I don’t want to get caught up in the old debate about the worth of the Pokémon franchise, whether it’s good for kids and whether it was designed simply to sell a ludicrous amount of merchandise. Ultimately, we’re in the waning of the Pokémon phenomenon, anyway.
My kids are a little young for it now (although my 2 1/2 year old does like watching the film, but then again, he’s in the stage where literally any cartoon movie he calls “my movie”). I remember first hearing about Pokémon in the late 1990s. A friend of mine at work had five kids, and his older ones were into Pokémon in a big way. So, when the first Pokémon movie came out, I was spared being dragged to it by a niece, nephew or other relative.
“Pokémon 2000” came out in theaters to a much quieter public than the first film. Now, these Pokémon stories are hitting the video market after only a few short weeks on a couple hundred screens in the U.S.
I actually caught part of the 1999 “Pokémon” movie on HBO or Showtime a couple years back, and I thought I’d give it a try. To be honest, I didn’t get it. Yeah, I understood that the final conflict in the whole film was for a Pokémon battle between the good Pokémon and the genetically engineered Pokémon Mewtwo. It had the epic and scope of a big movie, but it just went over – or rather, under – my head. I think I fell asleep during it. Maybe if I was eight year old again…
So I was a little trepidatious when I popped “Pokémon Heroes” into the DVD player. However, when all was said and done, I thought it was a pretty decent cartoon.
Now, “Pokémon Heroes” isn’t a great animation feat. It won’t live on in history as a classic movie like so many other titles in the Walt Disney company’s library. And, you have to take it in stride because it is, after all, a Pokémon movie (the fifth one, actually, for those keeping score).
This film takes place in the island city of Alto Mare, which is based on the design of Venice. This city has two Pokémon named Latios and Latias who watch over it. Ash Ketchum, Pikachu and his buddies are in town for a Pokémon race, which Ash ends up losing thanks to some interference by Latios and Latias. There are also two villainesses, Annie and Oakley, who are after Latios so he can lead them to a treasure buried in the city. When Latios is kidnapped, Ash and company must join forces with Latias to rescue him.
I’ll admit this isn’t the greatest plot in the world, and there were still some parts of the movie I didn’t quite understand, it was at least a story and didn’t just lead-up to a Pokémon grudge match in an arena. Thinking back to my childhood cartoon favorites, I realize that “The Super Friends,” “Thundar the Barbarian” and “The Herculoids” didn’t have that complicated of plots either. So, you’ve gotta think like a kid when you watch this one.
The animation is decent, still completed in the angular Anime style. There is a mix of ink-and-paint and CGI that clashes during several scenes but sometimes is worked in rather well.
There’s a small amount of special features on this disk. The most prominent one, which is advertised on the cover box, is a never-before-seen 20-minute Pokémon short called “Camp Pikachu.” This is the Pokémon most folks over the age of 12 are familiar with – a nonsensical parade of beeping, cooing creatures. I’d attempt to tell the plot of the short, but it honestly made no sense to me. Again, things may have been different if I was eight years old again…
The other features include clips of a location scout in Venice for the director and animators to get a feel for a city of canals. There are also bios of the different Pokémon featured prominently in the movie, as well as a trivia game based on the film. The most interesting feature are several scenes and shots that reveal the animation stages – from sketches through computer enhancements to the final renderings.
Finally, if you’re really into Pokémon, you’ll be happy to know that the DVD comes with Latios and Latias trading cards along with an exclusive poster featuring 38 Pokémon characters.
So, if your kid’s really into Pokémon, you could do a lot worse. But I’m not sure how much appeal it will have with anyone who has gone through puberty.