Pokémon is an iconic franchise that radiates a sense of nostalgia for many, whilst continually drawing in new fans with brand-new games, TV shows, movies and more — take a look at the mass response to the recently released Detective Pikachu and you’ll see that fans are as strong as ever. And these fans, whether young or young-at-heart, are in for a real treat with Tetsuo Yajima’s Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us.
The latest film in the alternate continuity of the franchise follows on from last years Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You. However, since the reboot retold the story of Ash receiving Pikachu from Professor Oak (a story that everybody already knew), The Power of Us holds firm as a standalone movie. Once you’ve made it through the slightly bizarre 15 minute opening of ads, shorts, and featurettes, the film wastes no time in getting started; gliding over the bright Frau city and swooping down to introduce its residents who will be playing a part in Ash’s story. Though really it is the other way around. Subverting the formula of the Pokémon film franchise, this is more the story of the city and the people in it than is it of Ash’s journey to catch ‘em all.
Once, Frau City was faced with a terrible fire that only legendary wind Pokémon Lugia was able to save them from. Since then an annual wind festival has been held in its honour, and this year Ash and Pikachu voyage to join in on the celebration. But when festival happenings start going wrong, people turn the blame on the burnt mountainside cursed by the legendary Pokémon Zeraora that was lost during the fires. It’s up to Ash, with his newfound team including newbie Pokémon hunter Risa, the boastful fibber Callahan, flustering researcher Toren, the mysterious daughter of the mayor Margo, and Pokémon hating Harriet, to uncover the truth of the mystery or risk losing Lugia’s blessing forever.
With so many new characters, you wouldn’t be wrong in worrying about the film feeling messy; although some familiar faces do get pushed to the sidelines, The Power of Us generally hits the mark in giving each character ample time to shine. It’s a huge relief as, although none are perfect, they’re all immensely likeable. Callahan, especially, brings an interesting new dynamic to the team as an older character distinguished by his compulsive lying. Like Callahan, the rest of these flawed characters are essential in the movie’s message about learning from your mistakes, believing in yourself, and the power of a team; the power of “us”.
It’s no surprise that The Power of Us is rather cheesy. Primarily a kids movie, the overstated morality and to-the-point dialogue is to be expected. Quite nicely, however, is the film’s acknowledgement of this over-sentimentality: following a rousing monologue from Ash about how with their Pokémon anything and everything is possible, Risa lets out a laugh, giggling back at him “Pokémon power?!”. But where the film is strongest is in its familiarity. The locations and characters are new but the vivid colours and humour take you back to the original series, films, and games — just keep your eye out for a floundering Magikarp, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us will be shown in more than 300 cinemas across the UK & Ireland. Attendees at selected screenings will be able to pick up a free sample pack of The Pokémon Trading Card Game, featuring three random trading cards.