Now, a year after Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!, OLM / Wit Studio and director Tetuso Yajima present the next chapter in the super popular Japanese anime franchise with the movie Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us. Does this Pokémon movie find its stride or does it fail to find a “connection” in the popular franchise?
Synopsis: A young athlete whose running days might be behind her, a compulsive liar, a shy researcher, a bitter old woman, and a little girl with a big secret—the only thing they have in common is the annual Wind Festival in Fula City. The festival celebrates the Legendary Pokémon Lugia, who brings the wind that powers this seaside city. When a series of threats endangers not just the festival, but all the people and Pokémon of Fula City, it’ll take more than just Ash and Pikachu to save the day! Can everyone put aside their differences and work together—or will it all end in destruction? (The Pokemon Company)
Starring: Sarah Natochenny, James Carter Cathcart, and Michele Knotz
Writers: Aya Takaha and Eiji Umehara
Director: Tetsuo Yajima
Running Time: 105mins
Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us is a mixture of good and bad, promising colorful characters and sweet story of friendship amongst humans and Pokémon, but lacks the gravitas and grandeur of its predecessors. They’re plenty to like about it, but is just need a little more “oomph”. While Kunihiko Yuyama directed many of the Pokémon movies (from Pokémon: The First Movie to Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!), he did not return to the director’s chair to helm The Power of Us. Instead that duty is passed onto Yajima, someone who has directed on several TV episodes of Pokémon and was an assistant director for I Choose You!. To his credit, Yajima accomplishes a lot while handling in his first solo directorial Pokémon movie, navigating through several common nuances that usually accompany a Pokémon installment, but keeps its own identity throughout. In truth, Yajima makes The Power of Us a more “intimate” Pokémon movie than many others, with the film focusing more on characters than plot. Yajima does a fairly good job in crafting The Power of Us, utilizing a self-contained narrative from a new alternative timeline that is easily accessible from veterans and newcomer to the series.
The film’s script, penned by Takaha and Umehara, speaks to the inherit nature of the Pokémon franchise by showcasing the power of friendship between humans and Pokémon and the bonds of working together. Upon further examination, what’s even more important is the bond of between the relationship between Pokémon and its trainer as well as the power of making a difference, despite a person’s limitations. All in all, while the story did possess some problematic elements, it is still a sweet and kind-hearted tale that feels very much like a Pokémon adventure.
Much like I Choose You!, The Power of Us’s overall animation looks beautiful. Of course, it’s not as super crisp and glossy-looking like many of the big Hollywood studios animated features. There are a few moments where the animation is a little bit bland, but it still contains some great-looking shots. It’s quite interesting to see how much the animation of Pokémon TV series has evolved from the early days of the show or even from the animation of Pokémon: The First Movie…in a good way. The Pokémon movies, which usually feature CGI effects, can be a bit jarring and while it does happen here, the overall look and feel of the movie far outweighs that particular criticism remark.
However, some problems do arise, fumbling through the story as a result. Much like a lot of the other Pokémon movies, the story usually features the same premise. Unfortunately, with more focus on the other characters, The Power of Us lacks the overall epic gravitas that many of the other Pokémon movies achieved. Yes, the film features some legendary Pokémon but were bit underutilized in the feature. In reality, it felt more along the lines of an extended four-part episode story arc from the TV series than a feature film. The Pokémon movies have evolved with each subsequent release, providing deeper and sometimes more sophisticated stories for these particular animated features. The Power of Us feels like a step back to a more simplistic nature akin to the TV series. What also didn’t help was its run time of 105 minutes, making it one of the longest Pokémon movies to date. Naturally, the film’s length is due to the many narrative threads to setup for the various characters in the movie. This only makes the first half of the movie feel lax and a bit tedious.
The overall voice acting is pretty good. The movie’s cast were good at bringing these characters to life. Natochenny returns to her post as Ash Ketchum and is solid. The same can be said about the members of the Team Rocket trio, with Cathcart as James and Mewoth and Knotz as Jesse. The Power of Us also boasts plenty of good performances from the many supporting characters such as: Haven Paschall as Lisa, Eddy Lee as Toren, Erica Schroeder as Mayor Oliver’s daughter Margo, Marc Thompson as Margo’s father Oliver, Laurie Hymes as Kelly, Billy Bob Thompson as Kelly’s uncle Cahallan, and Kathryn Cahill as Harriet. These characters were not merely side-characters in the movie as they had large supporting roles in the movie. Most importantly, it’s still pretty cool to hear Rodger Parson’s voice as the “narrator” that bookends the feature.
Ash Ketchum, Pikachu, and several colorful characters band together to save Fula City from disaster and learn more about themselves in the process in Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us. Yajima’s latest film sees the continuation of the new cinematic timeline in the Poke-verse, spinning a new tale for series protagonist Ash and Pikachu explore and experience. While the movie doesn’t quite measure up to what’s come before from the previous Pokémon movies, there is still plenty to like. The story was sweet and charming, full of colorful characters, but the movie simply lacked a strong and sophisticated narrative like in past Pokémon movies. Therefore, this movie is a “iffy-choice” as the large fan base might be split by this movie. It will be interesting to see if the next feature will be set in this “alternative” timeline world or will it return back to the already established Pokémon continuity. Regardless if it doesn’t or not, Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us is still a lighthearted Poke filled adventure of friendship and “Pokémon Power” that speaks to the series’ true identity.
3.3 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of other current movies…..