Pokémon Heroes 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
I actually watched the dub a couple of days before the final Japanese viewing for this review, and originally saw it in the Icelandic dub, which was based on the English one. Therefore, here I can actually personally comment on the dub, and I can tell you right now that it's a lot better in Japanese. Either way it's a pretty weird movie because for once, Ash actually has practically nothing to do with saving the day.
The film (the Japanese version, that is) starts with a legend being narrated by a mysterious female voice. Once upon a time, on the island of Alto Mare, there were an old couple, and one day they found two injured children, a brother and a sister, by the shore. They nursed them back to health, but then a monster attacked the island. (The simplistic visuals here show the "monster" as a brown shape with what looks like a bunch of cogs spinning inside it, and little brown diamond shapes rain down upon the buildings on the island; I don't know what's up with that. Dogasu translated the "evil monster" part as "evil rain"; perhaps it's some sort of an ambiguous translation, but I'm sticking with the fansub's translations of what's going on in the movie, even when it's inconsistent with Dogasu's comparison.) Just as it was consuming the island, the two children began to transform: they were the legendary Pokémon Latios and Latias, and they called a swarm of other Latios and Latias down to help them defeat the monster. They used the Soul Dew somehow to banish it and then gave the jewel to the old couple before they left. Peace returned to the island. After that, Latias and Latios continued to visit frequently and the island was never attacked by the evil monster again. None of this, by the way, is ever shown or referenced in the dub - they completely changed the backstory for some bizarre reason.
Near the end of this cryptic legend, we zoom out to see that the images we have been seeing are (well, animated versions of) pictures in a book, which is hurriedly closed as footsteps are heard. Two sisters, Annie and Oakley (the latter being the narrator of the legend we just heard), crouch near a huge bookcase - they seem to be in a library. A nightguard approaches, but they grab the book and hide. They then proceed to escape from the library (with the book they just stole, of course) while their theme music plays. They have a rocket-powered escape car that can fly. In other words, they are pretty cool - they're some of the Pokémon movies' more fun villains, really, if just because they feel so satisfyingly much more competent than most of them. They're not just a random guy who wants legendary Pokémon X and fails - they're master thieves with a long career behind them, and more importantly, we can actually believe it when we watch them. So hooray for Annie and Oakley. On the way, they hint that they want to both steal the Soul Dew and capture Latias and Latios (though they do not, as in the dub, explicitly mention needing to "capture them for Giovanni" - they aren't even hinted to be members of Team Rocket at all in the Japanese version).
Anyway, we don't stay with them for long - instead we cut to our heroes Ash and Misty, who while Brock watches are about to compete in a Water Pokémon race along the canals of
Venice Alto Mare - the contestants stand in little hollow half-sphere boats while holding their chosen Water Pokémon (Totodile for Ash, Corsola for Misty) on a leash. Think of it as being kind of like water skiing. For most of the race, Ash is doing pretty well; however, then the "invisible" (though of course, we can still see their shapes clearly in the air) forms of Latios and Latias start to interfere, first saving him from crashing into the wall when he is thrown off in a too-sharp turn, and then actually pulling Totodile ahead to go faster; for some reason Ash suspects nothing at all. He has been dragged far ahead of the leaders (Misty and last year's champion) when suddenly Latios and Latias pull him into a wrong turn and he ends up in some faraway pool while Misty narrowly wins the race (thanks to her Corsola reaching forward with its antlers). Meanwhile, Ash sits there telling his Totodile that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, which really ought to make Totodile protest that something was actually pulling it that way, but it's just psyched about being accepted. Latios and Latias just fly away. Ash, Misty and Brock then all get invited on a boat ride with the former champion, who tells them about how Latias and Latios are believed to be watching over the city even now.
Meanwhile, something that looks most like a round webcam with a drill on top of it lands on a windowsill above a sunny square of Alto Mare. It is of course a spy camera deployed by Annie and Oakley. It's not just a spy camera, either, but an infrared heat camera that they are using to scan the area for Latias or Latios in human form - they have a lower body heat than real humans, and thus it's a good way to spot them in a crowd. They find a suspiciously cold human and head after them in a motor boat. Meanwhile, as Ash, Misty and Brock are about to go to get some food, Pikachu tries to get water from a water faucet and a young woman with a suspiciously Latias-like haircut comes along and turns it on for Pikachu just as Ash arrives to help. She stares very oddly at Ash, just in case we weren't already suspicious of her identity, and then leaves without saying a word.
Annie and Oakley watch her as she emerges on a sidewalk near their boat and confirm that yes, this is Latias posing as a human. They confront her and send out their Espeon and Ariados to chase after her. Pikachu hears it and rushes to help; Ash naturally follows, leading Ash right to where Annie and Oakley have gotten Latias stuck in Ariados's Spider Web. He releases her and pulls her away after having Pikachu Thunderbolt the two thieves and their Pokémon. Latias soon takes the lead, directs Ash back to where he started, and then vanishes while he isn't looking her way.
Ash and company visit a temple that for some reason has Aerodactyl and Kabutops fossils decorating the floor. A tour guide named Lorenzo tells them it was built for Latios and Latias as an expression of gratitude. The temple is built around a strange machine that has been there longer than the current incarnation of the temple itself; supposedly it exists for the sake of keeping the peace, but nobody knows how it is operated. This aspect of the backstory is of course not in the dub either; there, instead he tells them that the Aerodactyl and Kabutops were owned by an evil trainer who taught them to attack people and that Latios and Latias then brought the water into the city and drowned the evil Pokémon (which raises the question of why on earth they're morbidly keeping their bones on display) and that the machine is the "Defense Mechanism of Alto Mare", built so that nobody could ever disrupt the peace again. Disturbingly, the dub treats the "Defense Mechanism of Alto Mare" specifically as a weapon despite the name, giving the impression that the citizens of Alto Mare are hypocrites who "keep the peace" by having the world's most powerful weapon at their disposal. The Aerodactyl and Kabutops have absolutely no significance in the Japanese version.
While Lorenzo is telling them about this, however, Ash is distracted, because the strange girl he saw seems to be on a higher floor in the temple, painting. He rushes after her as she leaves the building, eventually catching up enough to ask her why she ran away; she mysteriously responds that she has no idea what he is talking about and continues on her way, which of course makes him only all the more determined to follow. Just when he thinks he has lost her, she pops up again on a bridge and beckons for him to follow her. She leads him into an alleyway and then simply walks through a wall there, followed by Pikachu and then by an incredulous Ash. This gets him into a beautiful garden hidden away in the middle of the city.
Suddenly he is attacked by a huge invisible shape (again, "invisible"; it's clearly Latios) that keeps dive-bombing him until Latias - still in the form of a girl - comes and stands in front of him to stop her brother. Latios makes himself visible again and makes a couple of complaining grunts. I don't really get why Latios has so much against him all of a sudden, when he and Latias were helping him cheat in that race at the beginning, but whatever; I guess he's just suspicious about the intrusion into the secret garden. Then a girl arrives - and she looks just like Latias except that she is carrying a sketchpad and has a beret on. This is, of course, the person Ash saw at the temple and who he shouted to while chasing after her. She is suspicious of Ash, but then Lorenzo the tour guide, who turns out to be her grandfather, arrives on the scene and vouches for him.
Latias, it turns out, just really liked him for some reason and wanted to play with him. The real girl's name is Bianca, and her family are the guardians of the secret of this garden, where Latias and Latios can reside safely when they come to the city; that is why Latias tends to transform into her, though it doesn't explain why Bianca's haircut just happens to make her look like Latias too. While this is explained, we get one of those long scenes of Pokémon randomly playing around and being cute, here Latias, Latios and Pikachu. Latios also completely randomly decides to show Ash his "sightsharing" ability: his eyes glow, and then Latias and whoever else she lets in on it can see whatever he sees. We get a lengthy scene showing that off. Who wants to bet this ability will be used later in the movie?
Finally, Bianca tells Ash the legend told at the beginning of the movie, which is illustrated with stone panels in the garden. More stone panels tell of how the strange machine in the temple is really for unleashing the power of the Soul Dew with Latios or Latias's help. They show Ash where the Soul Dew lies in a pool of water in a large basin. Lorenzo makes Ash promise not to reveal this to anyone before he leaves the garden, but as Latias and Latios are playing, we see one of Annie and Oakley's spy cameras watching...
That night, Annie and Oakley send Espeon to knock Lorenzo out with a Psychic attack and then enter the secret garden to capture Latias and Latios and get the Soul Dew. After a struggle, Latios lets them capture him in order for Latias to get away and find help. Annie and Oakley also grab the Soul Dew and decipher the instructions about unleashing its power through the machine in the temple from the stone panels: apparently they warn that if the Soul Dew is used for evil, it will be lost and so will the island. Hmm, ominous.
Bianca and Lorenzo come back out into the garden and realize the Soul Dew is gone; for some reason Bianca immediately concludes it was the two women who attacked Latias (as Ash told her about earlier), rather than that Ash told somebody. Meanwhile, Annie and Oakley drag an unconscious Latios into the temple and place him on a part of the floor, where some metal rings rise up to cage him in mid-air before the machine begins to open. Lorenzo and Bianca barge in, but Annie's Espeon knocks them both out with a Psychic and the two women continue as if they'd never been interrupted. They place the Soul Dew where it's supposed to go, and the machine springs to life.
Meanwhile, Latias comes to Ash, Misty and Brock's hotel room through the window to get help. (Ash appears to be sleeping in his jeans, because he jumps right out of bed wearing them.) He introduces Latias to Misty and Brock but she looks anxious, and unfortunately, even though she is in her human form, she cannot speak to communicate what is wrong.
At the temple, Bianca and Lorenzo have regained consciousness, but they have been wrapped up in Ariados's Spider Web instead. Bianca shouts at Latios to wake up, which he does as Oakley steps into the sphere from which the machine is controlled. Latios tries to break out of the metal cage, but can't; instead, he comes up with what the audience is bound to have come up with too, namely using sightsharing to allow Latias to see what is going on. Conveniently, Latias can show it to Ash, Misty and Brock as well, and when they see Lorenzo and Bianca all tied up at the temple with the Soul Dew powering that creepy machine, they know where they're needed. As they watch, Oakley uses the power of the Soul Dew to revive the random Kabutops and Aerodactyl from the floor and orders them to capture Latias and bring her to them - they want both Latios and Latias, after all.
Latios stops sightsharing, and Oakley continues by activating a control to make metal gates close on all the streets in town to prevent outside intervention: this is what the citizens of Alto Mare used to prevent enemies from getting into the city. Ash and Latias barely manage to get out on the streets before a metal gate closes all exits from the house they were in. He steals a gondola and begins to try to make his way towards the temple. Aerodactyl appears on the way and snatches Latias, but Pikachu fries it with a Thunderbolt, causing Ash to fall into the canal and Latias to turn invisible and fly away in panic. Aerodactyl destroys the gondola with a Hyper Beam, but Latias reappears and they find some of the little half-spheres used in the Water Pokémon race and use one of those, with Latias pulling it. They shake Aerodactyl off pretty easily.
Brock and Misty try to get out, but fail; Misty worries because Ash doesn't have his Pokémon with him (except for Pikachu, of course), and they decide to send their own Pokémon to help Ash instead (as opposed to, you know, just sending out his own Pokémon from the Pokéballs Misty is holding in her hand and having them go find him). Meanwhile, Kabutops comes after Ash and Latias, but Brock and Misty's Pokémon arrive just in time to fight it off.
Back at the temple, Oakley is going a bit mad with power and decides to send a mini-tidal wave after Ash and Latias (whom she has seen coming through the power of the Soul Dew) while Lorenzo protests, reciting that bit about how if the Soul Dew is used for evil, it will be destroyed forever. She creates a wall of water around the two of them and tries to drown them in there, but Latias uses her powers to destroy it. Thankfully, they are now just outside the temple and rush inside.
Trying to drown people, however, is unquestionably the kind of evil that will destroy the Soul Dew, and thus the machine goes berserk with a lot of electric sparks flying around. As the machine spins chaotically with Oakley still in the control chamber, Annie is clearly worried for her. Ash meanwhile has Pikachu Thunderbolt Annie and Espeon and runs up to Bianca and Lorenzo, releasing them before he tries his usual method of solving problems: running head-on into things, here Latios's cage. (This made me seriously wonder if Ash does that at some point in every Pokémon movie.) Eventually, Latias manages to get him out with a bit of help from them, and the machine whirs to a stop.
Annie moves to grab the Soul Dew, but it has turned dark-colored and creepy; Lorenzo shouts she mustn't touch it, but she does anyway, causing it to release a blast of power that knocks her straight into the control chamber with Oakley, breaks the Soul Dew for good and starts up the machine again. Lorenzo recites the legend again: if the Soul Dew is used for evil, not only will it be destroyed, but also the whole town. Outside, the water begins to drain out of the canals of Alto Mare, and then it starts to return... in a really humongous tidal wave filling the entire horizon. Latios and Latias fly out to meet it, a white sphere of light forming around them as they smash into the wave and destroy it, saving the city. I'm not precisely sure how this affected the entire wave and not just the small part they actually crashed into, but hey.
Inside the sphere of light, Latios has turned translucent while Latias still looks normal. This can't be good. They touch one last time before Latios begins to fade away into the light, and a bright beam shoots up towards the sky as seen from where Ash and company are standing. The ocean falls calmly in, refilling the canals of the city as all the protective gates around the city finally open (...which really begs the question of how Misty and Brock managed to get to the temple a short while earlier, if they hadn't already opened). Kabutops and Aerodactyl vanish into sparkles of light and return to the temple floor, and the people of Alto Mare look out their windows as on any normal day. Annie and Oakley squabble inside the control chamber for the machine, stuck. Everything seems to be okay. ...wait, where did the Latis go?
In the morning, Ash and company go with Lorenzo and Bianca out on a boat to look for Latios and Latias. Eventually, they come upon Latias, who is being carried unconscious by a wild Mantine; they take her into the boat as she regains consciousness and ask her where Latios is. She looks sadly up towards the sky.
Yup. Latios really did die to save the city, and there was no cop-out to bring him back. There is, however, a scene where Latias's eyes suddenly glow and she sightshares with them, showing them what Latios is now seeing. They see themselves inside a sphere that looks suspiciously like the Soul Dew, ascending ever farther from the earth. Apparently, there is a Pokémon heaven, and it's in space. The sphere around them turns into a small light which then falls into Bianca's hand as the sightsharing ends: it's a new Soul Dew, formed from this Latios's soul. They head back to the secret garden and place the Soul Dew in the basin where the old one used to be.
Oh, and as Ash and company leave the town, somebody who could be either Bianca or Latias (but is probably Latias, judging from her demeanor) comes and kisses Ash, much to the horror of both Brock and Misty. It's quite amusing.
During the end credits, they see two Latios and a Latias flying in the sky, showing there are more of them around. Annie and Oakley are also rescued from the machine and arrested, and are seen in prison reading a book about Lawrence III. Yeah, the guy from the second movie. Never would have thought he would ever be seen again, huh?
Well, as I said, Annie and Oakley are pretty cool villains because you genuinely get a sense that they're pretty good at what they do. I love the generally aesthetically pleasing setting and the music (which thankfully was kept in the dub). I liked how Latias's human form was done, always a bit inhuman and just off. Latios got to actually die without being unceremoniously brought back to make the ending happier. The pacing is pretty good, and the plot pretty much makes sense. Ash isn't forced into the plot to save the day. Plenty of positives, basically.
I actually started typing out the Bad section below complaining about Annie and Oakley's motives in several areas not making sense, but when I actually started writing out my complaints, I thought about them enough to realize it made sense after all, and in the process I also started to really appreciate Annie and Oakley as characters, particularly their relationship with one another. So count that as a good point too.
Well. First of all, a lot of characters are pretty useless. You might notice that like for the third movie, I did not mention Team Rocket anywhere in the synopsis. They are still in there, but it's even worse than in the third movie: this time, there is literally not a single scene where Team Rocket interact with any other character at all. All they do in the whole movie is getting hurt in various ways in the background. The only thing Brock and Misty do in the movie is hanging around with Ash in a few mostly non-plot-relevant scenes: every time Ash is doing something that matters - chasing after Latias, being in the secret garden, going with Latias to help Latios - he has been separated from them for one reason or another, and the closest they ever come to relevance is when their Pokémon save Ash from Kabutops, once. And even Ash himself doesn't do much of significance when we get right down to it. He comes and saves Latias from Annie and Oakley the first time that they attack her, and then he releases Bianca and Lorenzo at the temple at the end, but when you think about it, that's it. It's not even he who gets Latios out of the cage, and it's not as if Bianca and Lorenzo are terribly useful in what follows, so releasing them doesn't even count for that much. This movie is the story of how Annie and Oakley tried to capture Latios and Latias and get the Soul Dew, Oakley got greedy and tried to use the Soul Dew for evil, they almost destroyed the city of Alto Mare, and Latios and Latias then saved it at the cost of Latios's life. All the other characters are unimportant and really do nothing of worth.
Though it is listed under "The Bad", how bad that actually is for the movie is kind of debatable. You don't really notice it when you're just watching the movie, and it is kind of nice to watch somebody other than Ash get to unquestionably be the real hero. It hits me that Latias might have been much better off just going to the temple by herself instead of recruiting Ash's help - she might even have stopped it before Oakley got to do anything evil with the Soul Dew, preventing the whole tidal wave thing and Latios's death. However, this isn't really a plot hole, because Latias didn't know what they were doing with Latios until he sightshared with her, and by then she was already recruiting Ash's help, which was a perfectly logical move in the situation - Annie and Oakley had so nearly captured both of them earlier, and thus she had every reason to think they would capture her easily if she confronted them alone. (The only reason Espeon and Ariados didn't attack Latias when she started trying to bust Latios out of the cage at the temple is that Annie was simply too shocked and concerned for Oakley to actually care anymore about capturing Latias and Latios and thus didn't order them to do anything.)
So well, all the human characters other than Annie and Oakley could pretty much be cut out of the movie with little harm to the actual story. However, that's really my only major complaint, and as detailed above it isn't really that major, because it doesn't create plot holes the way Ash's involvement in plots where he doesn't belong often does. There is still how Brock and Misty magically appeared at the temple at the end even though the gates hadn't been opened, but since Brock and Misty don't do anything of significance, this doesn't have enough of an impact to become a serious flaw in the story. There is the random tiresome scene where Latios and Latias pointlessly play with Ash and Pikachu while some silly pop song plays in the background, but those scenes are in most of the movies and it doesn't actively hurt it much. There is the obvious computer-generatedness of the machine whenever it moves, but at least it is a machine, making the movements not look quite as painfully unnatural as in the fourth movie, and it doesn't have that much screentime. There is the lack of much of a clear reason why Latios had to die when Latias was completely fine, but it can be explained as Latios having been hurt before and perhaps deliberately taking on the bulk of the harm from their final attack in order to protect Latias, since he has been shown throughout the movie sacrificing himself for her sake. There are the various little illogicalities mentioned throughout the synopsis, but none of them are really significant. Basically, several minor complaints, but they don't really hurt the movie much as a whole.
So since I can't really complain about the original movie, I'll complain about the dub instead. The dub causes several things that actually work in the Japanese version to just not make sense and leave the movie very lackluster, even aside from the fact they randomly changed all that stuff to begin with. First, there's the consistent referring to the "Defense Mechanism of Alto Mare" as a weapon, and the fact that Oakley mentions wanting to control the weapon from the very beginning. It simply isn't a weapon, and Oakley knows that perfectly well once she gets to control it, because she doesn't use it as a weapon, either. All she does with it is raise the Aerodactyl and Kabutops in order to capture Latias and thus finish the original job, taking measures to prevent interference by people like Ash, and then, once she'd gotten a taste of being so very in control, trying to drown Ash and Latias with it to prevent them from stopping them for good. What would Oakley even want with a weapon? They're thieves; they're not trying to fight anybody. They have no use for a weapon.
Second, the dub leaves us with no good reason why the tidal wave appeared, since it left out the thing about how using the Soul Dew for evil will destroy both it and the town. In the Japanese version, the implication is that using its power for evil basically corrupts the Soul Dew, hence making it cause a disaster like that. In the dub, however, the focus is on the Defense Mechanism being a great weapon or whatever and the Soul Dew merely being a prop to power it, rather than the machine being a way to direct the inherent power of the Soul Dew. Oakley does read from the stone panels that the Defense Mechanism may only be used as a "last resort" (no mention of actually using it for evil) or it will be destroyed and the water will leave, but it says nothing about actually destroying the town. I got a vague implication that they'd simply "used up" the Soul Dew's power and that because Latias and Latios were in the dub said to have raised the waters into the city's canals, it was the Soul Dew that kept the water there. Then it makes sense that it would be drained out of the city when the Soul Dew was used up, but then the tidal wave is just some sort of a confusing side-effect, which doesn't even really work since the only reason the water would come rushing back so violently is if gravity really is pulling it there. It feels nonsensical and unsatisfying.
Third, the new backstory they created is both stupid, lame, irrelevant and nonsensical. An evil trainer taught Aerodactyl and Kabutops to attack humans? Why couldn't the people defeat them with their own Pokémon - why did they need Latias and Latios to come and drown them, of all things? Isn't that a little extreme, drowning the poor Pokémon for what their trainer taught them - doesn't the anime keep preaching the message that Pokémon can't be held accountable for what they do for evil trainers? Again, what on earth would possess them to then put their remains on display? What does this backstory help explain - why can't the Aerodactyl and Kabutops just be an Aerodactyl and a Kabutops, instead of making them out to be some ancient evil that is then defeated extremely anticlimactically? When I first saw this movie, that really bothered me; once Oakley raised them, I got the impression they were going to take over as the main villains, and then they were just cleanly disposed of without it mattering.
Fourth, they created a plot hole by making Bianca actually explicitly state when trying to wake up Latios that if he opens his eyes he can use sightsharing to show Latias what is going on. How is she supposed to know it would be useful just now to sightshare with Latias? For all she knows, Annie and Oakley might have Latias captured or unconscious somewhere else, or she otherwise might not be able to help even if she did get to see what was going on, and even if she was free and able to help, she would probably know approximately what happened to Latios anyway. It doesn't make sense to be as confident as she seems to be that it will do any good to sightshare. It makes sense for Latios to do it on his own accord, since he knows Latias escaped and probably told her to go get help before she did, besides that he might just want her to see the full details of the situation even if she can't help, but Bianca saying it as if that's the key to their salvation just bothers me.
Fifth, they changed Latias and Latios's voices (more notably Latios's), their volume and the frequency of using them so that they ended up spending most of their screentime giving off annoying, loud, high-pitched wails. It was even worse in the Icelandic dub, where I'm pretty sure they were even squeakier, but the English one also makes them pretty irritating to listen to for very long. In the Japanese version, they still do squeak, but they're not as high-pitched (particularly Latios), not as loud in most of it, and they aren't doing it quite all the freaking time.
All in all, this movie is pretty good, as long as you're watching the Japanese version. I'd rank the Japanese one pretty highly on my list of favorite Pokémon movies, but the dub as mediocre at the very best. Go find a fansub if you haven't already.
Page last modified January 10 2013 at 19:32 GMT