Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai Review
If you managed to make it through the eighties without hearing the complaint that a certain comedian, in spite of being perfectly able in all other aspects of life, needed to turn to his children to program their video recorder, then you have such luck as to suggest that you could holiday on a shooting range and avoid getting so much as a scratch. It was as sure a sign of the gap between generations as the looks of discomfort that were passed between a sheepskin-car-coat-wearing father and his Flock-Of-Seagulls-haircut-sporting son. However, as sure as the hair sprouting from my ears is a sign of ageing, so too is the not knowing what a Pokémon is, what it is that they do and what they might be called. I find myself in the position of having to ask my children to identify the strange creatures who chirrup, yelp and flutter their way through this film. A Lickilicky is an obvious thing but a Palkia? And that's only one of the dozens of Pokémon in this film.
Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai opens in a rift in space and time. Amidst the darkness of this void and the flashes of lightning, two Pokémon battle it out. These are Dialga, the Legendary Dragon in control of time, and Palkia, who represents space. These two should never have met in the same dimension, least of all fought, but they have done and all of space and time is being torn apart. Meanwhile, in Alamos Town, Ash Ketchum and his friends Dawn and Brock have arrived for a Pokémon contest. They were given a lift along the last of their way by Alice in her hot-air balloon. She gives them a tour of the town, allowing their Pokémon to run free through the parks and splash in the water, before leading them to the centre of Alamos Town and to the Space-Time Tower and to meet with Tonio, the grandson of the man who built it. Tonio shows off the chimes within the tower but on peering over its edges, they see that someone has ruined part of the surrounding gardens. The brash Baron Alberto claims that it was the legendary Pokémon Darkrai but just as he does so, Darkrai appears. The Pokémon try and force him to leave but all who do so are defeated. But in the battle in the rift in space and time, Dialga and Palkia cause a tear and through it can be seen Alamos Town. As the fight moves to the skies above the Space-Time tower, all of Alamos Town is threatened. A thick fog obscures what is occurring on the edges of the town. The battle is causing everything and everyone in Alamos Town to disappear. Only Alice believes that Darkrai may be able to do some good, recalling a dream that she had of her own childhood and of a mysterious shadow in the gardens where she spent her youth...
So back to these Pokémon. Other than Pikachu, who's as recognisable as Scooby Doo, if not more so, there is one, who may be Chimchar, who not only breathes fire but whose ass also seems to be alight for most of the movie. There's another that looks like a pooh with a stick coming out of its head and who carries green testicles in his hands for no reason that I can discern. And then there's Lickilicky, a giant, cuddly pink thing with an enormous tongue whose popularity surely extends beyond Pokémon contests. If it doesn't, he is, with a talent like that, wasted fighting the likes of Pikachu. However, I fully concede that these Pokémon, the games in which they feature and the film in which they star (and the animated series) are not for the likes of me. It may once have been, mind, particularly when I was at my happiest watching animated spacecraft crash and burn without anything like a story to complicate matters. I have the feeling that if I returned to Battle Of The Planets, this is exactly what I would find, but beyond the Pokémon fighting, there is very little here. There's a couple of nice flashbacks to Alice's youth and that of her grandmother to explain how Darkrai isn't really all bad. There's another to explain how Godey, the architect of the Space-Time tower (who, with Tonio and the Space-Time tower, is likely to be a play on Antoni Gaudí and his Sagrada Família) had foretold the moment of the destruction of Alamos Town. Happily, he also had a plan to avert it. All that it needs is for Alice, Ash and Tonio to figure out what it is. Fortunately, it's not that difficult a puzzle and young children may well have figured it out before Ash and friends.
Having seen an instalment or two of the animated series, and not really having any choice in the matter, this is like nothing but an extended episode in which a larger-than-average number of Pokémon battle one another. Like the television series, there's an awful amount of footage, used not once but a dozen or so times, particularly when Palkia and Dialga call up their Spacial Rend and Roar of Time attacks, which they do a lot. Why they and the other Pokémon do this and for what purpose I do not know as other than Darkrai's Dark Void power, the various battle moves seem to do them no harm at all. But that takes back to where we first came in. Only now, having actually watched the film, I can still see no rhyme nor reason for it. It does well by children, mind, which is good enough.
A Network release that wasn't originally shown on ITV in the mid-seventies? Well, this is a surprise. Unless I'm very much mistaken about the origins of Pokémon, that is, but I don't think so. Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai enjoys a pretty good presentation courtesy of Network, being anamorphic, widescreen and in good shape. It's sharp and detailed enough to enjoy on a decent television, particularly in its revealing just what is CG and what is not in the animation, and the colours are the shock of reds, greens and blues that you would expect of a television show (and film) produced for children and based on a videogame. On the whole, not at all bad and with the exception of a moment at 71m23s when there is an error in the encoding and the screen freezes for a split second, not a great deal to complain about.
There is a choice of DD5.1 and DD2.0 audio tracks (no subtitles) but there is only a slight difference between them. On the whole, I preferred the stereo track as it sounded fuller. On the other hand, the surround track was that bit thinner and less appealing. There is some use of the rear speakers in the latter, particularly in the time-rift battle between Dialga and Palkia and in their reprise of the fight in Alamos Town, but it's not half as inventive an audio track as it could have been.
As well as an extended advertisement for all things Pokémon, particularly the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl games on the Nintendo DS, there are three Trailers on this DVD, lasting twenty, thirty and sixty seconds apiece.