Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea 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. If I'm not using the correct official translation of some term or something, I'd appreciate a correction.

Thoughts and Synopsis

This movie feels a lot like the sixth movie. And then I mean a lot. A mysterious egg hatches in the arms of one of Ash's traveling partners and turns out to be a cute event legendary that immediately bonds with that traveling partner. However, the legendary needs to serve an important purpose in a specific faraway location, to which they must journey while the traveling partner acts heartbroken about having to leave the cute legendary behind. Meanwhile, a villain wants the legendary for his own nefarious purposes. Eventually the villain is defeated and the legendary is released, the traveling partner accepting at last that the legendary needs to serve its purpose and leaving it behind.

Now, the Jirachi movie was made interesting by featuring the terrifying fake tentacle-Groudon and heroic wild Pokémon. Unfortunately, however, this movie does no such thing, and whatever interest or impact the plot they have in common might have had the first time, it has definitely lost it now. Add in the several elements of this movie that descend to a level of ridiculousness even beyond the worst of the first two movies and the fact that the middle section of it is extremely uneventful and really just plain boring, and you end up with what definitely ranks among the worst Pokémon movies.

In accordance with the title, this movie does indeed feature a Pokémon Ranger, Jackie, who in fact is a pretty cool guy (eh protects nature and doesn't afraid of anything). At the beginning, Jackie is on a mission: he is working undercover on the crew of a pirate submarine owned by one Phantom. Phantom is a rather cheesy and lame villain who looks like a perfectly stereotypical pirate (complete with a talking Chatot companion) and acts like a perfectly stereotypical bad guy. He is after the legendary Pokémon Manaphy, which according to legend is supposed to be able to lead him to the "Sea Temple", an underwater temple built by a water-based culture known as the People of the Water. This Sea Temple contains the so-called Sea Crown, which Phantom wants to steal, because he is a pirate and wants pretty treasure. Also, the Sea Crown is supposed to make you the "King of the Sea", though nobody elaborates on exactly what that is supposed to mean and we only find out in one of the movie's most utterly bizarre moments near the end.

Well, in any case, the Pokémon Rangers know about Phantom's plans, and thus Jackie has snuck in on Phantom's crew. He snatches up the egg just as Phantom is about to get his greedy little hands on it for the first time and then bolts, kicking a metal beam out of shape while he's at it to keep the goons off his back, because he is just that cool. When Phantom has sent out his Pinsir and Parasect to get him, Jackie brings out his Capture Styler with a triumphant musical swell, captures a nearby Mantine and escapes on its back while it uses Confuse Ray to put the Pokémon out of it.

There is a title sequence which appears to be implying that every oxygen atom in a water molecule in fact houses a separate universe. This is not a concept that is explored in the actual movie, so we'll just assume they thought it looked cool.

Anyway. Our heroes - Ash, May, Max and Brock - are out walking in the wilderness where it's very hot and they have no water left. Then they watch a huge blob of water hover into the air in front of them. Rather than assume they're hallucinating, they hurry over the hill and find a girl, Lizabeth, with a whole bunch of Water Pokémon swimming inside these hovering "bubbles", which are formed by a couple of Poliwag and Poliwhirl while a Meditite and Medicham are using Psychic to levitate them. They get to drink, and Brock realizes that they have just met the star performer of the Marina Pokémon Performance Group, a family of entertainers who use Water Pokémon. They get to watch the show, and May gets to find a suspicious container that holds what we know to be the Manaphy egg. Team Rocket are watching as this happens, but the Marina Group's clown quickly comes along, snatches the container away and gives it to Lizabeth. Hmm.

Following this, Team Rocket are reading the Team Rocket newsletter, which apparently exists; it contains an advertisement from Phantom about the missing Manaphy egg, with a picture that they recognize from when they were watching May. They briefly discuss what to do about it, with James first suggesting they get the reward Phantom promises for it, and then Jessie and Meowth saying that if Phantom is after it it must be a great treasure and thus it would be better to steal it for themselves. They never really come to a conclusion.

Later, it is the middle of the night, and the moonlight shines through the Manaphy egg onto May's face, and she dreams about swimming with aaall the Water Pokémon! And then she sees this funky spiral temple-like thing, which is totally not the Sea Temple, and the shadow of Kyogre, and then Manaphy starts swimming around her being all happy before taking off towards the temple. Then she wakes up.

The next morning, while our heroes are eating pizza with Lizabeth's family, May tells them about the dream, and we get a pointless flashback of what we just saw two minutes ago. Lizabeth explains to her that she has actually had the same dream, and it turns out her family are descendants of the People of the Water, with the fact May had that dream being a possible indicator that she is also a descendant of the tribe. Apparently the People of the Water built the Sea Temple long ago to commune with Water Pokémon, and ever since then they dream about the temple. Which is quite headdesk-worthy in itself, but since this is Pokémon and all I suppose we shouldn't be complaining.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket sneak into their trailer and take out the Manaphy egg container, laying their hands on it, but then a strange red light travels between them, making them switch bodies: James moves into Jessie's body, Jessie moves into Meowth's, and Meowth moves into James's. This is actually quite amusing in the scenes that follow, especially when they do the motto and then try to run away (Meowth in James's body is all WHEEEEEE over having long human legs all of a sudden). As they step onto their pedal-driven flying machine with the Manaphy egg, the Marina Group's clown appears and - surprise - turns out to be Jackie the Pokémon Ranger in disguise. He captures a nearby Fearow, which carries Pikachu up to Team Rocket's flying machine to retrieve the egg container before Fearow pecks a hole in the balloon and Team Rocket are sent blasting off.

Jackie explains to them that he is there on a mission to get Manaphy safely to the Sea Temple, but then Phantom's helicopters appear to chase them and they quickly run, with Jackie and Ash going one way and everyone else the other at an intersection. Phantom runs after Jackie and Ash (sensibly, since they're the ones with the Manaphy egg), but Jackie quickly hands the Manaphy egg to Ash to distract him, and after a bit of a chase, eventually the egg ends up in May's hands, where it starts to glow. Phantom comes after her, but as he is trying to wrestle it away from her, he opens the container, the egg is launched into the air, and May quickly runs to catch it before it lands. And when it lands in her hands, it begins to glow brightly and turns into a sleeping Manaphy, which immediately begins to cry as Phantom looks hopelessly on it.

The rest of Lizabeth's family had gone and got the car and trailer, so they arrive quickly and they drive off with Manaphy, which eventually calms down in May's arms. The problem is the moment Lizabeth's mother tries to take it, it starts crying again. Turns out it's imprinted on May, and she's just got to be its mother from now on.

Phantom's helicopters are still giving them chase, however, and they shoot a grappling hook through the roof of the trailer, but our heroes escape from it by simply running over to the "car" (actually a boat on wheels) and then releasing the trailer to tumble violently down the mountainside.

They go to some ruins and Phantom's helicopters land on their heels. It turns out these ruins have a secret passageway that opens to people who carry a special symbol of the People of the Water, a sort of bracelet of little stones that glow blue on use. (You know, it's the sort of fancy ancient high technology you see in movies like National Treasure.) They go through a water passage to a sort of shrine to the Sea Temple, and Lizabeth's family explains that the Sea Temple is normally invisible, except during a total lunar eclipse, and it drifts around so it's never in the same place. Manaphy, however, has an inherent connection to the temple and can always find it and take its place as the Prince of the Sea.

However, Phantom also has one of those secret bracelets! Except that, even though we see him open the door to the secret passageway, for some bizarre reason he does not follow them and instead returns to the outside and orders his men to search the boat-car. There Team Rocket come to welcome them and insist on joining Phantom. Phantom decides that it would be best to wait for the good guys and Manaphy to come out of the secret passageways and onto the open sea, where he seems to think it will be easier to catch them.

Meanwhile, our heroes are in fact just exiting onto the open ocean, go on land in a town, get ice cream and chill as if there aren't evil pirates after them. (Phantom, of course, is nowhere to be seen, even though his helicopters ought to have been much quicker than they were swimming.) At least, the Marina Group and Jackie get on a ship there, apparently owned by Lizabeth's grandfather, and they intend to leave Ash and company behind. However, of course Manaphy wakes up and starts crying, and it uses Heart Swap (the move that swapped Team Rocket) to swap Ash and Jackie, which forces them to stop and let Ash and friends on board. Then, because Ash and co. all really want to come with them anyway, they just figure it will be easier this way than with Manaphy crying all the time because May isn't there.

They let Manaphy into the ocean so it can guide them to the Sea Temple, and it plays around. There is still absolutely no sign of Phantom, and there will not be for a long, long while as we see them travel across the ocean for days while Manaphy acts annoyingly cute all the time and they watch all the other cute Water Pokémon and May acts all motherly. And Ash shows a lot of interest in becoming a Pokémon Ranger, which he naturally doesn't act on. And May teaches Manaphy to say "love". And Jackie gives a lot of long, concerned glances at May's adoration of Manaphy from afar. Eventually he tells Ash to try to separate May and Manaphy so their eventual splitting will be easier on Manaphy, but May also hears it and is mortified. Nonetheless, following this, May tries to ignore Manaphy, and Manaphy is sad about it, and May is sad about Manaphy being sad.

We see Phantom again at last, but we only find out he is actually just hoping to follow them until they get to the Sea Temple. Naturally, this means we want to see them get to the Sea Temple reasonably soon, but no, unfortunately there is still quite a while to go before that happens. First we have a scene where Manaphy is singing to the Water Pokémon, an obligatory scene where Manaphy plays with Ash's Pokémon with happy music in the background, and an excruciatingly long sequence where, after May's bandana falls into the ocean and is carried off by the currents and various Pokémon, Manaphy goes to retrieve it while everybody worries about it on the ship. Ash, May, Max, Brock and Lizabeth all go on a special small submarine to look for Manaphy, and May worries that it was all because she was trying to be distant, but then Manaphy finds the bandana and comes back and finds the submarine and was perfectly okay. The submarine gets caught in an ocean current so the cable connecting it to the ship is broken, but Manaphy leads them out of the current and seems to be taking them back to the ship when suddenly... they vanish. They've entered the water around the Sea Temple - Manaphy has found it! Except the eclipse starts about two seconds later anyway and the temple becomes visible, so there was no need for any of that lengthy sequence getting them all out looking for Manaphy and all that; they could have just gone straight there when the eclipse started, or at least Manaphy could have gone straight there. I think they just wanted to lengthen the movie.

Anyway, there is air on the inside of the temple, and a bunch of fountains and arches and one wonders how the hell one small tribe of people could have built all that hundreds of years ago. There is even a curtain of several waterfalls that opens when Manaphy sings. They navigate their way through the temple by following Manaphy, and meanwhile Phantom follows them, having gone after them in one of his small submarines. Which incidentally also had Team Rocket on it, hiding in an escape pod, but it's not like they'll do anything important in the remainder of the movie - in fact, they're more a plot device to make you notice the existence of that escape pod than anything else.

Phantom confronts Ash and co. at a special stone, where he can actually read some runes Lizabeth can't, and he opens another secret high-tech Water People door to where the Sea Crown is supposed to be. It turns out the Crown is a special fountain encased in water and decorated with glowy blue crystals. Phantom breaks off one of the crystals, and the flow of water suddenly stops, instead causing water to begin flooding in from above. Ash and company run to get to the submarine and escape while Phantom is left laughing evilly as he tries to remove more crystals from the Sea Crown. They meet Jackie on the way, as he captured a Mantyke to take him down there and help; he offers to deal with Phantom.

Phantom has been stuffing crystals into a bag, and when Jackie gets there, he begins to run around grabbing crystals from the bag and placing them back on the Sea Crown. Stupidly, Phantom immediately drops the bag and starts chasing after him while Jackie gets a bunch of more crystals in their rightful place. Eventually, however, the incoming flood washes them down through some chute and Phantom drops the crystal he is holding.

Meanwhile, the kids wait by the submarine, but Manaphy gets impatient and runs back towards the Sea Crown, and Ash and May follow. Lizabeth means to wait for them, but unfortunately a wave comes along and sweeps the submarine away and she has to get in and close it so that it won't fill up with water. Since Jackie fell before he had replaced all the crystals, the bag is still lying there with the crystals spilling out, and Manaphy begins a futile effort to put the crystals back; Ash and May quickly go and help, but they soon find that there is one crystal still missing, the one that Phantom dropped. And by now the temple is really flooding.

Jackie gets into Phantom's submarine (along with Phantom's Chatot) while Phantom is left swimming; he manages to catch some sort of a rocket that propels him forward. Meanwhile, Lizabeth, Brock and Max have been washed away in the good guys' submarine, and now they find they cannot get back to get Ash and May thanks to the strong current around the temple. Ash and May run from the flooding water for a while until they stumble upon where the missing crystal had ended up, and they grab it in order to be able to put it back into the Sea Crown and stop the temple from sinking. They find the escape pod that Team Rocket arrived in, and, in a positively awful moment, Ash simply stuffs May, Pikachu and Manaphy into the escape pod, closes it and tells them he is going to put the crystal back in place. This is extraordinarily stupid, as the escape pod doesn't even float and there is no way they could ever get out of it if he doesn't unflood the temple. And that's aside from how generally annoying it is when female characters are shoved aside so that the male character can save the day. But that's how the movie goes anyway.

So Ash spends a while trying to get the crystal where it's supposed to be, but he drops it and it falls down and gets stuck somewhere deep below the surface of the water. When he has unlodged it, he does not manage to get to the surface before he falls unconscious from lack of oxygen and drops the crystal again as his body goes limp in the water. Meanwhile, May is stuck in the escape pod praying that Ash will succeed, and suddenly Manaphy's antennae glow red, the way they do when it uses Heart Swap! Aha! I think. This is actually sort of clever! Now, after they've set up the Heart Swap ability twice, it's going to switch May with Ash, and somehow this makes him/her regain consciousness (presumably the same magical way the Heart Swapped body has the other person's voice despite not having their vocal chords), and May gets to save the day after all, in Ash's body! But no. Somehow, Manaphy just sends out a psychic pulse of May's voice as she says that she believes in him and whatnot, and this is enough to wake Ash up and allow him to get up to breathe, dive again, get the crystal, and place it where it's supposed to go.

What happens now is that as the water drains away, a bunch of glowing yellow thready things magically appear and carry May's escape pod away. No, really. And then Kyogre randomly swims past the submarine Lizabeth was in, where Jackie has now joined them. And the temple actually surfaces, allowing May to open the escape pod and let them out. They stand there worrying about Ash, but then Phantom comes up behind them and grabs Manaphy. He is still using his rocket thing as a speedboat, and gloats as he leaves that he intends to use Manaphy to find the Sea Temple again.

However, then a glowing yellow thready thing rises triumphantly out of the water, and at the tip of it is... ASH! Yes, he actually has a magical yellow thready glow. And this is what it actually means to be the King of the Sea, reveals Lizabeth's grandfather. So Ash, newly-crowned King of the Sea, goes in fancy loops in his glowy yellow thready thing to catch Phantom, and Kyogre comes and throws Phantom up in the air, where Ash can catch Manaphy and leave the pirate to fall.

No, honestly. I am not messing with you. This is actually what happens. Ash gets a glowy, yellow, worm-shaped, spiralling barrier around himself that trails behind him wherever he goes as if he is the tip of a pencil drawing a three-dimensional yellow line, and it allows him both to fly and to breathe underwater. Moreover, when Phantom rises on his big submarine, all the Pokémon of the sea band together to knock into the submarine, presumably because the King of the Sea wants them to. Phantom's submarine releases a bunch of supersonic waves to confuse all the Pokémon, but Manaphy starts to sing, and apparently it can use Heart Swap to unite the hearts of all the Pokémon and command them to attack when they have also magically been deconfused. The submarine loses power after some Chinchou and Lanturn have attacked it, and Manaphy makes Kyogre hit it - and Phantom, who was riding on top of it - with a Hyper Beam to finish them off.

There are big explosions inside the submarine, though somehow Phantom has survived with his clothes a bit torn. This, however, reveals that the super strength he has shown at a couple of points before in the movie is actually the result of the fact he was wearing *gasp* a MECHA SUIT all along! But then it breaks and he is crushed under shrapnel, and everybody is happy. Then everybody else get to be Kings of the Sea too, as in that they also get to swim/fly around in glowy yellow spirally thready things, and the thready things form a crown shape around the Sea Temple! So that's the real Sea Crown. Apparently. Or something.

In the evening, the temple sinks back into the sea, and Manaphy says goodbye to May. It turns out Jackie's worries were all unfounded, because Manaphy doesn't seem to mind so much that it will never see May again. May explains that she is not okay, but she will be. And that's the end of the movie.

Oh, and apparently Team Rocket were swallowed by a Wailord but are then blown out through the blowhole during the end credits. We never find out precisely how they got back to land, but I presume it's the same way they usually survive being blasted into the stratosphere.

The Good

Eh. Not much. Admittedly, like the second and seventh movies, it has some very amusing comedy to make up for the lackluster plot, but unfortunately in this case it's pretty much only the bit where Team Rocket are Heart Swapped, which is awfully short. Jackie is also generally pretty fun to watch, but still not overly remarkably so. And of course, if you enjoy things that are So Bad They're Good, this is probably the Pokémon movie of choice for you - the other worst Pokémon movies are not nearly as hilarious in their awfulness.

The Bad

Oh, I could go on and on. First of all, because this is what annoys me the most, May getting stuffed into the escape pod at the end. Same with how Jackie and Lizabeth are both conveniently useless during the climax of the movie. Yet again, some contrivance is thought up to make Ash save the day, even when it would have been much more natural to give somebody else the honour for once, and to boot, this time it's just plain sexist. Ugh. They missed an opportunity with the potential for Heart Swapping May into Ash's body, too.

Secondly, the power of the King of the Sea, the glowy yellow thready things. This is just... what? Not only does it look completely ridiculous (and disturbingly phallic) and make no sense whatsoever, but it's also not set up at all, so that the only possible reaction to seeing flying yellow glowy Ash is "Oh, you've got to be kidding me." And to boot, it's giving Ash another superpower. It's just an all-around terrible idea and makes me seriously wonder if the writers were eating some strange mushrooms that day. At least it's good to laugh at.

Thirdly, if I've found any Pokémon movie honestly boring, it's this one. It drags a lot in the middle with nothing of worth really happening and entire scenes that serve no real purpose, and by the time the last half-hour comes along, you're just wondering if it's going to end anytime soon. It would probably be slightly less so if the May and Manaphy plot weren't exactly the same as the one in the sixth movie, but as it is it's just hard to really give a damn about May needing to part with Manaphy. Phantom is never interesting, Manaphy is never interesting, the conflict in general is never really interesting. It's all just so typical and average.

Fourthly, what the hell is with Kyogre there at the end? This is the mother of all random legendary appearances. At least Suicune in the fourth movie came specifically to help the gang and thus had some sense of motivation and character, which Kyogre here does not - it just happens to be there for some reason and obeys Manaphy and Ash's commands as Prince and King of the Sea. Adding it in feels really contrived and just like a poor excuse to put an extra legendary on the poster.

Fifthly, there is poor CGI that sticks out like a sore thumb, as so often. The worst offenders are the boat-car and trailer, which look painfully computer-generated during the chase scene. There is other CGI that looks pretty good, too, making it seem even worse (there are lots of CGI Pokémon, and unlike most attempts at CGI Pokémon, they actually look almost okay).

Sixthly, the Sea Temple is just kind of silly. What's with the ancient high-tech, seriously? Random crystals on a fountain need to be in place or the temple sinks... further than it already is? All really arbitrary and random and just what.

Finally, I don't know about you, but I just found Manaphy kind of irritating throughout. Maybe it's just that I hate babies.

Conclusion

There is just so awfully little that's worth seeing about this movie that even if it weren't ridiculous, it would still be too unremarkable to recommend. As it is, it really is ridiculous, with an uninteresting plot deriving heavily from another movie, a rather lame villain... it would need one hell of a lot of redeeming features to make up for all this, but it hardly has any at all. This is probably the very worst Pokémon movie, winning that place over the second because, well, it's just so boring. At least the second movie was entertaining from beginning to end.

However, again, if you just want something ridiculously awful to laugh at, this is the Pokémon movie for you.

Page last modified August 12 2016 at 22:34 GMT