When Ash, Pikachu, and their friends visit a desert city by the sea, they meet the Mythical Pokémon Hoopa, who has the ability to summon things-including people and Pokémon-through its ... See full summary »
Arceus, creator of the world, comes to pass judgement on humanity for the theft of the Jewel of Life, but Ash Ketchum and his friends are sent back in time to discover and possible reverse the events that led to Arceus' vendetta.
An idyllic town is thrown into chaos when two powerful Pokémon, Dialga and Palkia, cross paths and battle, distorting the dimensions of time and space. The only hope comes from Darkrai, a shadowy Pokémon shunned by the townsfolk.
Ash meets the Mythical Pokémon Volcanion when it crashes down from the sky, creating a cloud of dust-and a mysterious force binds the two of them together! Volcanion despises humans and tries to get away, but it's forced to drag Ash along as it continues its rescue mission. They arrive in a city of cogs and gears, where a corrupt official has stolen the ultimate invention: the Artificial Pokémon Magearna, created 500 years ago. He plans to use its mysterious power to take control of this mechanical kingdom! Can Ash and Volcanion work together to rescue Magearna? One of the greatest battles in Pokémon history is about to unfold!
In my review of "Hoopa and the Clash of Ages" I felt somewhat ashamed to hate that film as much as everyone else. Fortunately, "Pokémon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel" karmatically outbalances that mainstream opinion, because I seem to dislike it significantly more than most do.
Let it first be stated that this film is significantly better than "Hoopa" was. This is not merely a matter of statistics (much worse was hardly possibly), but the result of a seemingly honest attempt to make a film with a plot and a certain amount of creativity to it. A shame the execution is so poor.
The set-up still bears the mark of inventiveness. Ash and Co. come across the Kingdom of Azoth, (its industrial revolution style is probably the first creative design in these films since "Victini and Zekrom/Reshirim"), whilst the robot girl Magearna is being stolen by an Azoth airship from her guardian Volcanion, a boiler-type Pokémon. Volcanion is fended off, shackled and dropped from the air. As is the other shackle, which catches on to Ash and magnetically connects to Volcanion. Thus, Ash is involuntarily dragged along the Pokémon's quest to save Magearna.
The story is constructed out of parts of other films: Some set-up from "Metropolis" (the anime, rather than the Fritz Lang film;) the journey from "Lucario and the Mystery of Mew;" the unsurprising villain reveal from "Castle in the Sky;" the climax from "Code Geass R2;" the ending from "Wall-E." This is generally excellent source material, but "Volcanion" doesn't match any of it.
Firstly, the writing is, well, a bit stupid. A certain laziness is often apparent, like in how Ash's shackle is supposed to be so tight that no-one can get it off, but does allow him to change his clothes underneath it. Twice. Or in how all Azoth's technology was created by the inventor Nikola, who bears the name of Tesla, has the looks of Da Vinci and plays the role of Archimedes, in case you didn't get that he was supposed to be smart.
This lack of care is tangible throughout the film. The plot that ponderously plods along feels bare, getting only less interesting from the set-up onwards, and conveying emotions with a clumsiness that is rare even for a Pokémon film. Volcanion, for example, has a miniature character arc in that he must learn to trust humans. This is the only personality he has, so he constantly shouts how much he dislikes humans, until the end, when he cannot stop talking about how much he was wrong. And let's try to forget the crying Meowth from near the end -- the most disgustingly melodramatic moment in the whole series after the first film's fighting Pikachu's.
This was also the first Pokémon film in which I was actively distracted by the sound design. Dialogue, effects and music are constantly blaring over each other, with the music being especially loud. Just what is this? How can these same creators, nineteen films into their franchise, keep finding new ways to mess up?
Stranger still: The visuals have gotten worse because they have gotten better. Although not so retina-burningly bright as "Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction," "Volcanion" is nevertheless very uncomfortable to watch. Now that the filmmakers have digital technology at their disposal, they overload every frame with popping colours, particle effects and redundant movement of characters as well as camera that becomes rather nauseating over time.
The result is a film that bombards the senses with its sound and fury, but does not entertain, let alone mean anything. Unlike the other "XY" films, "Volcanion" does actually seem to be the product of good intentions, but that alone is not enough. It still feels like just another tired entry in a franchise that was creatively bankrupt before the turn of the millennium. It is a good thing the film series was rebooted after this, because if "Volcanion" counts as the best of the late Pokémon films, it is clear that by then all hope was lost.
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