Monday, 7 November 2016

Pokémon The Movie: Volcanion And The Mechanical Marvel (2016) - Movie Review

Up to this point, the main reasoning behind the films I’ve watched has fallen under the usual semi-obligation to the art of cinema. This is hopefully going to be the only exception to that rule, as this time the only real reason I’m bothering to look at this is for popularity. At the time of writing this, my review for the last Pokémon movie is not only the only review of mine to reach over 1000 views, it’s also easily my most read review. Combine that with the current popularity of Pokémon Go (at least, I’m assuming that it’s still popular) and the fact that my readership averages out around 30 views per review, and you have the closest I’ll ever get to a clickbait article. While I cleanse my soul for the thought, let’s get into the film already.

The plot: While on his seemingly never-ending journey to become a Pokémon Master, Ash Ketchum encounters and subsequently gets physically tied through technology to the legendary Pokémon Volcanion. Volcanion, a caretaker for a plateau full of scarred Pokémon, ventures into the advanced Azoth Kingdom to rescue one of its wards, the artificial Pokémon Magearna. Having no other choice, Ash and his friends have to help rescue Magearna before the regency uses it for its own nefarious purposes.

This is still Pokémon we’re talking about here, so the effects work is still shows the same. The character models are still rather rudimentary and their movement is still basic. However, unlike the last two times looking through this material, it isn’t so basic as to be glaring or in any way distracting. As such, it ends up melding together a lot better with the CGI. And speaking of the CGI, I am still confounded that a series with line drawing this simple has abilities with computer graphics that are this bloody good. It still feels weird saying this, but one thing you can expect from any recent Pokémon film is some of the best CGI of the whole year’s crop. However, beyond just doing really well at rendering diamonds and such, this film manages to make better use of its tech through how they visualise the Azoth Kingdom. The steampunk/clockwork motif of the architecture and other bits and bobs within the city are very well-realised through the combination of animation styles, making for a legitimately interesting locale. You know, for a series that has quite a few iconic towns and cities under its belt, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to find another city worth exploring on the big screen.

Among other things that haven’t changed are the dialogue and the actors; in that, they both still suck. We’re still dealing with the usual heavy-on-exposition scripting of the last two films, which means it will make sure that you remember plot details that occurred only a moment earlier by repeating it just for you. Credit where it’s due in that the talking-down effect is not nearly as strong as Hoopa or Diancie, but it’s definitely still there. The acting has never been something to be entirely proud of up till now, except here it somehow manages to delve even further down below the barrel to create easily some of the most awkward line deliveries I’ve heard all year. The biggest culprit in that department is Michael Liscio Jr. as Ash’s friend Clemont, who reaches near Troll 2 levels of stilted at times. It’s kind of astounding that this was let through, and only furthers my thinking that maybe the subs really are the way to go for these movies. Honestly, the sound design as a whole is pretty bad. It’s incredibly bare bones, rarely if ever making proper use of layered audio and just leaving each sample on their own and being really conspicuous of that fact as well. This would usually fall under low-fi or sparse sound design, but let’s call it what it actually is: Lazy.

Before I get too negative, let’s get into what this film actually has going for it. Namely, how it turns one of the newer game mechanics, that being Mega Evolutions, and using it to reinforce one of the core aspects of the entire franchise: The relationship between Pokémon and humans. Better than any of the other XY films, this manages to nail not only how Pokémon and humans can affect the world they both inhabit, but also how they can affect each other. The Azoth Kingdom itself is made through teamwork between the two, and the way Mega Evolutions are portrayed here (how the bad guys do it compared to the good guys) do well at highlighting the synchronicity between Pokémon and their trainers that is honestly worth highlighting. Hell, this film even manages to get quite emotional with how it pushes that empathy, particularly when it comes to titular character Volcanion and returning one-of-the-best-parts-of-all-these-movies Meowth from Team Rocket. Through their connections with Magearna, they get across the emotional connection that even the older films did only a half-way decent job with.

Even for as much as I’ve bitched earlier about the technical aspects of the film, this might be one of the best Pokémon films I’ve seen since Pokémon 3. Now, I stand by what I said about this film being quite shoddy in areas, but quite frankly, that adds to the entertainment value. When the film is legitimately entertaining, it is surprisingly touching and pretty cool in its own right; most of this is achieved through Volcanion, who may be blunt in how it distrusts humans but honestly has every reason to feel as such, and the locale of Azoth which makes for a pleasing visual aesthetic. When the film is illegitimately entertaining, the awkward delivery and verging-on-empty soundscape ends up reaching the point of being enjoyably bad. This results in a very strange overall product, where even at its worst it’s still entertaining. As someone who advocates for joy wherever you can find it, including objectively bad films, it’s seriously rare to see a film that is both intentionally and unintentionally worth watching.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable watch for very perplexing reasons. I say that because when it’s good, it shows a level of thought and emotion that I honestly thought was beyond this franchise at this point. When it’s bad, it dodges being annoyingly so and ventures into laughably bad, meaning that it reaches a consistent entertainment value through decidedly inconsistent means. As such, this is the first Pokémon in many a year that I can actively see myself recommending to others. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a film made for the fans and they will easily get the most out of it, but I don’t have as much hesitation in saying that it’s worth watching as I have with previous installments.

1 comment:

  1. People even went crazy with the game, I am sure the movie was worth watching. Thanks for the wonderful review. I am going to add it to the watch list along with the shows by Andy Yeatman. I like to spend time with my kids and therefore, I keep looking for shows and movies like this.