Lucario and the Mystery of Mew Review

Although I use the English name of the movie and its characters, I was watching the Japanese version subtitled rather than the English dub while actually writing the review. Due to the notorious editing done by 4Kids, the dub is often vastly different from the original that I am reviewing, so keep that in mind even where I don't specifically mention the dub did something differently. If, by the way, I'm not using the correct official translation of some term or something, I'd appreciate a correction.

Thoughts and Synopsis

This is my absolute favorite Pokémon movie, and I think after the umpteenth viewing I have finally pinpointed why. The thing is that I am a sucker for platonic love in fiction, and this movie is stuffed with it. The main plot is Ash trying to retrieve Pikachu, something many perhaps find cheesy or at least unremarkable; I, however, have always had a bit of a weakness for Ash and Pikachu and the completely sweet and adorable way they miss one other when they're apart and are heart-meltingly happy to see each other again. I'm a sap when it comes to this sort of thing, okay? And then there are Aaron and Lucario, whose relationship sends me into bubbly friendshipping-spasms, to say nothing of a certain scene during the end credits that simply melts me into a puddle of fangirly goo.

Thus, you will have to excuse that this review might be a bit slanted. This is not to say I won't have my complaints as always, but please forgive me for being completely unable to find anything in this movie cheesy or overly emo or whatever. I don't know how it plays out for you, but I'd be willing to forgive it just about anything, so.

Now, to get to the point!

This movie begins in the past, only specified as being before Pokéballs were invented. Two armies of humans and Pokémon alike, one clad in red and the other in green, are marching to fight one another, threatening the kingdom of Rota with destruction. In this age, there are knights of Aura, a mystical force that can be used by some humans and Pokémon. One of these knights is Sir Aaron of Cameran Palace, who serves Queen Rin with his partner Lucario, and here at the beginning of the film, Lucario has been sent to scout for the invading armies. He is attacked by Houndoom from the red army, who manage to blind him with sand, but he can use Aura to see around anyway and defeats the enemies. Meanwhile, after Queen Rin says she will share the fate of her castle, Aaron flies out on his Pidgeot, but is attacked by Skarmory from the green army on the way, and the Pidgeot only barely manages to soften their fall so that Aaron can safely get off before it crashes.

Lucario runs up to meet him, recognizing his strong Aura from far away, but Aaron is acting strange and tells him insistently to leave because he has abandoned the castle and will never return. Lucario is unable to believe it and tells him to wait, but Aaron throws his staff into the ground, and the gem on the staff glows with a bright white light before it absorbs Lucario inside it, Pokéball-style. He struggles to escape and the staff shakes as he watches Aaron seemingly run away and desperately asks himself why Sir Aaron would do such a thing.

Crystals glitter almost like tears on the giant tree-shaped mountain known as the Tree of Beginning as Queen Rin watches the red and green armies finally meet. We see the Ho-oh we have seen overhead enter the Tree through a tunnel before it transforms: it was really Mew in disguise. Aaron's Pidgeot flies away from the tree, picks up his staff and takes it back to the queen, just as the Tree of Beginning suddenly begins to glow with a Green Glow of Peace. (Yes, I have now made a name for this mysterious phenomenon that first showed up at the end of the second movie.) All the crystals around the kingdom, which are in fact tendrils of the Tree's great root system, take on the same glow as more green energy pulses out from the tree, enveloping the armies and apparently making them stop fighting and become friends again.

But at least this is apparently just a fairy tale, because we hear a mother's voice that has been telling the story to her daughter. She explains that Queen Rin assumed that Aaron must somehow have used the power of the Tree of Beginning, where Mew lives, to stop the war.

Here there is a really neat sequence of Aaron's staff floating through space while successive advances in human technology whir past. It's just quite a fun way to show the passage of time while reminding the viewer that Lucario has been suspended inside the staff for all these hundreds of years, introducing the theme of his estrangement and alienation in the modern world. But that will have to wait until later.

Back in the modern-day Rota, which still seems to be an independent kingdom somehow since it still has a queen (the current one, a descendant of Rin, is named Ilene) unless it's just a town that calls its mayor a queen to be cool, we find that an annual festival to commemorate the end of that battle via Green Glow of Peace is beginning. Naturally, Ash and company are heading there to participate in the Pokémon tournament that is held every year to select a trainer who will be named the "True Guardian of Aura" for the year. Apparently everyone is required to wear period-appropriate costumes to make the experience more authentic, and Ash, ever the wannabe hero, goes for a costume that makes him look like Sir Aaron. They dress Pikachu up too, much to its horror, but right in the first battle of the tournament that we see during the opening song montage, Pikachu uses a Thunderbolt that burns the costume to cinders. Which does not seem to worry anyone, even though one would think these are rental costumes. I wonder if there's a deleted scene where the queen makes Ash pay for it.

Anyway, to nobody's surprise, Ash and Pikachu win the tournament handily, and Ash is named as the True Guardian of Aura for the year. Which means during that night's feast, he gets to strike a pose holding Aaron's staff and then sit alone in a corner with it while everyone else has fun. Seems like being a hero is not all it's cracked up to be. While he sits there being bored to tears, we're treated to some quite amusing scenes involving Team Rocket trying to blend in, James dancing with May who seems to think he looks horribly familiar, Jessie landing on a handsome prince who clearly has no idea what he's in for, Brock trying to woo the beautiful woman who lost to Ash in the final battle of the tournament while she decides to take it upon herself to lead the dance because he keeps fudging it up, and some seemingly pointless scenes of Ash and May's Pokémon and what they think is an Aipom but is actually Mew running around and playing (I mean, they had to make up for the lack of a Pikachu short somehow). Oh, and once Brock's dance partner (whose name is Kidd) has gotten rid of him, she goes into a room she thinks is empty, puts on cool computer shades, removes her fancy dress to reveal a skintight fanservicey stealth suit, and asks a faraway colleague, Banks, to send her a map of the palace. Hmm, what might she be up to? Meowth, who happened to witness the conversation, wonders that as well, so he follows her incredulously as she uses a grappling hook to swing onto a rooftop, but then he falls in through a window to where Ash and May's Pokémon and Mew are.

Kidd looks around with fancy binoculars, eventually looking through the window just as Mew transforms back into its original form. With satisfaction, she orders her two Weavile to place a locator beacon on Mew. They jump in through the window and there is a battle where they try to freeze Mew with what seems to be Icy Wind (though actually, Icy Wind can't induce freezing) but Mew darts out of the way so that the other Pokémon get frozen instead. Pikachu tries to defend it, but gets hit with a Shadow Ball and is knocked unconscious, landing in Meowth's arms. Mew chooses this time to finally just teleport the three of them out of there - onto a roof where Meowth and Pikachu very nearly fall to their deaths, but Mew transforms into a Pidgeot and flies off with them while Kidd looks on incredulously. She sighs at her Weavile for making a battle out of this, and they look ashamed. It's oddly cute.

Meanwhile, Ash is still bored to tears and is this time looking up at the giant painting of Sir Aaron holding his staff that hangs above him. There is an amusing shot of the painting upside down, which is what it looks like from Ash's point of view. There are all sorts of shots in this movie I really like. However, staring up at a painting is apparently not proper True Guardian of Aura behavior either, so he has to stop that and instead begins to muse about what a weird feeling it is to hold Aaron's staff, knowing that Sir Aaron was holding the same staff hundreds of years ago. Then Queen Ilene asks him to assume the hero's pose to formally begin the festivities - the pose shown in the painting he was goggling at earlier, holding the staff above his head - and as he does so, the staff suddenly begins to shake, the gem at the end of it glows with a bright white light, and Lucario bursts out of it.

Lucario immediately confronts Ash and desperately asks him why he abandoned the palace. When Ash just asks what in the world he is talking about in what is clearly not Sir Aaron's voice, Lucario finally manages to open his eyes and is puzzled to find that the shape with what he thought was Sir Aaron's Aura is just some kid in a costume. Confused, he looks around at the alien faces and furniture; he runs outside, staring at the fireworks show in the air, and then rushes through the gardens where he stops, trailing off...

Aaron and Lucario flashback! It appears that the two have just been partnered up by one means or another and are moving into the palace for the first time. Sir Aaron explains to Lucario that he will teach him to use Aura but warns him the training will be harsh. Lucario is honored that Sir Aaron wants to teach him everything he knows, and Aaron leads the way into what is to be their room...

...back in the present, Lucario enters that same room, but instead of the warm bed and candles it used to contain, it now has electric lights and glass cases showcasing ancient artifacts. He walks around the room, stunned.

Queen Ilene, her maid, Ash, May and Brock enter the room. Lucario whirls around, relieved to see a familiar face at last - Queen Ilene is a dead-ringer for her ancestor Rin, especially in the dark - but the maid turns the lights on and Queen Ilene gently explains to Lucario that he was sealed away for a very, very long time. Naturally, he is shocked and in disbelief.

Later, Lucario tells Queen Ilene about the battle, which he was only known to have mysteriously disappeared in. He recounts that he was sent scouting on the battlefield as the two armies approached, but that there was no way to stop the battle. At this, Ash comments that Sir Aaron supposedly did stop it, but Lucario, bitterly, tells them that that can't be true, because Aaron abandoned the castle and sealed him away to prevent him from stopping him. May and Brock wonder if the legend could be mistaken after all, and Lucario looks heartbrokenly at the painting of Aaron on the wall. Queen Ilene offers Lucario a stay in the castle until he works out what he wants to do.

Ash speaks up, asking Lucario who he mistook him for, and Lucario tells him shortly that his Aura looked identical to Aaron's. Hmm, how might that be?

Max barges in with the Pokémon and tells everyone that Mew took off with Meowth and Pikachu; Kidd comes in after him, now back in her fancy dress, to confirm it. The queen and her maid are not very worried, seeing as Rota has always seen Mew as a little prankster that steals toys and so on. Ash is worried anyway because, well, it's Pikachu after all. He immediately asks where Mew lives, declaring that he will go retrieve Pikachu. Oh, and Team Rocket are worried about Meowth too. Or rather, James is worried about Meowth, and Jessie is outraged that Mew went and stole a Pokémon from them when they wanted to steal Pokémon.

Queen Ilene leads them onto a balcony that looks out over the Tree of Beginning and explains that even though it looks like a tree, it is actually a giant rock structure. She tells them that Mew lives in the Tree. However, since Mew can transform into any Pokémon, it could be difficult to actually find it - except that, conveniently, Lucario has the ability to read the Aura of all living creatures, and thus he can tell whether he's looking at Mew or something else. The queen asks Lucario to go with Ash to help him find Pikachu, and Lucario agrees. Kidd walks in too, back in her stealth suit, and announces she will come too because she in fact came there to explore the Tree of Beginning, which prompts Brock into a fanboyish rant as he recognizes her as the world-famous adventurer Kidd Summers. (Meanwhile, amusingly, Queen Ilene's Mime Jr. mimics all his movements perfectly, highlighting their ridiculousness.)

Later that night, Lucario walks alone into the ballroom where he was originally released from the staff and stares contemplatively up at the painting of Aaron. Then he hears movement, however, and immediately leaps into the ceiling before tackling down the intruder, who turns out to be Ash. Ash is momentarily annoyed, naturally; Lucario is annoyed back at him for having tried to sneak up behind him. Ash swallows his pride and explains that he's counting on Lucario to help him find Pikachu tomorrow. Lucario asks him if he is Pikachu's master, but he replies that they're friends, and after all, you'd look for your friend when he goes missing, right? Lucario turns away and replies, coldly, that he is only going because Queen Ilene requested it of him. (This was changed in the dub to "I don't have any friends, and I don't want any," which makes Lucario seem kind of whiny and over-the-top emo; in the original, the point of this line is that he resents the mission, but will do it anyway simply because of his sense of duty, which is an important part of his character that I was sad to see toned down.)

Anyway, the next morning, they head off on the search, with Lucario leading the way and Kidd driving like a madman behind him while the kids sit there looking freaked out and Team Rocket hitch a ride in the trunk. During the ride, they discuss Aura, with May raising the possibility that if Ash has the same Aura as Aaron, perhaps he can use Aura as well. Hmm.

Eventually (after some scenes where we see what Meowth and Pikachu are doing - namely, playing with Mew in Pikachu's case, and being the unintentional victim of their games in Meowth's case), Lucario stops. They've come to a field of geysers that keep going off, in one of those scenes that look uncannily like levels from a video game; however, since this is not a video game, they don't try to drive across at exactly the right moment to avoid all of them, and instead realize that where there are geysers, there are hot springs. So everyone takes a nice, relaxing bath, except for the Rock and Ground-types. And Lucario, who is brooding off on a rock, watching...

Aaron and Lucario flashback! Aaron's hat, gloves and cloak lie discarded on a tree branch while he douses his feet in the hot spring. Lucario stands warily beside him. Aaron encourages him to put his feet in the water too because it's nice and relaxing, but Lucario says he'll be fine. Aaron won't just stand for that and pulls him down, insisting he must try it. Lucario does so, tentatively, and then smiles. It really is nice...

...back in the present, Ash calls out to Lucario to come join them in the hot spring. Lucario turns around and walks away without a word as Max wonders if he just doesn't like hot springs. We know better.

May eyes a strange-looking crystalline flower, resembling a tightly-wound cocoon, on a small outcropping of rock nearby. Ash climbs up to take a look at it. However, he slips and uproots it, tumbling back down into the water while May narrowly manages to catch the falling flower. They decide to go and replant it, while Lucario looks on the flower from afar...

Aaron and Lucario flashback! The pair of them look down at the same kind of flower on the ground. Aaron explains that it is a "time flower": it will show a "miracle of time" to those who can use Aura...

...back in the present, Lucario turns away without telling the kids what he knows.

The kids go to replant the flower while the geysers rage on. When May hands it to Ash, however, the cocoon glows and unwinds, and suddenly the faint image of Ash falling down into the hot spring while the flower tumbles down is overlaid on the environment. This is how time flowers work: when a user of Aura, such as Ash (hint, hint), touches a time flower, it "records" an image of what is going on around it, and if it is later touched by another Aura user, it will show this image to everyone present. Naturally, this particular instance was merely an excuse to introduce the concept, but it will become important later as a convenient plot device.

In the evening, while sitting around the campfire, Ash tells the story of how he and Pikachu bonded, when Ash tried to shield Pikachu from those Spearow near Pallet Town and Pikachu in turn came to save him from them, complete with a flashback to the first episode. Aww. He finishes the story by saying that ever since then, he and Pikachu have trusted one another. Lucario, still sitting apart from the others, has been listening...

Aaron and Lucario flashback! (Boy, there are a lot of these around this point in the movie.) Aaron demonstrates to Lucario how he uses his ability to sense Aura to dodge swinging logs with his eyes covered and then binds Lucario's eyes, telling him he believes he can do it too. Lucario tries it, and indeed, he can see the logs clearly and easily has the reflexes to dodge them. (Note that although it doesn't quite look like it, this is Lucario contemplating trust, in accordance with what Ash just said: the exercise is reminiscent of various theatrical exercises involving covering your eyes while a partner guides you, and while here Aaron isn't directly guiding him on where the logs are, he is trusting that Aaron has taught him well and that his judgement of Lucario's ability is correct.) When Aaron tells him that's enough, he uncovers his eyes and they smile adorably at one another...

...back in the present, Lucario can no longer stand to hear all this stuff about trust and remarks that people can't be trusted before walking away. He intends that to be the end of it, but Ash follows him and asks if Lucario was referring to him. Lucario replies shortly that Ash could just as well abandon Pikachu, given the right circumstances. What better way to make Ash mad? He shouts that he would never abandon Pikachu, but Lucario emotionlessly tells him there is no knowing. Ash remarks angrily on the absurdity of the idea this supposed hero of legends would abandon his own Pokémon like that. Lucario responds that maybe Pikachu himself just got tired of having Ash for a master and ran away.

Congratulations, Lucario; you have just hit Ash's Berserk Button. Ash runs up and tackles him into a river, where they fight; naturally, what with Lucario being a Pokémon, and a Fighting-type at that, Ash doesn't have much of a chance, but May separates them, Lucario walks away yet again, and she tells Ash off to his feeble protests.

Meanwhile, Lucario stands brooding by a tree some distance away, and Max goes to cheer him up with a bar of chocolate. Lucario has never seen chocolate before and sniffs it suspciously, watching Max warily as the boy insists that eating chocolate will make him feel better. Finally, he takes a cautious bite - and smiles, obviously liking it. When Max excitedly asks him what he thinks, however, he puts up a more dignified expression and doesn't answer, instead just continuing to chew. Awww. Max can tell he's enjoying it, though, and laughs.

Meanwhile, inside the Tree of Beginning, something seems to be bothering Pikachu, and Meowth guesses it wants to go back to its twerp trainer while Mew adorably tries to cheer Pikachu up with all its stolen toys. Pikachu just looks away, however, and mutters, "Pikapi..."

Sleeping inside Kidd's car, Ash wakes up with a start, presumably thanks to his Aura powers. He goes out of the car, looks towards the Tree and mutters back at it, "Pikachu..." Lucario watches from a short distance away.

The next day, they continue their journey, with Lucario leading the way. Conditions aren't as misty now and they can admire the landscape. Suddenly Lucario stops, however. When they step out of the car and ask him what's wrong, he responds that this is where he was sealed away. He looks at the cliff where he saw Aaron disappear for the last time and collapses on the ground, bitterly, only to find a convenient time flower situated there. Since Lucario can use Aura, it unwraps and a flickering image envelopes the area: they see Aaron throwing his staff into the ground and the shadow of Lucario being absorbed into the gem of the staff before Aaron flies away on his Pidgeot. Just then, a red-clad army of Pokémon passes through, and despite knowing they are only shadows, Lucario begins to frantically attack them with Aura Sphere as he is thrust back into the reality of when Aaron abandoned him. When Ash calls to snap him out of it, he steps away from the time flower and the illusion fades. The kids quietly wonder if the legend was wrong after all, having seen with their own eyes that Aaron did seal Lucario inside the staff and then simply fly away. Max, however, makes an alternate suggestion: perhaps Aaron sealed him away to protect him from the army?

Lucario kneels in front of the entrance to a canyon they must pass through, and Ash approaches him with the most adorably heartbroken expression on his face before apologizing for saying those things to him the day before. He cries, Ash-style (i.e. looking down so that his cap obscures his face). Lucario responds with a sudden resolve that he must not abandon Pikachu the way Aaron abandoned him, and Ash dries his tears.

Suddenly, Lucario tenses up, his aura sensors stiffening out to the sides. He narrowly knocks Ash out of the way of a Hyper Beam: the source of it is Regirock, which continues to try to attack them. They run for it into that canyon, with Lucario leading the way. Once they're inside a seemingly safe tunnel, they wonder why Regirock attacked them, and Lucario tells them that it was warning them not to come any closer: it was trying to protect the Tree from invaders.

They exit the tunnel into a cavern full of prehistoric and modern Pokémon alike, lit by a giant, glowing crystal set in the roof overhead and serving as a substitute sun. Kidd puts on her computer glasses and explains that they're directly below the Tree of Beginning, which of course prompts Ash to realize that Pikachu must be somewhere above them and run off on the first upwards slope he can find. Lucario, May and Max follow, while Kidd sends several small, flying robots off to collect data on the Tree and send it to her partner Banks in the city. We see two of them land on some of the crystals decorating the tunnel they're in; one of them begins to drill a small hole into the core of the crystal, while suddenly a giant foot crushes the other: it's Registeel. Even worse, the crystal suddenly begins to glow with a sick sort of red, and a blob of reddish-orange goo envelops the other robot. This can't be good.

Nonetheless, some of the robots have collected data, and Banks reports his findings to her. The Tree is in fact neither a tree nor just an oddly-shaped mountain, but a giant photosynthesizing mineral mega-organism. Just after he has come to this conclusion, however, most of the robots report being damaged, presumably having met a similar fate to those two we saw.

Ash and Lucario emerge out of a tunnel onto a part of the outer surface of the Tree, and Ash shouts Pikachu's name up towards the top. In Mew's playing quarters, Pikachu's ears prick up, and it runs out, followed by a curious Mew and Meowth. Pikachu shouts back "Pikapi!" at the top of its lungs, and Ash hears it, immediately running off in the direction of the voice. Regice pops out to attack him, but Lucario rushes to defend him while Ash tries to tell Regice they're not enemies. Regice does not listen and they run the other way, reuniting with the others before being forced to retreat back into the tunnel they came from. They find themselves in a room filled with thready, crystalline bridges across it, and Team Rocket tumble down from above, having fled there from Regirock and Registeel. Lucario tries to distract them while they run across a crystal bridge, through another tunnel, and to a narrow rock bridge, where Pikachu, Meowth and Mew spot them. (Meowth is surprised to see Jessie and James there too.) After they've crossed, Lucario destroys the bridge behind them to prevent the Regis from following them.

As all the human characters stumble through a tunnel, Team Rocket are assaulted by a reddish-orange blob that has taken the shape of a giant Cradily. It envelops Jessie, and James tries to make his Cacnea attack it, but the attack is completely ineffective and Jessie is swallowed before the blob simply sinks into the ground, the crystals in the tunnel glowing with that sickly red we saw before, and takes her with it. An Omastar-shaped blob rushes in and wraps around James, who grabs his Chimecho's Pokéball to send it out before he is swallowed; Cacnea and Chimecho watch dumbstruck as the blob vanishes with all traces of their trainer.

An Aerodactyl blob approaches, and Lucario shoots an Aura Sphere at it, which does manage to destroy it. They rush on through the tunnel while Kidd turns her shades to the splattered remains of the Aerodactyl, which are converging back into a giant ball in mid-air, and asks Banks if he can tell what this thing is. He explains that perhaps they serve a purpose analogous to white blood cells: they attack and destroy the 'bacteria' that intrude the organism. He also begins to analyze the tunnels to find an escape route for them.

A Lileep blob approaches Kidd. Lucario quickly leaps in the way and is swallowed, but then the blob simply sinks into the ground and leaves him behind: the tree's immune system does not consider Pokémon to be threats. Now Regirock and Registeel come up behind them, however, and they have to continue. Ash and Lucario split off from the others to find Pikachu, while Kidd takes the others into a tunnel. Ash sends out his Grovyle and Corphish to hold Regirock and Registeel off for a moment before he goes on. Meanwhile, Pikachu heads through other tunnels, racing down towards Ash, followed by Mew and Meowth. A couple of white blood cells pass them; unknown to Pikachu, they are of course heading off to swallow Ash and friends. They find Kidd, Brock, May and Max and are quick to gobble up the latter three; they all follow James's example and heroically send out their Pokémon before they're swallowed so that they can be saved. Kidd, however, manages to avoid them with her Action Girl skills.

Ash hears Pikachu's voice while going through the labyrinth of tunnels and picks the one that takes him closest to the sound. Eventually he emerges on the side of a cliff, where the same crystalline bridges as before connect it to a cliff on the other side where he can finally see Pikachu, who immediately runs along a bridge to meet him. Despite the strong wind nearly throwing Ash off several times, he stubbornly clings on, jumping across the chasms between the bridges to meet his partner; when Pikachu is blown off, he manages to jump to catch him in the air, and as they are about to fall to their deaths, Kidd swings across the canyon to catch them and bring them to safety on the cliffside.

Ash is ecstatic to have reunited with Pikachu and introduces him to Lucario, who smiles. Mew happily hands Ash his hat, which was blown off his head by the wind earlier. They all run when they see Regice emerge on the other side of the cliff; Ash asks Kidd where the others are, and she does not answer until more white blood cells approach them and she tells him they were swallowed by those things. Meowth is devastated to hear Jessie and James were swallowed too. They run, still followed by the prehistoric Pokémon; Banks tells Kidd they can escape from just a bit above where they are, and they enter yet another cavern. There, however, Registeel suddenly appears and grabs Lucario, and as Kidd and Ash stop short in surprise, two blobs come along and envelop them. Like the others before them, they desperately send out their Pokémon to save them. Pikachu, horrified, tries to grab onto Ash's hand while the blob begins to sink into the ground, helped by Ash's other Pokémon, but it does no good, and Ash vanishes. His Pokémon begin to cry, and if you've seen the previous movies you're probably thinking, "Wait, this AGAIN?", but no, their crying doesn't do anything. Mew grabs Ash's hat, which has fallen to the ground again, and questioningly carries it over to Pikachu, but it is no comfort, which Mew appears quite puzzled by until it finally begins to glow green and grabs one of the nearby crystals. Suddenly all the crystals on the tree (and all around Rota, since they are all connected to the mega-organism) take on the same Green Glow of Peace, and green blobs emerge from the ground to return everyone who was swallowed to the place where they were at that time. There are happy reunions between everyone and their Pokémon, especially Ash who is drowned in affection while Lucario looks on, seeming oddly moved. The three Regis walk away as the green glow fades.

Ash quizzically turns to Kidd to ask what just happened, and Meowth chimes in to explain that Mew basically just told the tree that they are not bacteria. Well, that's nice of you, Mew. It would have been even nicer to do that a bit before, but I guess this Mew is a bit challenged in the social relationships department, what with having had such a hard time grasping why Pikachu would not want to stay and play with it forever and that getting Ash's hat back does not make everything okay. At the very least, Kidd realizes that Mew and the Tree of Beginning are in a symbiotic relationship, with each sharing its power with the other.

However, an ominous red glow passes over the crystals above. Mew hands Ash his hat yet again, but then droops down, looking weak and sickly. The crystals all around the Tree begin to glow with an evil, fiery red and then crumble into black dust. Banks explains that the immune system seems to have been overloaded somehow and that if this continues, the Tree will collapse, presumably killing all the Pokémon that live in it.

Mew weakly points them into a large chamber, in the heart of which stands a huge crystal growth - now glowing with the same ominous red as the rest of the crystals in the Tree - with light flowing above it: it's the heart of the Tree of Beginning. Lucario, however, stares at something lying draped over an outcropping of crystals near a pillar: Sir Aaron's gloves. He rushes over and looks at them and then into the crystal there, where he sees a strange shape. He closes his eyes and points a paw towards it, and the shape encased in the crystal begins to glow with the special blue of Aura: it is the body of Sir Aaron, sitting slumped inside the middle of the crystal growth. Ash sees a convenient nearby time flower and touches it, and the cocoon unwraps, showing them an illusion: Sir Aaron stands in the room and calls for Mew, who emerges in the form of Ho-oh before transforming back into its true shape (if you remember, we saw this very scene from another point of view at the beginning of the movie). Aaron says he knows that Mew and the tree are one and asks Mew to lend him its power before he creates a sphere of Aura around Mew, with ominous blue sparks crackling around his body. The vision fades.

Kidd realizes that Sir Aaron must have sacrificed his life to stop the war: he used his Aura to empower Mew (and thus the Tree) so that the tree could then spread its Green Glow of Peace and make everyone friends again. Lucario stares at his master's body and collapses in grief. Mew, however, flies over to Lucario and asks him to use his own power to help to save the Tree. He agrees. Kidd protests, saying that if he does, he will meet the same fate as Aaron did, but Lucario only says, "I know," before he extends his paw towards Mew and begins to give it his Aura...

...the sphere of energy breaks, and Lucario says he is not strong enough. This causes Ash to rush in, point out that he can use Aura too, and offer to help. He grabs Aaron's gloves and puts them on before putting his hands foward and beginning to generate a tiny Aura Sphere between them. Together, Ash and Lucario share the energy required, and Mew is wrapped in a blue sphere and begins to glow green as blue sparks strike their bodies and they grunt in pain. Suddenly, Lucario knocks Ash back and tells him he can handle it from there. Inspired by Ash's willingness to sacrifice himself, he manages a greater power than before and successfully heals Mew; it flies into the beam of light above the central crystal, and yet again, a Green Glow of Peace takes over, every crystal left in the Tree shooting out a beam of green light as the health of the Tree (and Mew) is restored to normal. Meowth reunites with Jessie and James; Brock, May and Max make it outside safely.

Banks confirms that the Tree will be okay, and Mew bounces happily around everyone as Kidd tells him to keep their discoveries to themselves so that the tree will be safe from human intrusion from then on. Everybody seems happy... except Lucario, who collapses on the ground beside where Aaron is encased, glowing with a strange blue light. Ash runs over to him, and Lucario reaches back with his paw to support himself, inadvertently activating yet another convenient time flower.

They see Aaron stumbling against the crystals, panting. He sits down as more sparks envelop his body and addresses Lucario (we don't know if he realized the time flower was there and was deliberately trying to record it in the hope that Lucario would perhaps hear it one day, or if he is just talking to himself), saying he is sorry he sealed him away, but that he knows that Lucario would have followed him anywhere otherwise, including to his death; if any life is to be traded to end a war, it should be only his own. He also says he enjoyed every moment of his life with him and Queen Rin in the castle and that that's what makes life matter. At this, Lucario bursts into tears and begs forgiveness for having doubted him.

Aaron goes on to thank Lucario, say that every day they spent together was happy, and that if only it were possible he would like to meet him again, finishing by addressing Lucario as his friend. Lucario weeps, condemning himself for being foolish; Ash tries to tell him he's been a wonderful hero and begs him not to die as the blue sparks strike his body again, but Lucario responds he's just going to where Aaron is. His body fades away, and the entire crystal growth encasing Aaron dissolves too, floating into the light from the heart of the Tree.

Ash and Kidd go outside to find Brock, May and Max, and there is a happy reunion until Max notices Lucario isn't there. Ash tells him Lucario has been reunited with his friend, and for a moment they all look towards the sky in Lucario's memory.

The end credits start, showing them driving back to the castle and meeting Queen Ilene, who has been worrying about them. Max points up at what first appear to be the on-screen credits, but as the others join him in staring, it is revealed to be that picture of Aaron on the wall, which now mysteriously shows Lucario by Aaron's side. It makes no sense, but damn if it isn't utterly heartwarming. And after we see them leaving and waving goodbye to Kidd, and Brock freaking out over leaving her, and Mew playing with the random Bonsly that was annoying them earlier in the movie while Aaron's gloves lie draped over a cardboard box in its toy collection, and Kidd standing near Butler and Diane in Forina, we see that picture on the wall again, followed by Aaron and Lucario standing together in the gray, misty landscape of an ambiguous afterlife. Aaron takes out a chocolate bar, tastes it and smiles at Lucario, who looks positively happy for the first time ever. Then they walk off together and it is is the most adorable thing in existence. (Don't try to argue this with me. I'm a delusional fangirl.)

The Good

Oh, so many things. Primarily, Lucario is probably the very most compelling movie character, even more so than Mewtwo because Lucario's character development actually makes sense throughout. His character arc is deep and interesting and his relationship with Aaron is just adorable.

I can't resist the opportunity to ramble about why I think so. Sir Aaron has always thought of Lucario as a dear friend and partner to him whose company he simply enjoys. Lucario, however, is so caught up with the notion that Aaron is his 'master', a superior that he respects and admires immensely but is not really allowed to be emotionally attached to, that he keeps trying to maintain a sort of professional distance despite clearly caring deeply for him. Because Lucario is so very big on duty and thinks of it as his only real link to Aaron, it hurts him especially when Aaron seems to abandon his duty to the kingdom and seal Lucario away - more than Aaron actually realizes, since he's never thought of it quite that way; if he'd known how much this way would hurt Lucario, he would probably have explained himself differently. Initially, Lucario projects his betrayed feelings onto humanity in general because he can't bear to think ill of Aaron specifically and resents the fact that Ash is there appearing to be more loyal than Aaron was. He tells himself that just like in Aaron's case, no matter how loyal Ash seems, he's really fickle and would abandon his partner in the same way.

During their journey to the Tree of Beginning, however, Lucario eventually comes to realize that Ash genuinely cares for Pikachu and isn't so bad after all. Instead of being bitter that Ash seems to be a better master than Aaron, he shifts his focus away from Aaron's betrayal and instead tries to ensure that Ash and Pikachu will be reunited so that they can have what he and Aaron couldn't. When he comes to the place where he was sealed away, however, it hurts him more than ever before to remember it now that he knows that humans really can be loyal, causing him to vent his anger and frustration by attacking the illusory army.

When Lucario finally finds out what Aaron really did, it is a comfort to know he did not really abandon his duty to the castle - quite the contrary - but more important than that is that Aaron is for the first time expressing clearly how he viewed Lucario as a friend first and foremost and that being with him enriched his life. This is the primary revelation for Lucario, who was of course mostly upset by the fact Aaron seemed to have abandoned him. Upon finding out that Aaron in fact did it out of concern for Lucario's life, he can accept his friend again and is ready to follow his example in sacrificing his life for the sake of others - though primarily because he does not belong in this time and he wishes more than anything else to meet and talk to Aaron again.

Long story short, they love each other and need to live together in the afterlife on a fluffy cloud for all eternity. Yes, yes, if you have slash goggles you are probably giggling at most everything I've just said, but seriously.

I also personally, as I said at the beginning of this review, really loved the focus this movie gives to the relationship between Pokémon and their trainers, which comes up several times in this movie, not only in the exploration of Aaron and Lucario's relationship but also with Ash and Pikachu and how everyone (except Jessie), while being swallowed by the white blood cell blobs, makes it a priority to send out their Pokémon to save them. It just melts my heart.

Aside from that, there are several other things that are great in this movie. It's very pretty; it's quite funny; they let Lucario die; the music is very good; Kidd is pretty cool. And last but definitely not least, the Tree of Beginning - or rather, the concept of a gigantic mineral organism in a symbiotic relationship with the Pokémon that inhabit it - is a really interesting, original idea.

The Bad

I do have some issues with this movie. First of all, time flowers - the concept is pretty cool and all, but they are really blatant plot devices and always seem to conveniently grow just where something worth showing us happened in Lucario's time. It feels awfully lazy.

Second, well, the Green Glow of Peace. I didn't like it in the second movie and I don't like it here. Oh, sure, in a franchise like Pokémon, I'm fine with a green glow symbolizing restoration, as when the tree is healed at the end of the movie. But stopping a war? Really? It's awfully arbitrary. I can forgive it more easily here than in the second movie since the Tree is actually really cool and the stopping a war thing was something in the past rather than what the actual plot of the movie is about, but it still bugs me.

Third. A lot of the fandom, at least the older portion of it, already considers Ash to be a raging Gary Stu. I'm generally inclined to defend him on that - he loses a lot and spends most of his time not being particularly special - but nonetheless, did they really, really have to go and give him magical Aura powers? The "same Aura", whatever that might actually mean, as a legendary hero? Most of this movie is pretty good with its handling of Ash, but the Aura powers in particular feel unnecessary in a movie where Ash otherwise has a pretty low-key role. Admittedly I can kind of see why they did it; they needed a reason for Lucario to burst out of the staff now, and thinking he saw Aaron is a sensible way to do that. Having Ash participate in the climactic scene where they heal Mew also somewhat adds power to it since it shows Lucario specifically rejecting the possible chance of living through it so that Ash and Pikachu can live on, rather than just dying because he has to. But this still really doesn't help Ash's Gary-Stu litmus test.

Fourth, Mew strikes me as being disturbingly selfish here, and it really doesn't feel like the movie is fully aware of it. First it dodges out of the way of Kidd's Weavile's Icy Winds, putting the other Pokémon in harm's way instead. Then it steals Meowth and Pikachu away to play with them with no concern for how they feel about it. Then it just watches the white blood cells swallow Ash and Kidd and doesn't care. Then it watches Pikachu and the other Pokémon cry and still doesn't care until Pikachu seems to be too sad to do anything fun. Then, when it and the tree are sick, it actually has the nerve to actively expect Lucario to sacrifice his life to save them, as shown by the fact it leads them into the heart of the Tree and specifically requests it of Lucario, despite having watched Aaron die doing the same. It doesn't even seem particularly conflicted or sad about it; it's just, "Heal me, quick!" I know the lives of all the Pokémon living in the Tree were at stake too, and that Lucario would have done it anyway, but it still bothers me. There's nothing wrong with making a character selfish or completely incapable of empathy, but everyone in the movie seems to treat Mew as just a cute little prankster despite all this. It feels vaguely off - not massively so, but it seems like somebody should be noticing.

Fifth, some minor nitpicks - what are the Regis really doing in this movie, for instance? And though I hadn't seen the sixth movie when I first saw this one, now that I have seen it it bugs me a little bit that they essentially reused the fake Groudon's tentacles in the white blood cells - they take on the shapes of living creatures, they're slimy blobs, and they swallow people up in a kid-friendly near-death.

Also one comment on the dub I cannot resist making: I really, really didn't like Aaron and Lucario's voices. Specifically, they made Lucario's voice extremely deep and growly and Aaron's voice a lot higher-pitched so that he sounds like a teenager, and I feel this affects the movie's portrayal of their friendship in a destructive way. In the Japanese version Aaron had the deeper, more mature voice, but in the dub it is hard to properly appreciate that Aaron is a mentor to Lucario (who looks up to him as a superior), when it is Lucario who sounds by far the older and more mature of the two. If you watch the dub, please keep this in mind so that you can better understand their intended relationship.

Conclusion

This is the best Pokémon movie in my opinion. It's a pretty big "in my opinion", since I recognize a lot of it is a matter of my personal preferences and instalove factors in fiction, but nonetheless, it definitely has some of the most compelling characterization and plots of all the Pokémon movies, and all in all I find it very enjoyable to watch. When I saw it for the first time, I had decided to download a fansub because the movie looked kind of cool and I hadn't seen a Pokémon movie for a couple of years, but was extremely pleasantly surprised when I really liked it as a movie and found myself being emotionally affected by it. The Green Glow of Peace and Mew didn't start bothering me until after several rewatches, and although the time flowers and Ash's Aura powers did bug me immediately, it has more than enough good to completely make up for it.

Though you should really watch the Japanese version because it is hard to appreciate Lucario's deep respect for Aaron when the latter sounds like an excitable fourteen-year-old.

Page last modified August 12 2016 at 22:34 GMT