Sunday 25 November 2018

"Pokémon The Movie: The Power of Us" (Guardian 23/11/18)

Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us *
Dir: Tetsuo Yajima. Animation with the voices of: Sarah Natochenny, Ikue Ōtani, Michele Knotz, Rodger Parsons. 112 mins. Cert: PG

No idea whether this makes the prospect more appealing for accompanying adults, but the 112-minute running time here includes ads for the official Pokémon magazine and console games, multiple unfathomable shorts, and a sneak-peek at next summer’s live-action Detective Pikachu. After last summer’s animated series reboot I Choose You! – detailing how Everyboy hero Ash first partnered up with the totemic Pikachu – it’s evidently business as usual within the branded collectibles universe. The overextended cartoon that follows broadens its predecessor’s focus by establishing a coastal Poké-festival that brings multiple players – including (brand expansion alert) girls – to the table. Yet it never transcends its resemblance to a trailer for other forms of product, landing just in time for Christmas.

The cynicism might have slipped down easier if it had been cut with something else; instead, it’s set before us in artless blocks. Director Tetsuo Yajima, a veteran of the late 90s TV series that made this pursuit a phenomenon, can punch up the colours here and there and drop in (clumsy) stabs at digimation, but he’s contractually obliged to retain the same basic-to-ungainly afterschool visuals and irritating voice artists. The reboot hasn’t changed the way these things look and sound; the two animations have merely doubled down on the aesthetic paying fans were nursed on. That creative arrested development surely accounts for the needless furore provoked online by the live-action movie’s newly furry Pikachu: an imagination has been applied that challenges the long-established rules of the game.

Even narratively, the new film’s a dud, as diffuse in its storytelling as the clouds of toxic smog that threaten the Festival’s success. Amid the fug, grown-ups will be able to make out an entirely arbitrary designation of rare new creatures, intended to shift more packets of trading cards, and an environmental message, half-baked and half-inched from Ghibli, which seriously positions Pokémon collecting as a means of slowing the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources; suffice to say, it plays a little synthetic coming barely an hour after an advert for a tie-in magazine offering an array of single-use free gifts. Give the conglomerates responsible points for brazenness, but if our kids are swallowing this meretricious Pika-crap wholesale, we really are doomed. 

Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us screened in cinemas nationwide yesterday.

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