Arceus and the Jewel of Life 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
The twelfth movie finishes the D/P/Pt trilogy. The writers continue to apologize for Dialga's lack of anything interesting and time-related to do in the tenth movie, because this time there's full-on time travel. Sadly, however, it's a bit of a mess.
Basically, Ash, Dawn and Brock arrive in Michina Town, a beautiful city surrounded by greenery and scenic mountains, and there they meet two siblings who recommend they check out the nearby Michina Ruins, the remains of an ancient temple. On the way, they come to a lake, and all of a sudden there is a disturbance in the air above: a portal of dark energy opens and starts to suck water from the surface of the lake as all the wild Pokémon in the area run away. Ash, Dawn and Brock narrowly avoid being pulled in themselves, but Pikachu and Piplup, being lighter, are being sucked in when two teenagers, a boy and a girl, appear near Ash and co. The girl prays for Dialga to save Pikachu and Piplup, and what do you know, Dialga appears, fetches them and returns them to their trainers before facing the energy swirl and firing a beam at it, destroying it.
A portal suddenly appears on the lake, however, and Giratina rises out of it and begins to attack Dialga, still angry with it for polluting the Reverse World. Ash and company try to shout at it to stop, but to no avail; the mysterious girl, however, clasps her hands together and closes her eyes, and suddenly she sees Giratina before her with a red aura around it. The aura pushes her away and she tells her male partner that Giratina's anger is too strong. Ash, however, wades into the lake, and as Giratina remembers him from the last movie, it calms down and stops attacking Dialga.
The girl clasps her hands again; this time Giratina's aura is blue, and she tells it that it's all a misunderstanding and to please not keep attacking Dialga. It seems to understand and flies up and creates a portal back to the Reverse World, leaving peacefully.
The girl explains to the confused kids that she has the ability to "read the hearts" of Pokémon, which also allows them to read hers back; that's what she was doing. However, when the Pokémon is too blinded by anger, she can't connect with it properly. Her name is Sheena, her partner is Kevin, and they guard the Michina Ruins.
Ash thanks her for saving Pikachu and Piplup, and she grabs Pikachu's cheeks and stares at it intently for a few seconds before telling them that a "thunder creature" and its "master" changed the history of Michina Town once and that perhaps meeting Ash is fated. She asks them to come with them to the temple, and they agree.
Suddenly another huge, swirling vortex of dark energy appears above the lake and starts to suck everything in (including some awful-looking CGI trees; why must the Pokémon movies always have some one bit of terrible-looking CGI somewhere?), and Dialga is about to be pulled in as well until suddenly Palkia appears and manages to destroy the vortex, saving Dialga. Sheena clasps her hands together and speaks to the two legendaries' hearts to thank them, and they peacefully retreat to their own dimensions, having seemingly finally settled their differences once and for all.
Sheena and Kevin take Ash and company to a chamber underneath the ruins and show them the "Time-Space Axis", a weird clockwork device showing a blue sphere and a pink sphere orbiting an orange oval with a red sphere inside it and a green sphere below that with a light blue sphere orbiting it. Sheena explains that the green sphere is our world, the light blue sphere is the Reverse World, the blue one is Dialga's dimension, the pink one is Palkia's dimension, and the orange oval is Arceus's dimension. She explains that Arceus supposedly created the entire world and all these spaces and that there are signs that Arceus is about to wake up after having been asleep for a long time; the vortexes they saw were swirls of energy created as Arceus wakes up, which can bend space. She also explains that what kicked off the events of the previous two movies - Dialga and Palkia's worlds colliding, causing each to think the other was trying to invade its territory - was also caused by this same energy from Arceus.
They also explain that the two of them have been using the Time-Space Axis to pinpoint when Arceus will appear, because they know that he plans on calling judgement upon humankind. She tells them that long ago, an asteroid on a collision course with Earth was stopped by Arceus before it hit, but the impact caused Arceus to lose his type-changing plates. He had nearly died when a man named Damos retrieved the lost plates for him. In gratitude, Arceus combined the plates of Water, Grass and Earth, binding them with the Electric plate and boosting their power with the Dragon plate, and formed all five plates into an orb, the Jewel of Life. The people of Michina Town used the jewel to revive their land, which had been horribly damaged by the meteorite shards that had rained down on it. Arceus left and told Damos that the jewel was to be returned on the next solar eclipse. However, Damos broke his promise and attacked Arceus, fearing that returning the jewel would bring the land back into ruin, and Arceus, hurt and betrayed, destroyed the temple and returned to his world to sleep and recover from his wounds.
Naturally, Ash and company are horrified that Damos betrayed Arceus, but Sheena is about to drop a bombshell: she is a descendant of Damos and still guards the Jewel of Life. Her ancestors realized their mistake and have ever since waited for Arceus to return so that things can be set right once again. Thus, she is going to return it to Arceus when he wakes up in the hope that it will pacify him and stop him from destroying the world. And just then, bells start ringing and on the Time-Space Axis we see the orange oval press down towards the green sphere: Arceus is coming.
Outside, a portal appears in mid-air and the mighty Pokémon emerges from it, shooting a ball of energy into the air that shatters into small beams that rain down on Michina Town. This appears to be the Judgment attack. Arceus looks down at the temple and sees a mirage of Damos running forth, but the image fades: in another place higher up, however, Sheena actually is approaching with the jewel. She explains that she is a descendant of Damos and apologizes for the betrayal; she uncovers the Jewel of Life and places it on a stone table for Arceus to take.
Arceus descends slowly to the table and then suddenly stomps on the Jewel, breaking it into a million pieces. He angrily exclaims that the real Jewel of Life is a part of him and wouldn't break that easily: the jewel Sheena's family has been guarding for so long is a fake. She had no idea about the deception and desperately tries to explain it to Arceus, even attempting a bit of heart-reading, but Arceus is way, way too angry for that to work. He sends another Judgment into the air, but suddenly Dialga and Palkia appear and form shields over our heroes, protecting them from the attack. Arceus berates them for siding with the humans and attacks them, and they try to attack him back. However, he suddenly changes to his Ghost-type form and is completely unharmed, and Kevin explains that Arceus's plates negate the power of attacks. This is in complete contradiction to the games, but maybe he just doesn't know what he's talking about and they were trying to use Normal/Fighting moves (Aura Sphere and Hyper Beam?), which would not affect the Ghost-type form. Pikachu then Thunderbolts Arceus, it's not negated, and Kevin further says that it's because one of the plates he used to make the Jewel was the one that negates Electric attacks (again, he could actually mean the Ground-type one) and therefore Arceus can't use it to protect himself. Pikachu Thunderbolts him again, Arceus attacks them again, but this time Giratina appears to save them. It too attacks Arceus, but he likewise completely negates the attack by transforming into what appears to be his Fire form, which really doesn't make sense since Fire isn't immune to anything, but whatever. (Then again, being blue fire, it might have been Will-O-Wisp. Maybe this does make sense after all.) Arceus fires a Blizzard, a wise choice against the three Dragon-types, but Palkia counters by enclosing Arceus in a pocket space while Dialga looks intently at Sheena. Without warning, suddenly the four of them and their Pokémon vanish as Kevin looks on in astonishment.
Our heroes travel through a 'wormhole' and then reappear where they were in front of the temple, except suddenly there's a solar eclipse. The ruins are also not ruins anymore, but the temple in its full glory. Sheena realizes that Dialga has sent them to the past, to the day where the jewel was returned to Arceus, and just then, Arceus appears in the air and descends towards the temple. He waits at what appears to be a front door with torches lit in front of it (this is conveniently located below where Ash and company are, so they can watch it without intruding) until Damos comes walking forth, holding a staff. He opens the tip of the staff to show the Jewel of Life, but tells Arceus to follow him inside, as he wishes to "entertain" him. If I were Arceus I'd be suspicious right about now.
We see Damos holding another jewel in his hand, similar to the original but duller in color; he closes the tip of the staff where the real jewel is again, places the fake jewel on a pedestal and invites Arceus to take it.
Just as he says so, however, hundreds of Pokémon emerge in spaces lining the walls and attack Arceus. Ash and company arrive there as well, after presumably running inside through the door where they were, and watch the spectacle, unable to help as Damos walks away, gestures towards somebody or something, and suddenly a giant chandelier falls from the ceiling, followed by the roof caving in on top of Arceus. He emerges, eyes glowing, and trudges up to the jewel, only to realize it's fake. Damos, now safe up in the walls with another man, shows him the real jewel and says that he can't return it because the country would return to ruin, and the Pokémon attack Arceus again as the roof continues to collapse.
Arceus bursts out and rains Judgment upon everyone; Damos and the other man fall down and are presumably killed. As the temple caves in, Sheena begs Dialga to send them further back in time, which it somehow hears through time and obeys with the last of its strength while the battle rages on in their time.
They appear on a town square in the daytime and are immediately surrounded by angry villagers and a saddled Heatran. The man who was with Damos at the time of the betrayal, Marcus, appears with a Bronzong, and it hypnotizes Ash, Dawn, Brock, Pikachu and Piplup as Marcus talks to Sheena. She tries to explain that she's from the future, and though he initially doesn't seem to believe her, he still agrees to hear her out. Meanwhile, he orders the kids and their Pokémon be taken to separate rooms, which in the Michina Town of a thousand years ago is apparently code for 'locked up in the dungeons'. As it turns out, there's a separate prison for the Pokémon, and Pikachu and Piplup are saved from theirs by the famous Spiky-Ear Pichu from HG/SS, who takes them through the kitchen where they rescue a Chikorita and a Cyndaquil who are being forced to work there. Both are fitted with "saddles" or harnesses that Pikachu and Pichu cut off them with Iron Tail, freeing them to escape with them. Meanwhile, the prison guard explains to the now-unhypnotized kids that they were hypnotized and that Sheena is with Marcus, and they wonder aloud who Marcus is. A voice from behind them says he's a traitor...
...and who should turn out to be locked in their prison cell with them but the infamous Damos? He says that Marcus deceived him and locked him up, but the kids immediately attack him with angry questions about why he betrayed Arceus and didn't return the Jewel of Life. Damos has no idea what they're talking about; he says he's planning to give the jewel back to Arceus, but Marcus didn't want the jewel to be returned, and that's why he was imprisoned. The prison guard confirms his story, though he himself is undecided on whether the jewel should be returned, and the kids work out that Marcus must have controlled Damos with Hypnosis when the jewel was supposed to be returned. Damos asks what they're going on about, and Ash tells him they're from the future, wasting no time before sending his Monferno out from a Pokéball to prove it (this being a time long before Pokéballs, when Pokémon are called "magical creatures").
Meanwhile, Sheena is talking to Marcus, who seems to completely buy her being-from-the-future story now. She innocently explains everything that happened to him and warns him that Damos plots to betray Arceus. She goes on to tell him that terrible things will happen as a result of the betrayal; Marcus asks what, and she tells him about him and Damos falling to their deaths.
In the prison cell, the kids have told Damos about the future and that he ends up betraying Arceus. We see a flashback to when Arceus saved Earth from the asteroid; after he's stopped it, Arceus lies helpless on the ground, and we see Damos clasp his hands together and speak to Arceus's heart, as he has the same ability that Sheena does (apparently it's hereditary). Drifting from Arceus's aura, there is a thread of light leading towards a coffin-shaped plate. He goes in the direction indicated by the light, finds the plate and carries it back to the dying Arceus; this gives Arceus the energy to summon the other plates from his surroundings and be revived. Arceus asks Damos if he is the one who saved him, but he responds that they are the ones who were saved by Arceus. Later, we see him looking over the ruined land as Arceus lands beside him, shows him a vision of the revitalized Michina and creates the famous Jewel of Life from five of his plates. Arceus warns him that having lost five plates, his power is limited; he is essentially trusting Damos with, very literally, a part of his life. Damos, of course, promises to return it, and Arceus says he will return to retrieve it on the next solar eclipse.
After the flashback, Damos explains that he erected the temple to express their gratitude to Arceus, and to finish, he says the solar eclipse will start soon: Dialga, it seems, only managed to send them back by a matter of hours.
Meanwhile, Marcus is interrogating Sheena about the methods Damos used against Arceus; she tells him he used Pokémon with Electric moves and dropped rocks. Marcus asks if he used "silver water", but Sheena doesn't even know what that is. Marcus makes a big show of telling her they will make sure the jewel is returned, shows her the staff with the jewel but then discreetly takes the jewel out before he closes the now-empty tip of the staff and hands it to her, telling her she will be the one to return the jewel.
Pikachu, Piplup and Pichu, through more sneaking around, find the key to the heroes' prison cell and retrieve it with the help of a passerby Totodile before returning to the cell. Turns out the Spiky-Ear Pichu is Damos's Pokémon; he's the Electric-type trainer Sheena mentioned as having changed history in the town before, and the whole reason that Pichu was sneaking around in the first place was to find the key. They open the prison cell and casually hand the key to the prison guard, who shows no reaction to seeing his prisoners opening their cell from the inside. I'm guessing since he was somewhat sympathetic towards Damos's cause and has been listening to them talking about the terrible things in the future, he just doesn't care either way.
At the same time, Arceus has arrived at the temple to retrieve the jewel, and Sheena steps forth with the staff. Arceus immediately asks for Damos, but she tells him he couldn't come. Concerned, Arceus asks if something happened to him, and Sheena tells him Damos intends to betray him. Arceus is shocked, and she opens the staff to give him the jewel, but of course now there is nothing there, and higher up, Marcus gestures to order the Pokémon to attack Arceus.
However, thanks to Sheena, he now has an extra trick up his sleeve: the aforementioned "silver water", which appears to be molten metal of some sort. After having a drain in the floor opened to remove the water that was there, he orders for the silver water to be poured, and it hits Arceus, knocks him down into a pit in the bottom and hardens around his feet so that he can't escape while the Pokémon continue to attack him.
Marcus holds forward the real Jewel of Life and explains that he can't return it; Sheena shouts at him that he deceived her, but he thanks her for telling him about the future and says that because of the information she gave him, history will change: with the help of the silver water, they will kill Arceus here and now, ensuring that he will no longer be able to appear in the future and destroy the world. Another dose of silver water nearly hits Sheena and destroys the wooden platform she's standing on, but Damos reaches for her hand and pulls her up, and as their hands touch, they see one another's hearts with their shared ability. Sheena realizes Damos wasn't involved, and he laments that he couldn't see what Marcus intended earlier.
More silver water starts flooding towards them, but Brock arrives just in time and his Sudowoodo uses Hammer Arm to open a hole in the floor that it will fall into. Meanwhile, Ash confronts Marcus to get the jewel back, but Marcus has Heatran and Bronzong attack him. Dawn arrives just in time for Piplup to repel an attack, but Marcus explains to them again that he can't return the jewel because then the land would return to ruin and that if Arceus dies here, his appearance in the future will be prevented.
Of course Ash and Dawn won't just take that standing down, so their Pokémon continue to try to overcome Bronzong and Heatran. Meanwhile, Damos and Sheena lock hands and combine their abilities to tell all the Pokémon that are attacking Arceus to stop, and they succeed. When they try to communicate with Arceus, however, his anger is far too strong and they cannot get through to him.
The Johto starters and a group of Rattata triumphantly save Ash and Dawn from yet another attack, and suddenly Heatran and Bronzong turn against Marcus; they let Pikachu and Piplup remove their saddles/harnesses and help surround Marcus as Ash tries to grab the jewel from his hand. It ends up falling into a drain, however, and there rolls down and falls into a hole despite valiant efforts by Chikorita to catch it before it falls.
Ash, ever the heroic type, somehow manages to throw himself down and grab onto a log set into the side while catching the jewel with his feet. He then manages to throw it down to Pikachu, who balances it on its tail and head until Ash gets down. Dawn and the Pokémon guard Marcus while Ash tries to take the jewel down to Arceus, and Damos makes a final attempt to communicate with him.
By now Arceus is hanging his head at the bottom of the pit, half-buried in molten metal, eyes glowing red with anger, and doesn't even notice when Ash brings the jewel. Worse, suddenly Ash and Pikachu start to fade away; in fact, all of our time-traveling heroes are fading, and Marcus explains to Dawn that since Arceus is dying, there will be no future where they come to this time and that's why they're disappearing. Or, in other words, the writers saw Back to the Future once but didn't quite get it.
Ash tries in vain to hold the sphere forward for Arceus to take, but meanwhile Damos forces his way through to Arceus's heart, and finally he manages to symbolically touch him and make him understand what happened. Damos asks him to take the Jewel of Life, and just as Ash is disappearing, the jewel flies out of his hand, separates back into the five plates it was made of, and those plates sink into Arceus's body, restoring his strength. Meanwhile everyone reappears, because clearly they'd totally have gone back in time in the future if Arceus had gotten the jewel today unlike if he'd died, and Arceus rises out of the metal with ease now that he's at his full strength. He asks Ash who he is, and he introduces himself and Pikachu. More silver water starts to flow in, but Arceus creates a protective sphere around Ash and Pikachu and levitates it up with him. Arceus asks if they were the ones who saved his life (mirroring what he said after Damos saved him), but as he lands safely with Damos, Sheena, Dawn, Brock and the Johto starters (unfortunately those Rattata from earlier seem to have disappeared), Ash replies that no, they all did.
Up where Marcus was left, he mutters that the city will return to ruin and there is no longer a future, but then the temple begins to shake and collapse. As everyone is falling down into the chasm, including all the Pokémon that participated in the attack on Arceus, Arceus freezes everything in the air, dissolves the falling debris and levitates everyone back where they were. Further, he destroys the harnesses on all the Pokémon, freeing them. We never see Marcus's final fate, but we did hear him scream as the temple started to rumble, and we see the headpiece he was wearing lying deserted on the ground, implying that perhaps Arceus "forgot" to save him from the fall. Or, you know, maybe Arceus dissolved him with the falling rocks. Or maybe transported him into a special pocket dimension of eternal torture.
Once they're outside, Arceus bids them farewell and says he must rest after spending so much of his power, and he disappears back into his own world. Finally, our time-travelers start to shimmer, indicating Dialga is about to call them back, and they say goodbye to Damos before they disappear back to their own time.
They reappear... exactly where they were. Dialga, Palkia and Giratina are still lying exhausted on the ground around them. Arceus is still attacking. Nothing has changed! And as a Judgment is raining down on them again, Ash calls out to Arceus - and suddenly, Arceus remembers him and everything that happened in the new timeline. He dissolves the attack, the temple is suddenly restored to its original shape so that it is no longer in ruins, and where Team Rocket are lying after several irrelevant misadventures with the real Jewel of Life that they found along the way, the jewel disappears from their hands. The sun breaks out, Dialga, Palkia and Giratina are healed, and the five plates missing from Arceus's possession reappear.
As they look over the beautiful landscape, Brock expresses his wonder that everything didn't return to ruin even though they returned the jewel in the past, and Arceus tells them that the land was revived through the efforts of the people and Pokémon that cultivated it - the Jewel of Life just gave them a bit of a headstart after the destruction of the meteorite. Which should always have been obvious, really. I mean, it's not as if the land was inherently infertile without the Jewel of Life.
So Dialga, Palkia and Giratina return to their own dimensions and Kevin suddenly points out that there's a stone carving there showing them, presumably made by Damos. Arceus tells Ash the world is wonderful and then heads off, saying he now understands he's a part of this world as well. Presumably that's meant to be reassurance that he won't try to destroy the world again.
The Japanese version has this seriously weird song playing during the credits, talking about a ship sailing through the grasslands, the singer's insides being a complex circuit and wiggling antennae of her heart. I thought it had to be a wonky translation, but no, I found another one that says the same thing. There are also images imitating ancient carvings showing things as they developed in the past, as well as cameos from Alice, Tonio and Darkrai as well as Zero in his prison cell being visited by Newton (who has a PDA with a hologram of the virtual woman from Zero's ship) and Shaymin. And there is a little bit where we see Damos working and what really looks like Marcus working behind him, which is really lame because I liked it much better when it looked like he'd subtly gotten killed.
This movie's concept and basic plot rank pretty high up there, especially because the emotional stakes are much higher than usual. Rather than there just being some silly territorial squabble, or somebody desiring some sort of power, Arceus has a powerful, genuine reason to be angry and feel betrayed, and though Marcus's actions are unquestionably evil and in no way justifiable, he too genuinely believes that returning the jewel will mean returning the land to ruin and thus has a semi-understandable, personal motive to do what he does, rather than just being evil or wanting power.
It is also one of very few Pokémon movies to include and pull off an actual plot twist. The sixth movie had the reveal of Butler being the villain which would have worked better if the intro hadn't shown him finding the Jirachi egg while talking about how he's a guy who was trying to gain power and got more than he wished for, the seventh set Deoxys up as evil but was kind of predictable once we'd seen Tory being friends with a floaty mist the same color as what was obviously a second Deoxys, the eighth cast doubt on Aaron's integrity from the start but always presented it as a mystery rather than outright leading the viewer to think he'd really abandoned Lucario, and the tenth tried to set Darkrai up as being evil but pretty much failed miserably because the good guys knew he wasn't from practically the very beginning. However, this movie sets Damos up as being the one who betrayed Arceus and it mostly works. Mind you, I still didn't quite buy it just because Damos looked too much like a good guy while in those flashbacks he always had that suspicious evil-looking guy behind him, but hey, props for not killing the surprise with the writing of the actual movie.
I also really liked that they actually used this fake-out in an interesting way and not just as a self-congratulatory "Look! We have a plot twist!" thing, as this is what causes Sheena to blab everything to Marcus. And that very thing is something else I really like, namely that Marcus, instead of just throwing her away somewhere she couldn't interfere, actually listened to her and used the information she gave him to modify his plan, not just to prevent his own death but also to ensure that the disaster of the future will never happen and Michina Town can remain safe and prosperous for ages to come. It's a villain with foresight who is actually smart in his own misguided way! Fancy that.
Aside from the plot, I also thoroughly enjoyed the way this movie portrays Arceus. This may just be me and my love for twisting religion around, but I love that Arceus is clearly fallible and mortal (in the can-be-killed sense) and gets to be a real character instead of just a tiresome almighty god. Because he's mortal, his heroic sacrifice when he stops the meteor truly means something, and we know he really is giving away a part of himself in gratitude to Damos when he leaves the Jewel of Life behind. Because he's fallible, he can be hurt, angry and betrayed; he truly trusted Damos and truly expected the jewel back, was truly deceived and is truly consumed with anger and hatred by the time he comes back to reap vengeance on humanity. And at the end of the movie he can truly say he's actually learned something, unlike an infallible god who must somehow have been right all along.
The result of this is that throughout the movie you can actually properly sympathize with Arceus, and I have a real weakness for works that manage to make religious figures sympathetic (see my everlasting love for Jesus Christ Superstar). I found the scene where he was half-buried in metal with his head down, his eyes glowing red while he didn't react to the jewel especially powerful in this regard; he's been betrayed so thoroughly he doesn't even care about the Jewel of Life anymore and is just lost somewhere in the depths of his own fury trying to understand how someone he trusted with his life could have done this to him. It's kind of curious, what with his complete lack of facial expressions and the fact he's not even moving or talking at all in this scene, but somehow I can really feel that anger. Definitely my favorite bit in the movie.
In general it does a reasonably good job with its characters. Damos is immediately likeable once we've met him and realized who he really is, Marcus is a pretty good villain as I noted above, and though I know a lot of people really don't like Sheena, I like the fact that they used her to unwittingly help the villain while she was trying to do the right thing. Kevin was just sort of there, but eh.
Then it's pretty to look at, the pacing is good, and it had a bunch of Rattata taking part in saving the day. Tell me that's not awesome. (Seriously, though, a bunch of non-trained Pokémon and even Brock get to do something! That doesn't happen often.)
Oh, boy. As I said, the time-traveling aspect of the plot is an absolute mess in its execution. First we have people fading away if the past is being modified in such a way that they wouldn't travel to the past. This just causes all sorts of problems. Practical applications of time travel generally revolve around changing something in the past so that some problem will not present itself in the future, which by definition means they'll no longer have any reason to travel to the past once that time comes along; thus, in general it's not really a stellar idea for time-travel fiction to implement this sort of thing, and this movie is no exception. There should be absolutely no practical difference for Ash/Dawn/Brock/Sheena between the situation of Arceus being dead so he can't appear in the future and Arceus having been given the Jewel of Life so he won't appear in the future, and yet only one of these situations causes the time travelers to start fading. Why?
As I said, it's likely the writers had seen Back to the Future, which does feature a time-traveler fading away because he had changed something in the past. However, Marty McFly was fading away because what he changed would result in him never being born, not just in him never traveling to the past. The timeline erased him because as it was developing, he would never exist, and thus he is "corrected" to be nonexistent, much the same way the future newspapers in the sequels got magically "corrected" to say different things once they'd fixed the past. I'm not claiming that Back to the Future time travel makes perfect scientific sense, but at least it's pretty consistent and you can see the logic in it. Unfortunately the same can't be said of this movie. Indeed, any sort of fading away implies the timeline has already completely corrected its entire history including where the time-travelers were at the time and their lack of going back in time, but when they return to the future, they see that no correction whatsoever has taken place yet. This is in plain contradiction with the whole fading-away thing.
The worst thing about this is really that the entire bit with them fading away was completely unnecessary in the first place; the movie could have played out the exact same way with them not fading away at all without losing anything of value. It was just used in an attempt to add more drama when Arceus wasn't taking the jewel, and personally, I was much more moved by Arceus there than by Ash turning transparent.
Moreover, the correction itself makes no sense. Even aside from the fact it didn't happen immediately, there's how it seems to be triggered by Ash shouting Arceus's name for no discernible reason whatsoever, and the fact the correction only corrects a select few things (the state of the temple, the bridge, etc., the stone panel Damos made, Arceus's memories, Jewel of Life's location) but not others (Arceus's location, the other legendaries' locations and states, Kevin's location and memories, Team Rocket's location and memories). I've heard it suggested that Dialga manually merged the two timelines, picking and choosing what to keep from each, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me and is certainly not the first thing you think of when you see it, so it just feels like a big 'what' moment. And either way clearly the timeline is not self-correcting now, so why should it have been when Arceus was dying?
Then there's the way somehow time passes in the future 'while' they're in the past, with Palkia and Giratina continuing to hold off Arceus's attacks for what appear to be at least several minutes while Ash and company are fixing things in the past.
Of course, time travel is a sticky affair and if you think about any sort of fictional time travel too much you're guaranteed to get a headache, so let's just say this movie has completely nonsensical time travel mechanics and move on. The next issue I have is that certain things about Marcus's actions don't make sense, even though I like much of how he was handled. First, how was he so willing to believe Sheena when she said she was from the future? At least Ash proved it to Damos pretty conclusively by having this miraculous piece of technology that can hold Pokémon inside it, but Sheena wasn't seen doing anything to prove her story, and yet all we see of Marcus doubting her is a couple of sentences first after she appears - then she starts babbling about stopping the fight with Arceus, which I guess he might figure an outsider shouldn't know about, but he should at least suspect she's affiliated with Damos somehow or something - I mean, it's not like this is a time where people are seriously acquainted with the idea of time travel from science fiction, so the notion they're from the future should strike him as being about as absurd as if somebody in the real world today claimed to really be a frog cursed by an evil witch. But no, he just invites her to speak with him and takes her completely seriously with almost nothing in the way of persuasion.
Further, it strikes me as odd he didn't use the silver water in the first place. I mean, if he had access to it, and could obviously conceive of using it against Arceus since he was the one who asked Sheena about it, why wouldn't he? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry when you know you're dealing with a ridiculously powerful creature? I guess maybe he underestimated Arceus until he actually heard about it from Sheena, but still.
Then I have no idea what's up with those saddle-harnesses. So okay, they seem to make the Pokémon into slaves, one way or another, and are uncomfortable and restricting. However, they're not some high-tech thing that dispenses electric shocks for disobedience or anything, they don't mind-control (as shown by Chikorita and Cyndaquil being unhappy when they had them, Heatran and Bronzong managing to defect while wearing them, and all the Pokémon being able to stop attacking Arceus when asked to by Sheena and Damos), and clearly they don't suppress the Pokémon's powers, since Heatran and Bronzong could battle while wearing them. So then what is it that they do, and why is it so important that every single Pokémon in town (bar Damos's Spiky-Ear Pichu) is fitted with one? I mean, they have to be custom-designed for every Pokémon species, so it doesn't make sense they'd make them just for the hell of it. The only thing I can think of is that they're restrictive in such a way as to make it hard for the Pokémon to just run away (hence making it possible to enslave that poor Chikorita and Cyndaquil who could just waltz out of there once the harnesses had been removed), but that's rather flimsy and would only really work for a limited number of Pokémon species. All in all I can't really make heads or tails of those things and am not really sure why they're there. As far as I can tell the movie could easily have worked unchanged without them.
Finally, the weird use of the plates bugs me, Heatran's appearance is awfully random and unceremonious what with it just being a lowly servant of the villain, and there were those CGI trees at the beginning.
All in all, this movie is pretty good, as long as you're willing to look the other way when it gets nonsensical. It benefits from an emotionally charged, interesting main plot and some strong characters with depth to them. However, the time travel mechanics are patently ridiculous and other aspects don't really work out. I'd still rank it reasonably highly just for the plot, but the logic holes are hard to ignore completely.
Page last modified February 16 2011 at 11:29 GMT