highs, and really low lows, but deffo an imrovement on last years piece of dogshit, HERES TO IMPROVEMENT IN GEN 7

  2. Hahaha. Amen! Great review. I couldn't agree with you more.