SECOND LOOK: Pokémon 2000

The year is 2000. A new century, a new millennium. And Pokémon is at the peak of its popularity. It had already scored big with its games, anime, trading cards, and its first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, and the profits were rolling in for 4Kids Entertainment and Kids WB. So, they immediately made plans to release the second movie: Pokémon the Movie 2000. With the subtitle of “The Power of One”, Pokémon 2000 is a step up from its predecessor with excellent action, plot, music, and animation. The stakes are higher and it is a slightly more personal story for our beloved dumb hero Ash Ketchum, though mostly through divine powers. But is it actually better or worse than the first Pokémon movie? Let’s take a second look and find out if this has what it takes to be the very best, like no one ever was.

I still have my VCR copy of the film, and it begins with a short Pikachu short called “Pikachu Rescue Adventure”, a charming but frivolous adventure. Baby Togepi wanders too far from home, falls down a hole, and winds up being mistook for an Exeggcute. Pikachu and co. try to get her back, but when the rest of her new eggy clan refuse to let her go, the Pokémon set out to find the missing sixth Exeggcute so they then can rescue Togepi. It is short, sweet, introduced some new Pokémon, and enjoyed abusing poor Meowth.

The actual film itself has a story akin to a disaster movie. Lawrence the Third, an eccentric collector, seeks to fulfil an ancient prophecy from the Orange Islands, believing he is the mentioned chosen one and it is his destiny to capture the four Legendary Birds, Moltres, Zapdos, Articuno, and the sea deity Lugia (“The Beast of the Sea”). But as he captures each bird in his flying fortress, the world’s climate, kept in balance by the Birds’ powers, begins to go topsy-turvy. Pokémon and scientists from around the world begin to gather in the Orange Islands, discovering the actual Beast of the Sea is an underwater current that is causing all the climate changes. So, in a way, this movie is a very loose environmental film.

Meanwhile, Ash, Misty, Tracey, and a worried Pikachu, get caught in the storm and wash up on Shamouti Island, the heart of the Orange Islands. Ash is selected as the chosen one for the locals’ annual festival celebrating the legend, and send him off to the islands of the Legendary Birds to retrieve three magic orbs and bring them to Shamouti’s shrine. Though the locals just think it is part of their traditions, Ash, his friends, and Team Rocket soon discovers the real dangers of this quest when the destructive birds start fighting each other. Lugia himself comes to the rescue, revealing Ash is in fact the Chosen One (based on a pun in the legend), and he must gather the three orbs to end the fighting of the other titans. They sure do like throwing a ten-year old in the deep end don’t they.

Compared to the first movie, this one is better. 4Kids does briefly try to force another aesop down children’s throats by discrediting another of Pokémon’s key game mechanics (in this case capturing the Pokémon), but thankfully it is only in one line of dialogue rather than a whole scene. There are some minor plot issues like the convenience that Ash is the chosen one, and the pointless presence of all those Pokémon who do nothing to help out in the movie beyond standing around. The positives are virtually unlimited. The story’s pacing is good, not afraid to take its time, and I like the narrative is from multiple perspectives. Team Rocket, the shrine guardian Slowking, and Ash’s mum and Professor Oak all have subplots.

Everyone in the cast is given something to do, and I praise the use of Misty and Team Rocket during pivotal parts of the film. A new supporting protagonist is Melody, who at first is very much a rebellious 90s kid and has little interest in her island traditions, but comes to appreciate them as the film progresses. The villain Lawrence is a lot like a Bond villain, being very classy, surprisingly polite, has a cool airship, but seems content with dooming the world as long as he can capture Lugia. Speaking of which, the Legendary Birds are awesome, particularly the magnificent Lugia, even if the Christ-like allegories are obvious.

The production value is just spectacular. The animation is crisp and beautiful, and any computer animation fits in without being awkward. Probably the best aspect of the film has to be its soundtrack. Lugia’s theme is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and the visuals when it is played in the third act match perfectly. The film’s theme song is performed by the late Donna Summer, and soundtrack also has numbers by Weird Al Yankovic and Westlife. Unusually, Herman Cain, an American 2012 president candidate, used “The Power of One” as his theme song during his campaign, though he claimed he was unaware the song came from a Pokémon movie. Thanks for the promotion, Mr. Cain.

All in all, Pokémon 2000 is an epic film. It could easily be dismissed as just a cheap cash-in for the franchise, but is a fun romp with great animation and music. I often consider one of the best of the Pokémon movies, but I think, that honour belongs to the third movie: Spell of the Unown.

What are your thoughts on Pokémon 2000? Does it still live up to its reputation amongst fans or is it a colossal mess? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell