Monday, July 17, 2017

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (2017-2018) (TV Mini-Series Review)

     Star Wars is arguably the most unique of my favorite long running franchises because it can take so many forms from movies, to animated TV shows, to video games and novels that are all part of one big space opera. It also gives me the opportunity to discuss and review things I wouldn’t normally watch or talk about. Case in point for today’s review is an animated mini-series from the Disney Junior channel that I’d normally have no interest in, but sense it’s part of the “Star Wars” universe, of course I’m going to view it and give my two cents on it. So, let’s take a quick look at the 2017 animated Mini-Series “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” to see if there’s anything worthwhile about it.

     This show is an anthology series that spans all across the Star Wars time line, and gives us short stories revolving around various characters from the different live action movies and other animated shows. The main selling point of this series is that it focuses specifically on the female characters of the Star Wars universe, and through these shorts we explore the little details and events that shaped them into the characters we’ve grown to love. It’s about as simple as they get, no real high stakes, no famous villains, just the humble life and times of these characters and the basic morals they have to convey. Personally, I love that we now have an animated TV series that brings together all the Star Wars girls together into one program. It’s cool to see their individual stories, and it’s especially fun to see the various crossovers between these characters. Half the time this series feels like a collection of deleted scenes that could have fit within the events of the films, and I just find it appealing to see all the little details. Other times if feels like small expansions of both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” TV shows, which is great because I love both of those.   

      Years ago, I put together a list of my personal top 10 favorite Star Wars girls, and I often imagined what it would be like seeing them all rounded up together. So, this series is actually a minor dream come true. Seeing all the marketing and posters of this series with all the Star Wars girls together gives me the impression that this might just be the next best line up of female characters sense the Disney Princess line up. It’s also great that the majority of the voice cast are the same talents from the movies and shows, with some small exceptions. Princess Leia naturally had to be voiced by someone different, and while Natalie Portman didn’t reprise her role as Padme Amidala, she’s at least still voiced by Catherine Taber who was the voice of the character in both the animated movie “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and the animated TV series that followed. Both Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones reprise their respected roles of Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and Jyn Erso from “Rouge One: A Star Wars Story”, which is fantastic and I love that both of them are still committed to the parts even in something small like this series. Even Lupita Nyong’o reprises her role as Maz Kanata who was a supporting character back in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and in this series, acts as the storyteller linking all these shorts together, which is a great touch.     

      Now personally, Ahsoka Tano is my absolute favorite character of all the Star Wars girls, and seeing more of her story from the time line of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, as well as the return of voice actress Ashley Eckstein is an instant joy. In the episode titled “Teach You, I Will”, we see Anakin and Ahsoka lightsaber training together in the Jedi temple while also working off each other’s personalities, which was such simple treat to see more of that. One little detail that just put a smile on my face was hearing Anakin refer to Ahsoka as “Snips” once again, which was his little nick name for her back in the TV series. In the episode "Unexpected Company", Ahsoka travels with Anakin and Padme, only to get her first clue of their secret marriage, and that's an awesome detail that The Clone Wars didn't even provide. Also, I’m a fan of the “Star Wars: Rebels” series, so more little adventures revolving around both Sabine and Hera are always welcome. Now while this series mainly focuses on the female characters, we do still get appearance from other hero’s including Han Solo, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Chewbacca, and obviously the droids C-3PO, R2-D2, Chopper and BB-8 are all present. Even John Boyega reprises his signature role as the stormtrooper defector Fin fromStar Wars: The Force Awakens” and the scenes between him and Rey are always fantastic. Plus, the great Mark Hamill even reprises his signature role as the voice of Luke Skywalker, and even has his own stand alone episodes without any female accomplices.  

      The shorts revolving around either Princess Leia or Rey feel the most like deleted scenes from the films and for the most part they do feel like events that could have occurred in the films. In the short titled “Ewok Escape”, we see more of what happened during “Return of the Jedi” when Princess Leia was separated from the group and paired with the Ewok Wicket, as well as how she got that nice forest dress that she was suddenly wearing in that film. On a side note, this makes for the first time that either Wicket or the Ewoks have made an appearance in the Star Wars universe sense the 1980’s “Star Wars Ewoks” cartoon show. Even the pink coated Princess Kneesaa from Star Wars Ewoks” appears and officially becomes part of cannon. Also the giant Gorax monster from the live action Ewok movie "Caravan of Courage" makes an appearance in an episode titled "Traps and Tribulations". The short titled “Beasts of Echo Base” is directly inspired by a deleted scene from “The Empire Strikes Back” in which the Wampa creatures attack just prior to the battle of Hoth. 

   Also, while this show was launched before the movie "Solo: A Star Wars Story" came out, it did eventually bring in Qi'ra, who was the lead love interest in that film. Best of all is that she shared an episode with my favorite pirate Hondo, who thankfully is still voiced by the distinguished Jim Cummings. One of my favorite shorts titled “Tracker Trouble” is set during “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and it further explores that time in which Rey and Finn were aboard the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo and Chewbacca, and it’s so wonderful to see more of that team friendship that was built between those characters. Some of the weaker episodes take place during the events of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" as we have more goofy scenes with the Porgs, as well as more dull ventures with Fin and Rose during their mission to the casino planet. One good thing to note is that the show highlights Queen Amidala in ways never seen before in the movies, like knowing how to calm a giant monster without any force powers.    

    Of course, one of the shows main highlights is seeing all the different crossovers between these various Star Wars girls. We see Princess Leia go on a small mission with Sabine, we see more interactions between Ahsoka and Padme, and one of my favorite additions was a short crossover between Jyn Erso and Sabine Ren titled “Accidental Allies”. Seeing those two characters briefly interact with one another was great, and their conversation was very in-character. One down side is that Rey is set in a timeline where she can’t really meet any of the other girls, which is unfortunate because I’d love to see he interact with other female characters like Ahsoka and Jyn. My favorite crossover by far came from a short titled “An Imperial Feast” which is set just after the final battle from “Return of the Jedi”. In this short we see Captain Han Solo meet Captain Hera Syndulla from “Star Wars: Rebels” and seeing those two banter with each-other on who’s got the best ship is like the greatest of fan fiction come to life. Actually, just seeing the Millennium Falcon parked right next to the Ghost ship was a fan boys dream come true. This was also our first confirmation that Hera, Chopper and the Ghost survived through the original trilogy, which is very satisfying.   

    I think I covered enough of the shows contents, but let’s talk a little about the quality of the show. This series is actually the first 2D animated Star Wars project sense the animated 2003 Mini-Series “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, but still “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” is very different as it’s much lighter in tone and geared more toward little kids. There aren’t any intense battles, or high stakes, and the action on display is very basic, but fun if you keep a humble perspective. The animation itself is fine, but nothing special either. Actually, half the time the animation looks like the equivalent of what fans can create on their home computer and upload to YouTube. I should give the animators some credit, they at least convey the right amount of emotion in the faces, and the way the characters move in the environment does look very good, as opposed to other cheaper 2D projects in which things can look very sloppy if not handled with care.

     Overall, “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” is nothing demanding and can never reach the same heights of previous animated “Star Wars” programs, but it’s still perfectly harmless and it’s even cute and appealing in its own simplistic way. I would only recommend this Mini-series to die hard Star Wars fans or to little girls that are just getting into the series. If you keep your expectations low but open for whatever the show has to offer, you might just find it kind of appealing, as I did. More than anything, this series is a great little excuse to bring all the Star Wars girls together into one program, and it’s still respectful to the continuity of the saga. It’s charming, humble and a perfectly welcome add-on to one of my favorite franchises, even if it’s nothing really spectacular. You can watch the shorts grouped together on the Disney Junior channel, or just pull up the individual shorts on Disney YouTube, they aren’t long and harmlessly derivative for us longtime fans.

I give the 2017 mini-series “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” 3 stars out of 5.          

        The End

My Top 15 favorite moments in the Harry Potter series

      Wow, I remember being in 4th grade when the first Harry Potter film came out and now the final film is here, ending an outstanding series that I feel privileged to have grown up with. So to celebrate I’m counting down my top 15 favorite moments from this amazing series. Now it’s not easy to select just 15 moments or even 100 for that matter because there are so many great moments in this series but I’ll do my best. So prep your brooms and get ready to launch into my top 15 favorite moments from the Harry Potter Series.
#15 Opening to Half Blood Prince 
 Of all the films in the sires, this one has my favorite opening , I love how it starts with the WB logo, we hear Bellatrix in the background, followed by flashes on the events from the last film. Then the title shows up with powerful music playing in the background and then we get awesome shots of the camera zooming through ales and crashing through walls. It’s almost like a theme park ride. Overall a great opening, too bad the rest of the film isn’t as exciting.  

#14 Harry and Herminie dance (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Of all the relations in this series, the one that always came off as the strongest to me was the true friend ship between Harry and Herminie and this little dance was simply the most joyful moment between the two.
#13 Spider attack (from Chamber of Secrets) 
 This whole movie was like a collection of adventure serials with Ron and Harry getting in one huge predicament after the next. But the most exciting moment for me was when they were trying to escape the dark forest from an army of killer spiders. It was intense, thrilling, and the last time we would see that awesome flying car.  
 #12 Dumbledore’s quick escape (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 This is just an awesome scene, Dumbledore is about to be taken away to prison but he makes a quick escape by grabbing onto the tail of the Phoenix and disappearing in a large, fiery eruption. What better way to end it then with this fun line, “You may not like him minister but you can’t deny, Dumbledore’s got style”, perfect.  
#11 Sky Battle (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Now this was a teat, what better way to get you excited for the adventure ahead than by starting the film with an awesome sky chase. Spells are being fired left and right, the stakes are higher than usual because more characters are involved and we get lots of on road vehicle destruction, awesome! 
#10 Harry and Lupin talk on the bridge (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I don’t know what it is about this scene that I love so much but there’s something moving about it. It’s the first time we really see Harry have a simple heart to heart conversation with another teacher. There’s no life changing moral or anything but the setting is great, the background music is nice and soothing and Lupin’s words carry so much care and understanding towed Harry and his family that it makes for such an emotional little moment without anything being to overly dramatic, it’s all simple and pure.   
#9 Arriving at Hogwarts for the first time on boat (in the Sorcerer’s stone) 
 This was such a perfect first shot of Hogwarts castle, the music fits it perfectly and it’s such a memorable little moment that it’s actually on par with seeing the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road for the first time from “The Wizard of Oz”.     
#8 The “Something Wicked this way Comes” quire (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 This small little musicale number is just awesome! The lyrics are great, the sound of the low drum in the background is perfect and it creates such a foreboding, yet lively atmosphere. I love how beautifully all the visuals and images match with the song. First we see a dark reflection of Harry’s face in a window, then it dissolves to a shot of horseless carriages ridding off in the rain and finally the interior of the great hall, fantastic!

#7 Dumbledore vs. Voldemort (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 The entire third act of this film is just one amazing action scene after the next with all the characters trying to escape the ministry. What better way to end everything then an amazing one on one wizard dual between Voldermort and Dumbledore. I could have filled this list entirely with scenes from this battle, but if I had to choose one action moment it would be this dual. It’s not just a collision of spells, there are all kinds of energy elements that are being used, like water, a fire snake, shattered glass,  shadow energy, it’s just an amazing dual.
#6 The Tail of the Peverell Brothers (from Deathly Hollows Part 1) 
 None of the previous films ever gave use anything like this awesome story. This was so unique, the visuals and animation were strange yet so fascinating at the same time. I love the whole mood, atmosphere, its terrific ways of making transitions and Emma Watsons narration was so cryptic that it brought everything to life perfectly. 
#5 Every single Quidditch match from the series 
 I couldn’t pick one individual Quidditch match, there all outstanding. The first time seeing a Quidditch match in the first film was simply amazing, I had never seen anything like it before. The second film just built on top of it by having Harry compete against Draco and get chased by that rouge bludger. The third film was much darker and more haunting, the rain is falling on them, the grim (creepy dog omen of death) appears in the sky and Harry is chased be death eaters. Bottom line, whenever I watch a Harry Potter film, always look forward to the Quidditch matches.      
#4 The PETRONAS charm (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 It was such a spectacle to see Harry find the strength within himself to conjure a massive PETRONAS shock wave that takes out an army of death eaters. The music, the visuals, the sensation of this whole scene was simply riveting.
 #3 Flying Buck Beak (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I absolutely love atmospheric flights in films and this is when I first discovered how effective they are. I love all the different shots of the castle and landscape and how it all matched perfectly with the stunning music in this scene. It almost feels meditative and it fully allows you to take in all the atmosphere and genius that the film has to offer.

#2 The ending to Chamber of secrets 
 This is something that I can only describe as the best feel good moment of the entire series. There couldn’t have been a more satisfying ending then seeing the great hall in thunderous applause, we get one final shot of every main character (including one last great shot of Richard Harris as Dumbledore), the camera backs out a window, we get an amazing final shot of the castle, all matched with some great music and it always leaves me with such a powerful and satisfying feeling, like this is the perfect way to end a film.      
#1 The possession scene (from Order of the Phoenix) 

 This scene is just epic and it’s one of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in the cinema. Harry is being torn apart by Voldermort and we get a lot of creepy images and negative flashbacks from the previous films, (which is really cool, how often does a character flashback on events from past films). Then from looking at his friends he remembers why he has strength over Voldermort, he’ll never no love or friendship the way Harry does and then in his last breath he looks at his enemy and says “I feel sorry for you”. This is why we love this character, he’s a hero who looks at his enemy, not with hate but with sorrow that he’ll never know what it’s like to be loved. He then defeats his enemy by bringing up all positive thoughts about the times he’s had with his loved ones. The music in this scene is stunning, the images are right on, and the emotion in this scene is the highest that have ever come from this series and that’s why it stands as my favorite moment from all the Harry Potter films.
Will the last film have a scene that can top this, well find out, when I review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2.  

Pokémon The Movie 2000 (1999) (Movie Review)

      20 YEARS ... that’s how old Pokémon is, in fact 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the franchise, and it kind of makes me feel old. I’m three years out of college but I remember being in 2nd grade when Pokémon first erupted in our pop culture, and left a huge impact on many kids between the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Yet somehow, it’s slowly becoming popular again, and I’m quite impressed that it’s lasted for twenty years. Now I grew up with Pokémon when the series was in its prime. My friends and I played all the original Nintendo games, we collected the cards, and of course we watched the cartoon show. Having said all that, I wouldn’t call myself a “fan”, because it’s not something that’s stuck with me over the years. Most Anime I watch or re-watch now like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Death Note” are aimed at the adult democratic, but there are some exceptions as I still adore “Cardcaptor Sakura”. I’ve tried re-watching some episodes from the old Pokémon cartoon, and personally I couldn’t stand it. Even when I was a kid, I only got into Pokémon because it was popular, and my friends liked it.
I did however watch the more recent “Pokémon XYZ” series, and that show was surprisingly good. It had terrific characters, it had good morals, and I suddenly found myself wishing that I grew up with that series over the original. I’ll admit, after watching the newer “XYZ” show, it did rekindle the flames of nostalgia burred within me, not for the old TV show itself but for some of the movies adapted from the cartoon. There were in fact five theatrical animated Pokémon movies based on the original cartoon, and I remember genuinely liking these films as a kid (with the exception of the first movie, I thought that was awful, even as kid). The one movie that I remember watching and loving the most was the second theatrical film titled “Pokémon The Movie 2000”. In fact, there was a time in which I held this film alongside “Toy Story 2” as one of my personal favorite animated movies ever. So, in light of the franchises 20 year anniversary, I think it’ll be fun to review the one film in the series that I still have some child hood nostalgia reserved for.

     This movie is set during the second season of the original series, and at this time the shows main hero’s are traveling through a series of islands, four of which will be the center point of this story. Things are set in motion when a new villain simply called The Collector launches multiple attacks on the homes of three legendary giant birds, who individually harness the elements of fire, ice-water, and lighting. His goal is to use these titan birds as a means to bait out an even stronger creature from the sea, and claim it as his prize. What the collector failed to realize is that the three birds are more than just creatures with special powers, they are in fact connected to nature itself, and by disrupting their peace, it throws all the elements of nature out of balance. Soon a global super storm is born from this imbalance in power, and it’s threatening to flood the entire planet. It doesn’t take long for our main group from the TV show to get caught in the mess. After washing up on an island, our hero’s learn from the local inhabitance that the super storm is in fact part of an enchant prophecy that’s coming to fruition. Our hero’s are then sent on a quest to retrieve three sacred items from the homes of the three titan birds, which when gathered at the main islands sacred shrine during a ritual will set nature back into harmony. Thus, the adventure is on, the stakes are higher than ever before, and both new friends and creatures are met along the journey.

      Before I get into the details, lets first talk about the characters, both held over from the series and the new ones created for the movie. The little electric hamster Pikachu of course is present, he’s one of the most famous cartoon/video game characters ever, and surprisingly he doesn’t do much in this film.
Seriously, despite being the franchises most marketable icon, I keep forgetting how little he ever dose. Now back when I was a kid watching this show, I only found the cute little pocket monsters appealing, but I didn’t care about any of the main hero’s. Needless to say, I didn’t like a single human character from this show until the “XYZ” series came out 18 years later. That series had such a strong cast of characters, and it just makes me sad that they weren’t present from the beginning. Obviously I’m aware that long time Pokémon fans really do like these original characters, and I hate to step on any toes, but I also can’t lie about my personal opinion. With that said ... I couldn’t stand this original cast of characters. We all recognize Satoshi as the shows main character, as his signature red cap and blue attire are about as recognizable as Super Mario’s design.
This character could have passed for a cool young-hero, but his lack of personality mixed with his ever annoying ego and reckless decisions really held him back. Now to this movies credit, it’s trying to make Satoshi more compelling, and I like that he’s not the lead character by default, the story dose in fact revolve largely around his journey. Unfortunately, despite this film’s best efforts, it still can’t make this kid an interesting or compelling protagonist, and worse yet is that he get’s branded as “The Chosen One” ... oh boy, I’ll talk about that title later in my review. Now I do want to give some serious credit to voice actress Rica Matsumoto, who, ever sense the shows inception has been consistent supplying the voice of Satoshi in the Japanese dub. Not only does her voice fit the character perfectly, but she can be highlighted along with vocal talents like Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) as an icon for sticking with a character over all these years. Unfortunately for me, I had to grow up with the English dub, and at this point in the series Satoshi was voiced by Veronica Taylor. Now I’m sure she’s a wonderful person, probably a great talent in many respects, in fact she also supplies the voice of Satoshi’s mother in the English dub, so she’s got vocal range. Despite that, I personally couldn’t stand the voice she gave to Satoshi in the English dub. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just something about that voice mixed with that characters attitude that came off as ear-poisoning to me.

      The only character who could possibly make my ears bleed more is the obnoxious annoying red head girl named Kasumi. Again, I know this character has a large fan base, and I’m sure a more devoted fan could point out some of her merits (if she even has any), but I honestly hated everything about this character.
I hated her stuck up attitude, I hated how whinny she acted, and she just felt like a stick in the mud that never contributed anything to the group. Now for the sake of this movie, it’s once again trying to make this character more interesting by giving her a little story arc in which she finally confesses her feelings for our main hero. Kasumi even contributes by rescuing Satoshi from drowning, which is fine, but there’s never any payoff between these two. Now sense I mentioned the “XYZ” series earlier, I should probably throw this out really quickly ... Serena, obviously I think she’s the better girl friend. There isn’t even a competition, Kasumi doesn’t hold a match stick to Serena, who has a heart of gold by comparison ... there I said it, let’s move on.
Rounding up our hero’s is “extra friend”, who I honestly don’t recognize from the show. I’m sure he has a name too, but in this film he does little else then fill-up space, so why should I bother to give him any more attention than the movie did. The English version changed a lot of the dialogue around, in some cases it was for the better, while other times it was for the sole excuse of putting in some rather silly one-liners and self-referential hummer. There's at least three scenes in which characters brake the forth wall by addressing that their in a movie, most of which are provided by those annoying evil henchman that are dragged along for every step of the adventure. I actually forgot all about those three clowns, and while I could again give the writers some credit from making them helpful to the cause, I would have preferred if they were removed from the film all together. 

       Now with all the hold-over characters from the show addressed, lets shift our attention to the new characters that are only present for this movie.
The first new character to take note of is a local island girl named Melody, who represents the culture of the films setting, actively aids our hero’s, has a great deal more personality then any of them, and is subsequently more interesting. While Satoshi has a journey and goal to reach in the film, Melody actually as a more interesting character arc. This is a girl who was raised by a culture, but fell out of it when she reached a certain age, and became more interested in modern appeals and fashions. As she joins our hero’s on their quest, she begins to grow closer to the heritage she left behind, and by the end we see that she rediscovers her old beliefs, and becomes one with her lineage again.
Everything about her story is conveyed through visual storytelling, we can see all the changes in her character happen on screen with nothing internal explained verbally through dialogue, and I absolutely love that. In fact, I honestly wish she was the movies main character or even “Chosen One” from the beginning, with the cast from the show firmly supporting her story. If that was the case, I actually think we would have had a better movie on our hands. The sinister Collector leaves much to be desired from an antagonist, as his motives are paper thin and he doesn't even interact with our hero's that often. Still, he makes for a decent new human villain with some pros. Despite his simplistic motives, he seems to have a certain class and intelligence. Also, some of his dialogue (at least in the English version) may suggest that he views himself as his own “Chosen One” with a great destiny to fulfill, which is a nice contrast to our main hero. The new creatures in the film are obviously there to promote new trading cards, but they all serve the story in some way, which is better than nothing. Of course the most marked creature is the giant sea beast called Lugia, who aims to bring peace between the three ravage titan birds. He actually makes for a cool mystic creature, but aside from occasionally flying Satoshi to the different islands, and doesn’t do that much in the grand scheme of things.

       Actually, the Pokémon are mostly side lined in favor of the human characters, and the more typical battles are replaced with more focus on adventure excitement. As addressed in the plot synopses, “Pokémon The Movie 2000” is more quest based, with our hero’s out scavenging mystic items, and their always on the run, which helps expand the location. In my opinion, this was a huge improvement over the first attempt at a theatrical Pokémon film, because that movie kept everything in one single, boring location the whole time, and was just an onslaught of fighting.
Making this sequel more of an adventure with high stakes was in general a very smart move, but unfortunately there isn’t enough variety to the films excitement. Most of what we see is characters sailing boats in bad weather, or running around on foot in the snow, and it gets kind of tired after a while. If you want to see a near perfect Anime adventure movie, with a great deal of variety and excitement, watch Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 masterpiece “Castle in the Sky”, because that film gets it right. Now there are some genuinely adventurous highlights spread throughout, the most notable being a chase in the snow which involves a jet propelled safety raft and giant creatures in flight overhead. Now while I like the overall set-up, I do wish the film could have taken a step back from the high stake adventure and devoted a little more time to exploring both the mythos and the culture of the setting itself. From what the film provides, this seems like an interesting location, with an ancient lineage, and a culture that’s an amalgamation of various different cultures in our own world.

       Now the movie does have some quiet moments that allow the audiences to be more submersed in the setting. In fact both the soundtrack and the visuals of the changing weather do help give the movie some atmosphere. However, while those select scenes and elements are very good, their only lightly sprinkled throughout all the disastrous mayhem. The animation on display is definitely an improvement over the smaller scaled TV show, and there’s some great visual highlights.
Although realistically, if you were to compare the animation of this film with virtually any one of Hayao Miyazaki’s or heck any Anime in general, then this will look kind of choppy by comparison. I think the film gets a little too reliant on having CGI effects over shadow the traditional hand-drawn brush strokes. Having said that, I do still love the design of the villains flying fortress, and it dose still convey a sense of looming dread when it’s on screen. Back when I was a kid, CGI was still very new for me, and there was one select moment that I distinctly remember re-winding a lot. It’s a shot in the opening that starts with a close-up of the villain, which then pulls back into a wide shot of his flying castle, and I remember just thinking that was the most epic thing ever. I also re-wound that opening title card a lot too, as the visuals and music were just so cool back then. With that said, some of the effects haven’t aged well, and I remember the flying sequences looking cooler than this. I guess after so much exposure to films like “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Avatar” and the “Harry Potter” movies, I have a much higher standard on how to judge a really cool flight scene. Heck, even older movies like Disney’s “The Rescuers Down Under” mastered the simulation of an animated flight better than this film. 

        Now I said in the opening that I watched this movie all the time as a kid, but truthfully, I haven’t re-watched this film in years, until I had to before I posted this review. Through all those years, I’ve never forgotten this films instrumental music score composed by Ralph Schuckett. Needless to say, the music he composed for this film ... a thing of beauty! This is one case in which the American version of the film is superior to its Japanese counterpart. I don’t mean to put down the original score composed by Shinji Miyazaki, because that score was good too, but it just didn’t stick with me the same way Ralph Schuckett’s score has.
There’s one specific track titled “The Guardian’s Song”, and it’s personally one of my favorite music tracks from any Anime I’ve ever seen. The American soundtrack also has some select songs that are also worth taking note of. There’s the song titled “The Power of One”, which is performed by the late Donna Summer, and honestly, its way too impressive for this movies own good. It’s a song that belongs in one of those films that’s tailor-made to bait the Academy Awards. Seriously, if this song had come from any other film that year, it probably would have gotten an Oscar nod for best original song, and in my opinion it should have.
This song is so good that Herman Cain, a former Republican candidate for President of the United States, actually quoted lyrics during his campaign, not realizing where the song originally came from. When he announced the suspension of his presidential campaign, he quoted the lyrics again, but this time acknowledging that they were from a song featured in a Pokémon movie. Also, rest in peace Donna Summer, she really was an incredible talent, and the Queen of Jazz as she was sometimes called. Next is the song “Flying Without Wings” performed by Westlife. This one definitely comes off like the product of a late 90’s boy band, but I can’t help liking this song too, mostly for innocent nostalgic reasons. Then of course there’s that cheesy, catchy Pokémon theme song that’s heard during the opening credits, which is silly, but a nice up-date of the version herd from the TV show.  ... How is it that for both this movie review and my last review of “The Transformers: The movie” I’ve given nothing but praise to their respected soundtracks? I guess the message to take from this is that animated movies adapted from successful long running cartoon shows will always have a soundtrack that’s better than it’s worth. Ironically, both soundtracks for “The Transformers: The Movie” and “Pokémon The Movie 2000” have songs performed by Weird Al Yankovic, although his Pokémon Countdown song is a step back from “Dare to be Stupid”.

      One thing that Pokémon always seemed to struggle with was getting the moral across to kids. Sometimes this series would beat you over the head with its message, and others times it was subtle to a fault, where you just don’t give the message any attention. In this movie the message is all about how any one-person can make a difference if he or she has the courage to commit to something greater then themselves.
Not a bad moral, but it clashes with our hero Satoshi being branded as “The Chosen One” ... as he didn’t get to make a choice himself, instead destiny just forced him to make a difference. In general, I’ve always hated when characters are proclaimed as “Chosen Ones”, but this films even worse as there’s not even a clear reason as to why “he” specifically is a “Chosen One”. Oh wait, the creators have a reason ... he’s the main character of the series, and this is the films attempt to make him more significant. So the screen writers took the clichéd “Chosen One” concept and ran with it ... right into border line biblical territory with it. I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but at the start of the films third act, we see our “Chosen One” take a lone journey that figuratively parallels “The Stations of the Cross”. It’s not a blatant cut and pace (this movie would never aim for that), but I did take note of some similarities.
While this “Chosen One” doesn’t carry a cross, he does still carry the metaphorical “wait of the world” on his shoulder during his trek. Someone from the sidelines eventually comes over to aid our hero, or in other words “help carry that wait”. He also stumbles and falls three times during his quest, no joke, I actually counted him falling three times, but to be fair, one of his falls was the result of a giant bird crashing into the ocean. There’s also a moment when he eventually meets his terry eyed mother, not “grieving”, but close. Then his journey finally comes to an end at the top of a hill where three sacred items, in other words “a trinity” come together as “one”, which ushers in a new stage of harmony and balance to the world, and life in general. There’s even a moment when it looks like our hero died, but he comes back, and finally there’s a celebration in which he takes to the skies (while riding a giant bird of course, he didn’t actually ascend himself). Am I reading to deep into this ... of course I am, but still as far as thematic chosen ones go, I think the writers flew closer to the sun with this then they realized. Then again, on the ceiling of the villains floating castle is a renaissance painting with several angles in flight, so there is in fact religious imagery within the film. Also, when the flooding finally stops, there's this colorful arch appearing in the sky, which absolutely makes me think of God using the rainbow as a promise that the world will never suffer from a global flood again.

      One little detail I really love from Anime in general is that, while many of their animated films can end abruptly, we still see the continuing animated sequences with the characters while the credits roll.
Other Anime movies like “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “The Secret World of Arrietty” and “Kiki's Delivery Service” all did it, and I was genuinely pleased to re-discover that “Pokémon The Movie 2000” did it too. There’s just something satisfying about seeing the various characters continue on their journeys even though the film has ended. When all is said and done, “Pokémon The Movie 2000” obviously doesn’t represent quality film-making, but I do feel that a lot of effort was put into this movie. I felt that the writers were genuinely trying to make this something special, and more than something that could have just passed as an episode with a bigger budget. I actually think that the film offered more than expected, including some decent animation and an absolutely breath-taking music score.
There were even some little details that really took me back to my child hood, like seeing the Kids WB logo flash in front of the screen in the opening, or the purple scaled King Cobra Snake called Arbok, as that was actually the name I gave to my pet corn snake, back when I was in third grade. I would only recommend this film to long time fans of the series, and to be fair, that’s what it’s aimed for. Nostalgia aside, I know this isn’t a good movie by any means, and there are obviously better Anime films out there for kids to grow up with like “Spirited Away” and so forth. Having said that, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this specific Pokémon movie on some level either, in fact I honestly kind of adore it. Not a great film, but a harmlessly derivative adventure, and a memorable little trinket from my child hood.

I give “Pokémon The Movie 2000” ... 3 stars out of 5.