UK Release Date: 24th November 2018
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Tetsuo Yajima
Writer: Eiji Umehara, Aya Takaha
Starring: Sarah Natochenny, Rodger Parsons
Synopsis: Ash Ketchum, and his buddy Pikachu, join forces with a rookie trainer in an attempt to bring back the wind to Fula City in time for a festival blessed by the legendary Pokémon Lugia.
One of the first films that ever made me cry was the first animated Pokémon movie. Released on these shores in 2000, it culminates in the hero of the film and its previous TV show, Ash Ketchum, being turned to stone in a petrified state after getting between the battling Mew and Mewtwo. Pikachu, desperate to revive his friend, begins to cry and soon all of the other Pokémon are crying too and it’s all just a bit too much. Undaunted by the fact the popularity of Pokémon has seen peaks and troughs since then, there have been 19 subsequent films in the franchise. The Power of Us is movie number 21 and it’s an enjoyable outing for these characters.
The movie introduces a load of central characters and stories, all playing out around the Wind Festival in Fula City. The entire metropolis is powered by enormous wind turbines, which have been turning since the legendary Pokémon Lugia helped to put out a fire near the town. Ash Ketchum is in town, along with Pikachu, to enjoy the festival. Meanwhile, timid researcher Toren is looking for a guest speaker to fill a slot and rookie trainer Risa just needs to catch one Pokémon for an ill relative. There’s also Pokémon boaster Callahan, who talks the talk, but lacks the knowledge to walk the walk. When the wind turbines stop, a race against time gets going, with mysterious forest creature Zeraora somehow involved.
There’s a lot going on in The Power of Us and the individual threads all have interesting characters within them – the quasi-flirting between Ash and Risa is especially fun. However, the myriad threads are not enough to prevent the film from feeling like an over-extended TV episode. The running time of this movie is inflated and padded by two Pokémon Generations shorts that retell stories from the second generation of Pokémon games in enjoyable fashion that will be warmly nostalgic for fans. There’s also a short video package with veteran Pokémon movie director Kunihiko Yuyama, discussing handing over the reins to Tetsuo Yajima and meeting Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman.
As much as this film feels like it’s stalling for time in an attempt to reach feature-length, the story itself is a great deal of fun. Ash and Pikachu remain a great team and the new additions provide plenty of likeable silliness. Special praise must go to the cameo for mimicry-loving Pokémon Sudowoodo, who is more adorable than a funny-looking tree ever ought to be. Pokéfans will also be pleased to see an appearance from the ever-present baddies Team Rocket, who don’t necessarily figure particularly heavily in the narrative, but are memorable when they do appear. There’s also a nice environmentalist thread running through the finale, which is something that’s common in the Pokémon world.
It’s unlikely that anyone who isn’t already converted to the Pokémon cause will be particularly enamoured by The Power of Us. A lot of the movie’s charm relies on prior knowledge of the Pokémon mythology and the world itself is treated as something of a given, exactly as you’d expect for the 21st film in a franchise. If, however, you’re a viewer who knows your Mudkip from your Meowth and your Jynx from your Jigglypuff, then there’s plenty here to enjoy.
Pop or Poop?
Whether you’re a lifelong Pokémon obsessive or someone dragged in by the smartphone phenomenon of Pokémon Go, there’s plenty for fans of all persuasions to enjoy in The Power of Us – an enjoyable addition to the franchise’s seemingly endless big screen canon.
Ash and Pikachu are as reliably charming as always and the story is solid enough, with the now standard environmental subtext playing its part, even if it does feel like this is a TV episode extended to feature-length.
Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us is in selected cinemas from November 24. Click here to find out where it’s showing near you.
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