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Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior 11th Pokemon Movie
"Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior" is the English title for the eleventh theatrical movie spin-off from the popular "Pokémon" TV series. The movie was a big hit in Japan last summer and the English-dubbed version premiered recently on the Cartoon Network, where I watched it. As a fan of the series and an advocate in print for nearly all the previous Pokémon movies, I have to confess I have mixed feelings about this one. On the plus side, it's arguably the most visually impressive of all the movies, and I'll go into greater detail on this, but on the negative side, I never really got a handle on the chief antagonist, a power-hungry student named Zero, and what motivated him. You need a formidable villain for these movies to work and this entry just doesn't have one.
The movie's basic premise centers around the existence of a "Reverse World," a kind of alternate universe designed to correct imbalances in the "Real World." Five years before the events of this movie, a research scientist named Newton Graceland apparently discovered the Reverse World and its sole resident Pokémon, Giratina, a winged, six-legged, metallic dinosaur-like creature. He then tried to tap Giratina's power with the help of a young assistant, Zero. When Newton had a change of heart, Zero broke with him and struck out on his own to try to trap Giratina by using a machine that Newton designed to absorb Giratina's power so that he, Zero, could gain control of the Reverse World and enter and leave it at will. None of this made much sense to me since there doesn't seem to be much in the virtually empty Reverse World to want to control and Zero doesn't seem to have much trouble getting in and out of the real world when he wants to anyway.
Series regulars Ash, Dawn, and Brock, along with their regular Pokémon companions, get roped into all this through the intervention of a cute, grassy little Pokémon called a Shaymin, who's on its way to the "flower garden" for the "flower-bearing" ritual with other Shaymin. Shaymin can communicate telepathically so we can hear its articulated thoughts, making it one of the very few Pokémon (outside of Meowth and Mew) who can actually "talk." It may be cuddly and vulnerable and all, but it gets pretty arrogant towards Ash and his crew as it loudly demands an immediate escort to the flower garden. However, once Shaymin transforms into its "sky form," enabling it to fly above the breathtaking landscapes they travel through, even Ash starts to warm up to it. Shaymin's connection to Giratina and the Reverse World has something to do with its ability to render toxic material harmless via some internal process. Giratina seems to need Shaymin's help and constantly pursues it, provoking fear in Shaymin and its companions until Newton, who enlists Ash and his friends to help him, finally figures out what Giratina wants.
The background designs of the "real world" are all based on locations in Norway (according to Wikipedia) and are easily the most spectacular I've yet seen in a Pokémon movie (which is saying a lot when you consider the artwork in some of the others, including JIRACHI WISH MAKER and LUCARIO AND THE MYSTERY OF MEW). Especially awe-inspiring is the glacier valley they pass through on a cruise ship, including some high waterfalls and a delightful scene that results when Ash's pokémon fly up with the transformed Shaymin, while Dawn's Piplup dives into the water to meet lots of water pokémon who've clustered around the boat out of curiosity. Later on, the big battle with Zero in his massive, not-so-streamlined retro-style flying craft takes place against the backdrop of the glacier valley and culminates in the arrival of scores of native pokémon trying to avert catastrophe from a sliding glacier.
The Reverse World sometimes looks like a mirror image of the real world seemingly above it, but with distorted streetscapes of the village that Ash & co. are visiting and strange pillars of rock supporting upside-down pieces of land with grass on them. Gravity plays tricks on the characters as they pass though it. It's an interesting-looking place, but I never quite grasped its symbiotic relationship with the surface world. The only time we see a concrete example of this is when Zero starts using his flying craft to crash through ice pillars in the Reverse World, which then causes the aforementioned glacier to start sliding up above. It's never adequately explained what appeal the Reverse World holds for Zero other than that he gets to be alone in it, not exactly a compelling motivation for a movie villain.
I imagine that other Pokémon fans may have less difficulty with this one than I did, although I have to admit I was starting to have trouble on this score with the last Pokémon movie, THE RISE OF DARKRAI, when I couldn't quite understand the nature of the conflict involving Darkrai, Palkia, and Dialga (who makes an appearance here in the first sequence). It's all starting to get a little too abstract for me. Also, I'm still not comfortable with the new English-language voice cast used for the main Pokémon characters, even though I've had about three years to get used to them. A subtitled Japanese-language edition would be preferable. In any event, this latest Pokémon movie is filled with the kind of visual spectacle we've come to expect from these movies, so it's still worth seeing if you've enjoyed any of the other recent ones.
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