Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Pokemon Movie: Black
Dub.DVD - Victini / White - Victini
Ash, Cilon, and Iris are traveling around the Pokemon world and find themselves in the beautiful mountain city of Eindoak Town just in time for the annual harvest festival. There they meet Victini, a mysterious pokemon thought to bring good luck to the community. But Damon, a misguided young man seeking to fulfill what he thinks is his mother Juanita's dream, captures Victini to use its powers to his own ends. Ash and his friends know that this is wrong, but it will take the powers of legendary dragons Reshiram or Zekrom, depending on the film, to set things right.
Be advised – what you may or may not be purchasing is two copies of the same movie. Viz' release of Pokemon the Movie: Black and Pokemon the Movie: White includes two DVDs, each containing one of the aforementioned films, neither of which have a Japanese language option, but what you may not realize is that they are actually the same film with a few very minor differences. In Black, Damon uses the powers of Zekrom, a black dragon, and in White, he uses the powers of Reshiram, a white dragon. His smaller pokemon change as well depending on the film – Black has “Gothitelle” while in White he controls “Reuniclus.” Despite the fact that Zekrom represents “ideals” while Reshiram represents “truth,” there is no real change in the way the plots play out and resolve; the major change between the films is that the ending vocals for White are male while for Black they are female.
The singular plot is likely to seem dull to those who are not Pokemon fans in general or are outside the target age group for the film. Ash, Cilon, and Iris, along with the always cute Pikachu and a few other pokemon, are traveling the world in pursuit of their several goals. As they traverse a mountainous region, Ash finds himself in a position to help a couple of young deerlings who are in danger of plummeting from a cliff to their deaths. Luckily a mysterious pokemon with rabbity ears, fangs, and wings on its butt lends an invisible hand, saving Ash and the fawns from a grisly demise. Iris and Cilon can't figure out how Ash managed to leap a vast chasm to a cave, but he is untroubled by it, announcing that he will go through the cave and hopefully meet them in Eindoak Town. Setting blithely off, he, the deerlings, and Pikachu find that the cave is labyrinthine, but luckily Victini sends Ash psychic messages, detailing the way out. (Ash still has not seen Victini at this point, but is relatively unfazed.) The cave, as luck would have it, lets the group out in a castle storeroom, at which point Ash reunites with his human friends. They meet Damon, recognizably and ably voiced by J. Michael Tatum, who informs them that he is restoring the palace. They soon thereafter meet his mother Juanita, who tells them the legend of the mystical Victini, said to bring good luck to Eindoak Town. Backstory established, the harvest festival begins with a pokemon tournament over which the opening theme plays. This serves the dual purpose of displaying a decent amount of pokemon and showing us that Victini has taken a real liking to Ash, helping him out by secretly powering up his pokemon. Carlita, Damon's sister, figures out what's going on, and soon the gang is learning the truth about what happened in the past, most importantly that the castle, known as “The Sword of the Vale,” was moved and that Damon wants to move it back. Meanwhile Team Rocket hangs around and adds nothing to the films, never even interacting with the protagonists.
If this seems like a lot of set up, it is. The first sixty of the films' ninety-five minutes are taken up with establishing the history of Eindoak Town and Victini, leaving the battle – and the films' sole differences – for the last half hour. While there are some very nice touches in terms of skillful pokemon marketing (what kid wouldn't want to cuddle some of those in plushy form?) and the sad history of loveable Victini, not to mention a few very nicely animated sequences, such as the detail of Ash's ankle twisting when he slips on wet moss or the cut-paper style of a pop-up book, the films still drag and leave viewers wondering when the whole black/white issue is going to arise. When we do at last get there, with Ash claiming whichever Damon has not, the story rushes by to its end, and without any real consequences for anyone. Yes, the nominal bad guy learns his lesson, but it is without penalty, and even such stellar films from my own childhood such as “My Little Pony: The Movie” or “The Care Bears Movie” provided scares and a sense that the villains or protagonists could undergo some lasting damage. Simply put, the stakes are never high enough for us to really care about the action or the resolution. The closest either film comes is in the character of Victini, whose past really does make him quite sympathetic, although it is to the point where any number of possible outcomes would resolve the issue satisfactorily.
Overall, neither Pokemon the Movie: Black or its White counterpart really stands out from the already packed herd. While the characters are well voiced and charmingly drawn, the plot lacks urgency and even small children may find it drags. The major saving grace is that Viz released these films together, because otherwise they could be a colossal waste of money, seeing as the films are virtually identical. It doesn't really matter which you watch – just decide if you want Ash to have unfortunately feather-groined Reshiram or wasp-posteriored Zekrom and go from there. While not terrible, these are films that can be safely left alone unless you or your child have a compulsion to truly catch 'em all.
Overall (dub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Attractively drawn and pleasantly animated. Victini's story does tug on some heartstrings, catchy theme songs.
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