As you may have picked up from the title, we’re going to be talking about Pokémon the Movie 3 today. I had other plans for this article that I had to put on hold because of my nerd rage. You see, I saw a top ten best Pokémon movies video, made by Watch Mojo, and before it even started I was furious. It was because I knew that Pokémon the Movie 3 would not be recognised as the best Pokémon movie and sure enough, it barely made it on to the list at number 10. Bastards! Don’t they see that Pokémon the Movie 3 has a depth of character and theme on an entirely different level to any other Pokémon film? Do they not understand that this is probably the only pokémon film you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy but at the same time smoothly incorporates fan service (not the booby kind)? I’ll teach them not to have their own opinions, the only way I know how. By writing what in essence amounts to a spiteful YouTube comment. That’ll show ’em!
Our story begins in the Hale mansion where Molly and her archeologist father, Spencer Hale live. The mother is out of the picture and it is clear this is a source of pain for both of them. They are really happy together so naturally daddy gets kidnapped by Pokémon known as the Unown and trapped in a Lovecraftian horror dimension. The Unown then come to Molly and using their psychic powers manifest her grief and denial for her lost father in the form of a crystalline palace and the legendary pokémon Entei, who her father told her about in a fairy tale. Entei becomes a surrogate father figure to Molly and learns the catchphrase “if that is what you wish”. Ash, Brock and Misty stumble across this, as do Ash’s mother, Delia, and Professor Oak. Molly wishes for a mother so her family can be hole again and Entei kidnaps Delia to make it so. Ash must rescue his mother and save this girl from herself before it’s too late.
You may have gathered from that description that the themes of this film are family, loss and how we deal with it. This is a very difficult subject with lots of angles to look at but the film handles it masterfully with the all the beats of the narrative being thick with meaning. Entei is Molly falling back on the two things she knows best – her father and fairy tales. Both are a source of strength as she knows her father will protect her and that fairy tales always have a happy ending. By entrenching herself in the fantasy and shutting out the harsh reality she wishes to preserve her old way of life at cost of everything else. It doesn’t stop there The nature of the Unown is left unknown (oh shit!). We don’t know what their motivations are for doing this to the Hale family and no amount of wall-chart conspiracy theorising will reveal them. And that’s the point. The Unown are just the randomness of life made CGI. Everything they do is completely arbitrary, causing any mixture of suffering, happiness and revelation that a person opens themselves to experience in their presence. The relationship between Entei and the Unown then is fascinating to observe. Entei representing the purity of fantasy corrupted by real world grief.
All this would be meaningless if it didn’t tie into the action somehow but fortunately it does. Aside from the opening battle during the credits between Ash and a random trainer, every Pokémon battle in this film is interacting with the theme, allowing for deeper insight into it. There is a sequence where a fantasy version of Molly, battles Brock and Misty with pokémon she has conjured up from the crystal. She is absolutely decimating them with cute pokémon like Teddiursa and Phanpy and Brock comments that “her dreamed up pokémon are tougher than real pokémon”. This demonstrates the power fantasy has over reality in Molly’s world. The clearest example of this is in the climactic fight between Entei and Charizard wherein Entei acts as the last guardian of Molly’s denial. Entei is temporarily losing the battle but the crystal environment shapes itself to give him the advantage, representing the peak of Molly’s denial.
Some Pokémon fans are probably thinking to themselves “fuck narrative depth! Does cool shit happen?”. I would advise them to read the end of the last paragraph because Entei fought Charizard in one of the most beautifully animated and choreographed battles in the franchise’s history. Seriously, it’s astounding. That is the strength of this film. Unlike other pokémon films, which sacrifice story for set ups and fan service, this one earns gold stars in each category. The pokémon battles and moves are natural and flowing, with moves like flamethrower and watergun being particularly impressive. The comedy relief of the film comes in the form of Team Rocket who are in top form throughout. You don’t have to have seen the show to appreciate their bickering.While a pre-existing understanding of pokémon will definitely enhance your enjoyment of it, it is not essential.
In conclusion, Pokémon the Movie 3 is the best Pokémon movie because its narrative and thematic depth does not come at the price of its essence allowing for fans and non-fans to enjoy it somewhat equally. If you want to examine this film more from the perspective of hardcore pokémon fans I would recommend Suede, Linkara and Jewario’s review from a few years ago which I will post a link to at the bottom of the page. Don’t forget to like and share so you too can use it to batter the non-believers. Your move, Watch Mojo.
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Suede Review – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXo_E08-lNU