The next movie in our series of Pokémon movie reviews is the one with Lucario... and Mew! Mew?! Yeah, Mew!
At the time, Denise had long given up on the Pokémon movies. But a new movie involving Mew? That caught her attention. She was a bit weirded out that Mew was co-starring with another Pokémon that wasn't Mewtwo, but, huh, another movie with Mew. She actually followed the pre-release material, waiting hours for the teaser trailer to buffer on her dial-up internet, watching Mew's ass loading frame-by-frame as it flew through a strange, water-filled CG maze (that ended up having nothing to do with the final movie). Denise even made a relevant header image for her Mew and Mewtwo fansite Copy Cat to celebrate the Japanese premiere.
Likewise, Rosy was interested to learn more about Mew in the context of a different story than the First Movie. And sure, let's hear what's the deal with Lucario.
Lucario was one of the Generation IV Pokémon pre-released to hype the then-upcoming Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Its first appearance was as a Who's That Pokémon?-style shadow silhouette. And what did people answer? It's some sort of Anubis-Mewtwo! Today, this might seem ridiculous, but, forget that you know what Lucario actually looks like, and look at that silhouette. It helps that the reveal was blurry and covered with text in all the right places to obscure the parts of Lucario's design that would have made it look a bit less like Mewtwo. Plus, that text says that Lucario is somehow related to Mew, and that Mew is the only one who can understand Lucario (a cute idea that didn't make it to the final movie). And, with all this in mind, we mean, just look at their silhouettes...
...Mewtwo and Lucario do have a lot in common. They're both bipedal, humanoid, with a small torso and massive thighs, standing on their paw-like toes, with ears that go straight up and a tail. Then, of course, when we saw the full official art of Lucario, the fandom was like, oh, we guess we were wrong. But it still is in a movie with Mew, so it does have something in common with Mewtwo!
Later, as time went on, it was only more and more confirmed that Lucario was in some way a new kind of "Mewtwo". Not literally, but in terms of its role in the franchise, as the charismatic angst-riddled talking humanoid being. At that time, Lucario was added to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, replacing Mewtwo for a good while, before the developers realized both characters could co-exist in the same game. We'd previously said that Deoxys was meant to be some kind of new-Mewtwo, as a DNA-based alien-like being... but Deoxys was less successful than expected in capturing our hearts, so we guess that Game Freak's next move was to make a Pokémon that kinda resembled Mewtwo in appearance, but not necessarily in backstory. We suppose that their maneuver worked, as Lucario ended up being somewhat of a fandom favorite. Beyond its Mewtwo-likeness, however, we think it got most of its favor out of its appearance in this movie.
We were originally drawn to this movie because of Mew, but, actually, Mew turned out to be more of a cameo, and not the same individual as the one in the First Movie. Lucario is the actual star of this movie. Which, at the time, was strange, because Lucario isn't even a Legendary Pokémon, not even a pseudo-legendary, making this movie the first Pokémon movie with a regular old Pokémon in a starring role. We're pretty sure the actual reason why Mew is in this movie at all is because the Pokémon fandom was waning at this point, so they put in an all-time favorite hype generator to get our attention! And a brooding furry! And the Regis, people care about those, right? Right!
Despite this obvious marketing ploy, the premise of this movie is intriguing: the Lucario that appears in this movie used to be the companion of a legendary hero named Sir Aaron, and, because of some circumstances, ended up being trapped inside a Pokéball-like staff for hundreds of years. Now Lucario wakes up to find himself in the present world, and has to deal with the angst of what happened. And Mew is there, to get us to watch this movie.
Denise, as the owner of Copy Cat, has been asked many times by many people over many years, what does she think about this movie? At first, she didn't answer right away because she simply hadn't watched it. Now, she's watched it several times over, and is finally letting you know what she thought in the form of three interconnected articles (sorry it took over ten years, but that's kind of my speed, sorry).
Like all other Pokémon movies, this movie too starts with the usual introduction to what are Pokémon. However, this time the visuals are showing us something very interesting. It's 20 seconds long, and it supports a dozen or so theories from us. It presents something kinda like the phylogenetic tree of Pokémon. It starts with Mew, apart from everything else, as the primordial ancestor of all Pokémon, and then branches to show fossil Pokémon and other ancient Pokémon, and works its way up and up to the Legendary beasts and finally to Ho-Oh, implying that Ho-Oh is some sort of pinnacle of existence, and referencing the myth of the Simurgh roosting on top of the Tree of Life.
We wrote a full breakdown of what happens in this scene and what we think it means for Copy Cat.
This idea of a phylogenetic tree of Pokémon exists as a literal location in this movie, known as the Tree of World's Origin (even if it looks nothing like the tree in this introduction sequence).
Then the movie begins with a prologue taking place in a time before Pokéballs. We see Ho-Oh flying away from the Tree of World's Origin, like an omen of something, but, who knows. Under the screeching Ho-Oh, Lucario is scouting the war between the armies, one wearing green marked with an A, and one wearing red marked with an M. What are these armies about? What do A and M mean? They're not Aqua and Magma. They're not Midori and Aka (Green and Red), as the colors are reversed. What the hell was this war even about? Who knows! Who cares!
The main point is that the two advancing armies of M and A are about to collide in a valley near the castle where Sir Aaron, Lucario, and Queen Leen live. The castle and its political entity aren't even involved in this war, but everyone is alarmed that a war is breaking out nearby.
Lucario wants to make a report back to Sir Aaron at the castle regarding what he's seeing, and, considering that Lucario is not a Psychic-type, the writers of this movie invented a plot device specifically so that they could have long-distance communication with each other. There are these crystals running through the rock of this land, and because both Lucario and Aaron are trained in reading and manipulating auras (also called "the Wave"), and these crystals are Wave-operated, Lucario can touch them to have a tin-can-and-string-type conversation with Aaron miles away.
Are these crystals made of the same crystal as the castle from the third movie? Are these crystals the basis of all the technology in the Pokémon World, and that is why they always have such good cellphone reception in the badlands of Kanto?
Regardless of Lucario explaining the situation, the Queen is too ~noble~ to evacuate, so she's resigning to die over whatever Team M and Team A are warring over. Sir Aaron, however, is not content to sit there like a pessimist and wait for death, so he takes off on his Pidgeot and flies towards the Tree of World's Origin.
On the way there, he meets up with Lucario, and Aaron, without asking Lucario's consent or taking into account Lucario's own autonomy or whatever Lucario would want to choose to do in this situation, pulls the dickass move of sealing Lucario inside his magical staff, abandoning him there. This is so that Aaron can go off and sacrifice himself to save the castle without Lucario's life being at risk, and so that Lucario doesn't have to witness him die, or whatever the hell excuse Aaron has for this.
We hate this trope. We hate how this happens all the time. Fucking Dead Space and Ni No Kuni and Tales of Symphonia and every white man action hero locking the door so that their sidekick or love interest (or we guess both in Lucario's case, ahem) can't follow them as they heroically sacrifice themselves because, I am doing it to protect you and I am doing it for your own good, and you deserve someone better than me anyway, live a good life without me, even though I never even discussed this with you and what does it matter what you think or what you want or you choose, I am the man-hero and I know what is best for both of us. And somehow that always seems to be the man-hero sacrificing himself so that he can feel all ego and heroic while the person that cared about them and maybe had a better idea gets to cry behind the locked door. Fucking idiots, all of them. We hate this trope.
And what exactly did Aaron expect was going to happen to poor Lucario here? He put Lucario in the staff and had Pidgeot bring it back to the castle, but what if that failed, given that the army was already approaching, and what if they shot down Pidgeot and trampled the staff? Okay, the staff manages to survive being brought to the Queen, but she was also not consulted over any of this, so she does not know that Lucario is inside the staff, so she can't choose to release it, and she probably isn't even able to use the staff to release Lucario anyway. How was Aaron's plan here merciful?
And what is the deal with this staff? This is a time before Pokéballs, but this staff is essentially a Pokéball on a stick. Why does it exist? Why only for Lucario, but not for Pidgeot? We accept that in the current Pokémon World there's this ubiquitous technology to transport large creatures around, but in a world in which this is unheard of, the idea of putting your Pokémon friend into a small object would be completely alien and bizarre and cruel-sounding. So why would this staff exist? Why would there be only one, rather than none or more than one? And if there are otherwise no Pokéballs, what even is this staff? Is it made of the same crystals as the walkie-talkie crystals? Does it only work for storing Lucario, because Lucario can use the Wave?
Who invented this staff? Did Aaron make it? For what purpose? The staff, apart from storing Lucario's soul, seems to have some function involved in helping Aaron to use the Wave. When Lucario uses the Wave, his head-appendages go up and vibrate. The staff has similarly-shaped jewels that also go up and vibrate. Is it some sort of dowsing rod for the Wave? Is it meaningful that it looks a bit like Lucario? Or is it just to give Aaron something reminiscent of Lucario for the sake of his design?
In any case, the legend ends that Aaron sacrificed himself and used the power of the Tree of World's Origin to stop the war, somehow. There was green light and all the Pokémon involved got the warm fuzzies and just went home. Like that. That's what they said. Yep. Whatever they were fighting about anyway didn't matter anymore and the entire castle was saved. Does this have any connection with the green glow in the second movie?
We see Ho-Oh land in the Tree of World's Origin and... transform into Mew. The Ho-Oh was Mew in disguise all along. This was Ho-Oh's only movie appearance for nineteen movies, and it's not even really Ho-Oh. We mean, we're here for watching Mew, but poor Ho-Oh. Maybe we'd like Ho-Oh better if it got some sort of development. Just, this tiny cameo in the eighth movie? What happened? Why is Ho-Oh so neglected? We suspect it's because the anime team planned to do something more with Ho-Oh, since it showed up in the very first episode, so it would be featured in some sort of finale thing, but considering that the anime is still ongoing, the finale never happened, and Ho-Oh is now no longer relevant, just like Giovanni and Gary and Lance and the identity of Ash's dad and all that stuff.
Now we have the title screen. In Japanese, this movie is called Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation the Movie - Mew and the Wave-Guiding Hero: Lucario. Even visually, Lucario's name just sort of gets tacked on at the end even though this movie is about Lucario, it is known by fans as the Lucario movie, but, whatever, just stick the name at the end, who cares. Mew gets top billing, but, as we said, Mew is almost a cameo in this movie. At least the English localization has a slightly more concise and truthful title: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, where the mystery is why even is Mew in this movie.
Now back to the present! The twerps are going to the ren-faire at the castle, which is still standing after all, where there is going to be a tournament in honor of the legend of Sir Aaron. This time, the animators got a trip to Germany to visit Neuschwanstein Castle for inspiration. It's evident that this movie's castle was inspired by that one, but it's not a straight out copy. Instead of just having the castle on a hill, they made it be surrounded by water and accessible via two bridges, so the location ends up looking a bit more original than the stuff they did in the last few movies. Good job.
The castle offers free access to an entire costume rental facility for anyone who doesn't have their own costume, so the twerps are using that to dress up however they want. That's awesome. There wasn't even any supervision, they could go and do whatever they wanted, like wear ten dresses at once, and no one would stop them. We guess no one is abusing this system at all? That's really nice.
Ash goes, "Oh! I want to wear the costume of the hero!". So he does. They have a full set of accessories and everything handy for him. Somehow, even though this whole event is centered on the legend of Sir Aaron saving the castle, no one else in the entire ren-faire dresses up like Sir Aaron. That's like going to a Star Trek convention on Leonard Nimoy's birthday, and there's only one Spock in the entire place. How could this possibly be? Shouldn't like every contestant in this tournament be dressed like Sir Aaron? Are they all being humble, and Ash is unknowingly being really rude to dress like Sir Aaron? What happened here?
May dresses up like a Beautifly Princess... Max as some sort of prince or page or something... and Brock is a bishop. Brock is going around hitting on ladies, dressed like a bishop. That's Brock for you. They even force Pikachu into a costume of a jester, and Pikachu is a good sport about it. It is pretty cute.
Though, as soon as the tournament starts, Pikachu somehow jumps up into the air as a jester, and then lands conveniently without the costume on anymore. Did Pikachu explode the costume with electricity? Who's going to pay for that? Now Ash and Pikachu are abusing the costume system.
Ash wins the tournament, which means he gets to hold Sir Aaron's staff, but also has to spend the remainder of the party sitting in The Chair of the Winner, which he is not allowed to leave, not even for one second, while everyone else parties around him, enjoys the food, dances, and has fun. And Ash must just sit there. With nothing. They don't even bring him a plate. Geez, maybe this is why Ash was able to win. No one else wanted to actually win this tournament. You wanna do well in the tournament, but definitely not win it.
Brock is dancing with a cool lady named Kid, who placed second in the tournament and who is way too experienced for poor little virgin Brock. Brock tries his moves, and she agrees to dance with him, and he is so floored that he has no idea what to even do with himself, and she's just like, don't worry, I'll take the lead, and Brock is just like, oh thank all the gods in heaven and just is goop as she dances him around.
May earlier was fawning over the Queen and Kid, but she meets a hot guy on the dance floor, and maybe she can be bi for him.
Jessie, James, and Meowth have come to the castle to steal Pokémon while everyone is distracted during the dance, but they too get sidetracked by the costume rental facility. We mean, a costume rental facility... Team Rocket... it's like their catnip. James dresses as a noble, and even got his hair curled for the occasion. Also probably extensions for the ponytail in the back. Good job. Meowth dresses as a tin-can knight, and Jessie instantly changes into some sort of fancy lady. James and Meowth are surprised that she got changed so quickly, but, considering Jessie and James do split-second costume changes all the time, we don't understand their surprise.
James seems to be at least on some level saying, okay, we have a job to do, but Jessie is just looking to dress up, have fun, and dance with whatever hot guy she can find. They bonk into May and HotGuy, and Jessie steals HotGuy. May ends up dancing with James, who is having a very hard time trying to hide his face from May, but he doesn't stop dancing with her. James is a gentleman and a good dancer and not going to just leave May in the lurch like that, even if it's to protect his own identity. Meanwhile Jessie is swinging HotGuy around like a lasso dancing across the floor and totally wearing him out.
By the way, we've been calling him HotGuy, but, according to the movie credits, his name is Freddy. This is never stated in the movie itself, and, given that his whole dialogue is "Excuse me", "Your dancing is quite skillful", and "AAAHHH", we are baffled that he even was given a name. Let alone Freddy. Freddy???
Meanwhile, all the Pokémon are at the party too. Like, even Corphish gets to party while Ash is in The Chair of The Winner. Mew has been at the party too, disguised as various Pokémon to let it freak out the bystanders.
Though it is a bit weird that people are so freaked out. The most egregious example happened earlier: the maid saw that there were not just one, but two Mime Jr.s, and she did a double take. Then Mew transformed into Aipom, and the maid acted like she might faint. But later, it is the maid herself who explains to Ash and company that Mew is known to disguise itself as other Pokémon and sneak into the castle to "borrow" toys. Shouldn't this maid and anyone else who is regularly at this castle be attuned to situations where they see an unusual Pokémon in an unusual place and know to wonder if it was actually Mew in disguise? She shouldn't be passing out over seeing a Pokémon seemingly change identity. She should be saying, "Oh hi, Mew, welcome to the party. Here, I have a toy to give you." Not passing out like she just saw something that she cannot process, when she herself knows that Mew goes around in disguise all the time.
Pikachu also notices a strange Pokémon seems to be changing its identity, going from Pichu to Aipom and from Aipom to Pikachu right before Pikachu's eyes, but Pikachu goes with it and all the Pokémon are having fun in the attic, and Pikachu dances with its Pikamew double like it is having the time of its life.
Meanwhile, Kid gives Brock the slip and does some spy lingo over satellite phone with Banks, a rich dude on a diet in presumably Great Britain, because that's where all spies and people named Banks are from. We have to conclude that since Kid's plan was to slip away unnoticed to the roof of the castle during the party, she must have intentionally lost against Ash in the tournament just so that she wouldn't get stuck in the Chair of the Winner.
This is another Pokémon movie with yet another homage to Lupin III running over the rooves - first Kid does a cool job of it, and then, even more so with Meowth, being not quite so cool and almost falling to his death.
Kid reaches a tower from where she can see all the Pokémon dancing in the attic, including Mew. Her goal is to put a tracking device on Mew, so that she can find the Tree of World's Origin. We're not sure why the Tree of World's Origin is so hard to find, considering that it's looming right over there on the horizon, but, okay. She sends out her two Weaviles after Mew, which serves the purpose of introducing this new Generation IV Pokémon, but also actually makes sense, imagine that! As Dark Types, they should be a good match-up against Psychic-type Mew. During the ensuing fight, Mew ends up saving Pikachu and Meowth and whisking them away to the Tree of World's Origin.
Meanwhile, Ash keeps hearing the staff go, "Whyyyy?" (a la Mewtwo), but Ash doesn't find that to be overly troubling.
At the end of the party, the maid instructs Ash to strike the Heroic Pose, mimicking the pose of Sir Aaron in the nearby tapestry. He must stand resolutely and hold the staff over his head, which signals to everyone that the party is over, fuck off and go home. We can't help but wonder, what is the deal with this Heroic Pose? Where did this tradition come from? Why does it mean the party is over? Is mimicking the tapestry just something that they started doing for fun, and it became a tradition? What if someone in a different costume won the tournament? Did Ash win in part because he was dressed like Sir Aaron, and so everyone lost purposely to him?
In any case, Ash holds up the staff, and that is when Lucario is released. Because Lucario got dirt in its eyes in the past, it's keeping its eyes closed and instead using its aura powers to "see". In Wave-o-Vision, Ash dressed up in the costume of the hero looks a lot like Sir Aaron. Lucario goes to Ash all, "wtf Aaron, why did you do that Aaron", but then he opens his eyes and realizes, oh shit, that's not Aaron, and he's so embarrassed that he just runs away.
We wonder, why hasn't Lucario come out of the staff a long time ago if anyone who wins the tournament has to do the Heroic Pose at the end of the party? We will soon learn that the costume didn't really have much to do with it, but rather that Ash's soul just so happens to look very similar to Sir Aaron's. Why? Because they are both jerkass hero jerks? What would it even mean for two people to have a similar aura? Are there only a few kinds of auras like some sort of zodiac, or is it like Ash just so happens to have the same fingerprints as Aaron? Is this implying that Ash is a descendant of Aaron? Or is this all just ridiculous random main character power?
Would only someone with an aura matching that of Sir Aaron have been able to get Lucario out of the staff? If that is the case - which seems to be, considered that Lucario hasn't come out before - then Aaron is even more of a jerk than we previously thought. He put Lucario in the staff because he planned to die. But he knew that no one else would be able to get Lucario out of the staff, thereby dooming him to be frozen in the staff for potentially all eternity, and it was only by absurd chance and main character powers that Lucario was ever released. Oh no, if I go to die, you die too, it would be better if you were trapped for all eternity in a fate worse than death without even anyone knowing where you went.
So Lucario runs away to what would be his and Aaron's bedroom (!!!) to find it as a museum full of glass display cases holding relics that he probably recognizes, yikes. He turns around and the queen is there, but she is not Queen Leen that Lucario knew, but rather Queen Aileen, a distant descendant. Poor Lucario...
The twerps hear Lucario's recounting of events which ends with Aaron's betrayal, which doesn't jive with the myth that has been handed down through the ages. But then Max runs in saying he saw Mew and it kidnapped Pikachu and Meowth. Kid also comes in confirming that she saw Mew (and nevermind mentioning how and why, and that she's directly responsible for this turn of events). So now everyone needs to figure out how to find Mew, but Mew is hard to find considering it can shapeshift, but Lucario can see the auras so he should be able to find Mew... though, Mew probably went to the Tree of World's Origin anyway, so why is this even a point? Just go to the Tree, silly. But whatever, Lucario will lead the way there tomorrow so that Ash can save Pikachu from Mew's playroom. And Kid reveals that she is like a professional adventurer or something, and Brock is her biggest fan and that's creepy, and just watch the Mime Jr. mimicking his motions and don't pay attention to how creepy Brock is.
Jessie and James overhear this. James is concerned for Meowth, but Jessie is mostly concerned with the irony of having one of their Pokémon kidnapped. They decide to sneakily follow the twerps to find Meowth. It's weird that Jessie and James don't even consider stealing the rare and elusive legendary Mew, and that Jessie in particular has no reaction, given that her mother tried to find Mew and was never seen again.
In the night, Lucario is brooding around full of emo and confusion and Ash doesn't understand why Lucario is not his best friend yet.
By the way, yeah, Lucario talks. He apparently speaks with telepathy, or so Ash says. This wouldn't be a problem, except Lucario is notably not a Psychic type. He's Fighting/Steel. How can he use telepathy? Because they needed him to talk in this movie, so they pulled bullshit out of their asses. Because it looks like Mewtwo, and it needed to emo like Mewtwo. The bigger question yet is why is Lucario Fighting/Steel of all things, but that's the subject matter of another rant...
Going to save Pikachu
Next morning, Lucario is guiding the twerps in Kid's jeep by ninja running through the fog and seeing with his power of aura, which looks like a really old 3D video game that only loads the mountains when you are right next to them. And Jessie and James are sneaking a ride in the trunk that is ruled by Looney Tunes Laws of Physics. But why are Jessie and James sneaking the ride? If they revealed themselves and asked for help to save Meowth, the twerps would even agree. Maybe right now they're feeling too proud for that. But if Lucario can see the aura of everything, how were they not discovered? Is Lucario too busy being emo to care about stowaways?
In the meanwhile, Mew and Meowth and Pikachu are having a gay old time frolicking about in the beautiful Tree playing with all of Mew's horde of stolen toys, which is cute. This movie is otherwise a mess, but the Pokémon toys that appear in this movie are possibly the most well thought out part of it.
Then Mew and Meowth and Pikachu are shown riding around on what is later explained to be the Tree's... blood cells... charming. We strongly suspect the blood cells were made a part of this movie solely for the purpose of having Mew interact with a bubble. They even reused the First Movie's sound effect of Mew on the bubble when it gets onto the blood cells.
Speaking of sounds, Mew's voice in this movie sounds terrible. It sounds like a person in heat going "Mee~eeew" in a kinda whiny, moaning, annoying, voiced way, whereas in the First Movie, Mew had a mystical, echoy sort of mewing that didn't sound so much like a voice actor at a microphone. And we have no idea why they couldn't have Mew's old voice again, since Mew's original voice actor worked on this movie too, as the voice of Sir Aaron! This time, Togepi's voice actor did Mew's voice, but she does a much better job with Togepi, so.... we don't know what happened here. The best we can come up with is that the different voice is for making clear that this is not the same Mew as the one in the First Movie.
We're also not happy with the animators' new way of drawing Mew in this movie. Sometimes they seem to be recycling shots from the First Movie, so in those shots, Mew looks right. But the rest of the time, it's so off model. The way they draw it in this movie, it makes it seem as if Mew's snout is a giant honking nose. We suppose it's because this movie tries to make Mew's mouth visible almost all the time, while in the First Movie it was hidden except for a few glimpses. But this movie wants to show the mouth, to hammer it into our heads that Mew is cute and cuddly and smiling. Which de-emphasizes the point of Mew being an ageless deity that cannot be so easily understood.
Back to the twerps, the group stops at some hot springs, because this is an anime. They all have a grand old time, even though Ash is so worried about Pikachu. God, Ash, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Pikachu can't have a playdate with Mew for one night of sleepover without Ash having a total freak out and acting like Pikachu is dead. Like, seriously, Ash is in the hot springs all, "Pikachu would have liked this, I wish Pikachu could be here..." just, god, Ash, give Pikachu some breathing room and learn how to be your own person, geez.
Pikachu was never in danger! Everyone knows Mew is benevolent (if mischievous). Pikachu is safe, everything is fine, chill out.
Ash invites Lucario to the hot spring, and Lucario has a flashback of being invited by Aaron into the (hot...) spring. Lucario remembers how he was taken in by Aaron as an apprentice to learn how to use the Wave. Which means Lucario doesn't naturally know the Wave. Or at least, without training, he's not as good as Aaron, a regular human. Weird. Does this mean that random Lucarios in the world don't necessarily use this power? But they do, according to the Pokédex. So... what. This particular Lucario just sucks?
The twerps find a convenient plot-device flashback crystal called a Time Flower, and the movie goes to great lengths to explain how it works: not once, not twice, but three times in a row. It still doesn't make any sense and is totally just a convenient plot device. It's not just a flower that shows flashbacks, it's a flower that only shows flashbacks for people who are Aura People, whatever the heck that even means, and when Ash triggers it, it shows him a flashback of five minutes ago when he last touched it, but then later they trigger other flowers and they show flashbacks of however many years ago when they were last activated by Aaron or Lucario. They pretty much just show whatever the plot needs right now, and how convenient. And shitty.
Later in the evening, Ash is retelling the story of the first episode and how he and Pikachu became friends, and Ash is still acting like it is Pikachu's funeral and is telling all the good stories about his lifelong friendship with Pikachu. Pikachu is fine.
Lucario is still feeling bitter over how he was betrayed by Aaron, so he scoffs at the idea of Pokémon and humans being friends. Ash gets pissed off and says he is indeed best friends with Pikachu, by the way, you're full of shit about Aaron abandoning you. Lucario takes a dig back by saying maybe Pikachu left because he wanted to, and you know, even though he's factually wrong, he could be right for how much Ash is stifling Pikachu.
Then Ash tackles the freaking aura ninja from behind and they tumble down into the water. How did Ash manage to hit the aura ninja Pokémon from behind and wrestle him like a little kid? We thought aura powers would make this impossible. Maybe it's true that Lucario sucks at his own powers, and that's why he needed training from a human.
Lucario finally manages to get control of the situation, flings Ash away, and leaves with some parting shot about how humans and Pokémon should never be friends. (Like Mewtwo). If Lucario had a middle finger, it would be flipping Ash off right now.
May goes to Ash all, Ash, you started it, you should apologize, and Ash is like, you're right, I suck, I'll apologize. Though, technically, Lucario did start it - Ash was minding his own business giving his speech at Pikachu's wake, and Lucario just took a random shot... But props to Ash for being a decent person here. He did say what he said in a nasty way.
But rather than Ash apologizing right then, it's actually Max who then is like, friendly apologetic to Lucario? Max gives Lucario some chocolate, since chocolate is one of the best cures for emo. Lucario purrs and Max giggles and then Lucario resumes his emo attitude. Nobody saw that.
Then later that night, Pikachu is missing Ash, and it wakes Ash up through their... psychic link... or whatever the hell. Lucario happens to see Ash whispering "Pikachu..." to the moon, practically going to start singing an eighties power ballad ... Lucario is rightly all, wtf.
So anyway, the next day, Lucario is still leading the twerps to Mew and they hit yet another flashback flower, and we see Aaron seemingly abandon Lucario like he did at the beginning of the movie. And we see the whole invading army and Lucario freaks out and starts attacking the flashback until he's reminded that it's not real.
And Ash cries and finally apologizes to Lucario, even though the timing of this is bad. Like, this way it seems like Ash is only apologizing because he was proven wrong about Aaron, but he already had resolved to apologize to Lucario before. Also, Lucario is having an extremely traumatic moment and Ash is butting in to be all, I am sorry I was mean last night, and just, Ash, stop making it all about you.
This plotpoint hinges on nobody fucking believing Lucario. The audience doesn't learn anything by seeing this convenient Time Flower flashback - we saw it happen at the beginning of the movie. This is all just to convince the twerps, and to show us that now the twerps know for sure. Because Ash won't believe what happened to Lucario unless he sees a contrived flashback with his own two eyes. But why not? They saw him come out of the staff of Aaron, so it's not like he could be lying about having been Aaron's apprentice and put into the staff. And Lucario tells everyone what happened to him, and everyone goes, "but that's not how it is depicted on our tapestry". And in the end they decide to "agree to disagree" and that there's now no way to know... As if they didn't have Lucario's first-hand eyewitness account of what happened to him that caused him to be inside the staff that he just came out of. Everyone is half-sympathetic to Lucario, all, aw, poor Lucario, coming out of a coma and everyone he knew is long dead. But no one stops to think that, yeah, no matter the particulars, Aaron put him into the staff and doomed him to be in a fate worse than death for however many hundred years. And still they don't want to re-examine their hero-worship. The festival is too much fun for that!
Then Regirock bursts out of the ground for no reason and attacks them. Why are the Regis even in this movie?!? Just to fill the obligatory Legendary debut, because the Legendary Pokémon Guild has the Pokémon Movies locked in a fierce contractual agreement. But apparently not a well-worded enough contract, because the Regis in this movie are basically like... mall cops. They're like, you can't come here, but they are so easily bypassed, and then at the end they just like, walk away all ashamed like, oh, oh well.
But why are these robotic-looking golems guarding the Tree of World's Origin? Are the Regis like the Seraphim, guarding the biblical Tree of Life? If so, this angelic reference isn't nearly as well-done as the Latias movie.
The Tree of World's Origin
The group gets into the Tree, and it's full of Ancient Pokémon: Omanyte and Aerodactyl and Yanma and Cradily, Ledyba, and even Altaria. It's implied that the Tree of World's Origin is a literal Ladder of Life, and all the ancient lifeforms live at the lowest level.
Kid's goal in this movie was to study the Tree, so she releases a swarm of creepy drones to probe around. The Tree doesn't like that and starts swallowing the drones into its blood cells. And shit starts to go down. The Tree gets infected? Inflamed? Feverish? And it starts to swallow the intruders, which are the humans, but not the Pokémon. The first target is Jessie, who is swallowed by the blob and is sucked into the floor. Of course it would be Jessie... whenever a member of her family goes somewhere where a Mew is known to be, they die. James tries to save Jessie, but watches her die. Yeah, that went fanfiction-levels of hardcore. James eventually gets eaten by another blob too, but, understanding what's about to happen to him, in his last moment he frees his Pokémon.
As everyone is slowly getting eaten, Ash finally finds Pikachu in a place where there's all these crystal bridges over an abyss and dangerous winds. Instead of letting Pikachu, the mouse Pokémon, scurry over to him with its mouse dexterity, or instead of asking for the help of his bird Pokémon, or anyone really, Ash just runs like an idiot out onto these dangerous crystal icicles, attempting to defy physics so that he can get to Pikachu a few seconds faster. Of course he ends up falling into the bottomless pit below, but he's hugging Pikachu, so all is good. He ends up being only coincidentally saved by Kid.
By the way, wouldn't it have been easier if the twerps had just flown to the top of the Tree in a hot air balloon or something instead of having to climb it up from the bottom? Better yet, couldn't Ash have just sent up Swellow to find Pikachu and carry it back?
Anyway, Ash also gets eaten, and Pikachu and all of Ash's Pokémon cry. They try to redo that scene of the first movie, but it doesn't work. So Mew goes to Pikachu all, don't worry, I have Ash's hat. Pikachu is all, no you idiot, Ash is not the hat. I love the person, not the hat. And you are not my new boyfriend. Mew is all, ok, fine, it's over I guess, and uses its magical Mew powers to bring everyone back from the dead for ill-explained reasons. Mew is symbiotic with the Tree, but that doesn't explain anything anyway. Meowth says Mew told the Tree that the humans are not bacteria. Mew didn't even speak or anything. None of this makes any sense.
For that matter, how could Mew even tell the Tree to stop being allergic? Even if Mew and the Tree are one and the same, can you tell your own body to not have an allergic reaction and chill out about the pollen already? And even if it could, where were the humans in the meanwhile? Were they even physically intact anymore? Why was it even possible to bring them back? Shouldn't they have already been eaten and dismantled?
Then Mew suddenly gets a fever because drama. Wow, great powers this Tree and Mew have if the Tree can collapse because Mew told it to spit out the humans. This is equivalent to dying from a splinter. Mew starts moaning uncomfortably and looking drunk or horny or both. God, Mew's voice sounded bad before, but now it's really awkward to hear... Anyway, Mew needs blood. Mew leads the twerps to the sacrifice room where they find Aaron's body encased in crystal poop! His gloves are conveniently not in the crystal because they're about to become plot-important. The twerps bonk a time flower and learn that Aaron did not betray everyone! He did indeed use his powers to save the castle with the help of Mew, thereby sacrificing himself! Now they have to do just the same to save Mew and the Tree. And Mew is all like, hey Lucario, you have the same power, so... it won't suck itself...
And Lucario does the Wave to give power to Mew. But his Wave is not good enough. But Ash has this power that he has acquired in the last two days with zero training, right? So he can do it better than Lucario, right? As long as he wears Aaron's gloves, he can do it. Is it the cosplay powers? Are the gloves tricked? Anyway, he and Lucario try to please the ever-insatiable Mew, and at the end Lucario shoves Ash away because he doesn't want him to die and he wants to be the one doing the heroic sacrifice, because Ash needs to live for Pikachu. So Lucario does the thing, Mew is finally satisfied with the sacrifice, and Lucario gets to die.
While Lucario dies, he steps on another of the convenient plot crystal turds, and conveniently Aaron was monologuing for Lucario's benefit right where Lucario is currently dying. And he's talking about how he was so gay with Lucario and it was nice to be around Lucario and the Queen and threesome confirmed? And Lucario learns that he was never betrayed and that Aaron trapped him in the staff for hundreds of years because Lucario would have followed him forever and died with him! Even though that should have been his own choice to make! And even though having a normal conversation about this in advance might have solved everything anyway! If Lucario had gone to the sacrifice room with Aaron, maybe neither of them would have needed to die, because they both could have given some of their energy to Mew. Or, at least Aaron could have taken over to save Lucario right there instead of dooming it to a thousand years of imprisonment. "I had no choice!" Yes you did.
Anyway, Lucario dies. No tears of life or turned to stone or any of that junk, Lucario dies to sparkles and he's dead, mingling with Aaron's sparkles that conveniently only got released now, because of the power of gay.
In the end, everyone leaves, and Kid tells the rich old dude that, by the way, wonderful to have collected some data about the Tree, but let's not tell anyone about this. This is one of Pokémon's favorite plotlines. But what is she really protecting? The Tree of World's Origin is public knowledge, and it is known that Mew lives there. She can't undo the fact that this is known. That's why she's even here, because she knew it, and wanted to check it out. And she went there, and what did she learn? That the Tree of World's Origin is a Pokémon sanctuary and very dangerous for humans to visit. Wouldn't it be better to get this legally recognized as a national park and off-limits to unauthorized people? Right now, she's essentially leaving the door unlocked for some other adventurer to die in there, and next time, an Aura user might not be there to sacrifice themselves to the Mew Altar and save the day.
During the credits!
Everyone goes back to the castle, and the tapestry with Aaron now has also Lucario in it. Did they revamp it in the last three days? Is it a magical tapestry that only shows heroes? Is it a window to the afterlife, so it can only show subjects that are already dead? Is there a perfectly logical explanation for this, or is something supernatural going on here? Why does Ash just look at it and go, yep, Lucario reunited with Aaron, and not think anything is weird about this?
But why wasn't Lucario in the tapestry in the first place? Pidgeot gets to be in the other tapestry, and Lucario was known to be one of the Pokémon of Aaron, and was presumed to have died in service to the castle defending it during the war. Why wasn't it already there?
This scene could have been solved with 100% less plothole by just having the twerps, instead of arriving back to the castle and seeing the tapestry is different, be present at the unveiling of the restored and revised tapestry. The scene would have still been cute, would have stayed pretty much the same, and it wouldn't have the implication that this tapestry is a window to heaven that no one sees as weird or worth exploiting.
Lucario and Aaron have chocolate in the afterlife. This was really important to show. This doesn't even make sense. Are they eating chocolate in heaven? Val would disagree.
Brock cries a lot when he realizes that his new friend who is a girl is a movie character, and he'll never see her again even though they had hit it off. This seems to happen a lot to Brock. Maybe that's why he eventually left the show.
Throughout the movie, there's been a Bonsly following the twerps around to be another Generation IV Pokémon debut. In the end, Bonsly stays in the Tree to be Mew's new playmate for the rest of eternity. It's kind of weird that the Tree of World's Origin is both said to be a tree and made of rock and alive... just like Bonsly. Is Bonsly a baby Tree of World's Origin? Is the Tree actually MegaSudowoodo?
So, after watching this movie several times, we have a lot of questions. The worldbuilding of this movie is a mess. We're left to wander aimlessly through the wilds of headcanonland, because there's nothing guiding us towards what was even intended. Let us share with you some of our wonderings.
The Tree of World's Origin
It seems like the Tree of World's Origin is intended to be something like the axis mundi, and the source of all Pokémon in the world... and Mew is both one with the Tree and separate from the Tree. Was Mew the first Pokémon, born in the Tree as the Tree was born, and then out of the Tree came every Pokémon species afterwards? Or is the Tree like a time capsule of Pokémon and that's why there's the fossil Pokémon there, and the reason why Mew is there is because it too is being preserved as the first Pokémon ever?
The Tree and the surrounding area are covered with crystals that seem to warp time and space. Is this why the inside of the Tree seems to be timeless? Because it exists outside of time as a living diorama, thanks to the time-warping crystals? Why are these crystals and Mew itself Wave-operated? Why is the Tree both made of rock and organic, but only organic in the sense of having blood vessels? And why does its immune response look like blobs of fossil Pokémon? Why is Mew symbiotic with it, but also able to leave as far as the castle? Is it because the castle is actually part of the Tree? How did the castle get entwined with the Tree, if that's the case? The crystals run through the castle as if they were ivy climbing onto a building. Since Kid states that the Tree has been existing for tens of thousands of years, the castle must be newer than the Tree, so how did the crystals get there?
How can Mew be symbiotic with the Tree, but also able to control it? Symbiosis implies the two parties are both benefitting from their relationship. What does Mew get out of this? It's imprisoned and unhappy inside the Tree. Does it get immortality? But Mew was established in the First Movie to already be probably immortal without the help of a magical tree. The Mew of this movie must have a different mechanism for living than the Mew of the First Movie. But why?
And thinking about it some more, why does the Tree of World's Origin exist at all? It seems to be the birthplace of Pokémon species, but why would there be a location for that? And about location, side material implies that this Tree is located a bit north and between Pewter City and Mount Moon. That's a hell of a place to drop this Tree in. Pokémon media has presented several different potential cosmologies for the Pokémon world - one is that Mew is the last common ancestor of all Pokémon, and all current species evolved (in the scientific sense) from Mew, and another suggests that Pokémon are actually alien lifeforms that arrived to Earth, which was already inhabited with plants and humans. Pewter City is known for its museum housing fossil Pokémon, and Mount Moon is believed by some to be the place where Pokémon first came to Earth from space. And now there's this Tree that seems to be connecting the two with the origin of Pokémon. But how, and why? What were they trying to say with this? Did Mew arrive on a tree-shaped spaceship, and then gave birth to
And then the Tree has a vague unexplained power to accept sacrifices in exchange for stopping Bad. Aaron sacrificed himself to cause there to be green light that gave the warring Pokémon the warm fuzzies and stopped the fighting. Then, Lucario sacrificed himself to stop the Tree from falling apart. What is the mechanism for this power to stop the Bad? The two Bads in this movie are nothing alike. One is a "pointless war", and the other is the Tree dying due to seasonal allergies. This is the major climax of the movie, and Lucario's sacrifice is supposed to mirror Aaron's, but... it doesn't. And it doesn't make any sense.
The real reason why the Tree was falling apart was to get Lucario in the sacrifice room so that it can die in a dramatic fashion with the crystal-fueled Aaron flashback and whatever.
One thing about this movie that pissed us off back when it came out is that we were promised a movie about Mew, and we got a movie about Lucario, with Mew in the background. Good for Lucario, but we thought Mew would have a bigger role. And the role that it does have seems to contradict what we already knew about Mew from the First Movie. The plot of the First Movie hinges on Team Rocket wanting to clone Mew, because Mew is ultra-powerful and believed to be extinct, so the only way they're going to get one is through the power of science. Naturally, later in the movie we learn that there is still a living Mew, but no one knows about it.
Then the Lucario movie comes along and has this Mew that is widely known to live in the Tree of World's Origin. The Lucario movie cannot be sharing the same universe with the First Movie, otherwise Team Rocket would have just come to the Tree and grabbed that living Mew and not waste their time with science experiments. This annoys us, because there is no reason why this movie couldn't have been written to allow for the existence of both Mews. If the Lucario movie's Mew was just as secret and unknown, the plot would have actually flowed better. Pikachu has been kidnapped by an unknown shapeshifting Pokémon that we know nothing about, and Lucario with his aura-powers is the only one who can track it down. This would have given Lucario more of a reason to be guiding the party. The way the movie actually goes, everyone knows Mew is benevolent, and they know that it went to the Tree, so they could have just gone there without Lucario. And not knowing the identity of Pikachu's kidnapper would have given Ash more of a reason to angst, because who knows where Pikachu is and what this mysterious Pokémon is up to. Then later in the movie it would have been revealed that it is Mew, and everyone could have gone ooh and aah, and at the end of the movie Kid would have decided to preserve Mew's secret so that no Team Rocket can come to steal it. There, we did it: this doesn't retcon the First Movie and improves the plot. Was it so hard?
While this resolves the conflict between the First Movie and the Lucario movie, it doesn't solve the plot arc of this Mew. We get that this Mew is lonely, but there isn't any other development. The reason it kidnapped Pikachu and Meowth was to save them and conveniently get new playmates, and then it is reluctant to help its new friends go home, which would mean no more friends. In the epilogue, we see Mew is playing with Bonsly, as its new friend forever, and that's all good and peachy now, because Bonsly had nothing better to do for the rest of eternity anyway. But all this is something we had to sort of piece together. Mew barely gets to have a character, doesn't learn anything from this experience, and this epilogue conclusion is completely unsatisfying, as Mew is still doing the same thing, but to a different victim.
It could have been interesting to address that Mew, being immortal, doesn't have a concept of mortal time, and that its goal is to play with Pikachu and Meowth for all eternity, which would have made the situation actually threatening rather than just a one-night playdate that Ash is freaking out over. And then Mew could have had an arc about needing to learn that other living things are not eternal, have their own lives, and can't just be trapped for your convenience forever. Which would have linked with what Aaron did to Lucario. They even had Meowth there to serve as a translator if they needed to have a complex discussion, and they did absolutely nothing with that.
As the movie stands right now, Mew doesn't have a story arc. Not that Lucario gets much better, but if the writers wouldn't take the time to flesh out both stories entirely and do the complicated work of entwining them in a way that makes sense and strengthens both, we would recommend that they actually cut either Mew or Lucario, and focus on giving proper attention to the remaining one. Sadly, as the movie ended up being, Mew is the one that we would recommend cutting out. Lucario's plotline leaves much to be filled in, but Mew's plotline is almost nonexistent, so, it would have been better to spend that time completing Lucario's story.
The unsung hero of this story: James
Speaking of incomplete storylines, this movie seems to do a thing about this concept of trapping and releasing. First there's Aaron who traps Lucario "for its own good". There's Mew who seems to be trapped in the area around the Tree, and then Mew who traps Pikachu and Meowth with it so that they can be together forever. There's Ash who won't accept that Pikachu can have fun without him. Then later there is James who frees his Pokémon as the last thing he can do for them, so they won't be trapped with him. These parallels seem like they should make up the core of the plot, but they... don't.
With regard to Aaron, Lucario spends most of the plot feeling as though Aaron betrayed him by trapping him in the staff. But then the events of the movie are all geared toward the twerps learning why Aaron did what he did. When they learn the full story that Aaron was going to die, and so trapped Lucario for potentially all eternity to "save" Lucario, this is seen as justification and redemption of his character. But why does that make it a good thing? Aaron still trapped Lucario against his will because Aaron was going to die, and even if he thought it was necessary to save Lucario's life, he was factually wrong, because he robbed Lucario of an opportunity to have a life over something that might not have even been fatal to Lucario, and also morally wrong, because it wasn't his call to make in the first place, as Lucario is a sentient being who should be able to make his own decisions.
Aaron seems to have a foil in James. When Aaron was faced with death, he decided to trap his friend, thinking he was saving his life but carelessly dooming him to a similar fate. But when James was faced with death, instead of allowing his Pokémon to become trapped with him, he released them. James knows that his Pokémon friends have a life beyond the time he will spend together with them, and that his friends' lives are valuable, even if James isn't there to share that time with them. He wants his friends to live, and live freely, even after he is dead. And this is the first thing on his mind when faced with mortal peril.
In contrast to James, Ash doesn't respect that Pikachu has a life apart from the time they spend together. Once Pikachu is out of Ash's vicinity, Ash acts as if Pikachu has died - if Pikachu isn't with Ash, to Ash's mind, Pikachu might as well be nowhere at all. Ash has a pleasant time in the hot springs and is sad because Pikachu would have loved it -- without even considering that Pikachu is also having fun apart from Ash. Ash is convinced that Pikachu is suffering simply because they are apart.
And then there is Mew, who is trapped, but seeks to trap others with it simply for its own gratification. It doesn't have the awareness and empathy to understand that it is miserable in its situation and that it therefore should seek to ensure the others can be free. Every character in this movie that is trapping their friends is doing so because they are only thinking of themselves and not respecting that their friends should be free to have their own lives -- and should learn a lesson from James that their friends' lives have value even if they don't get to be part of it.
While this meta-analysis seems glaring to us, no character in the movie actually acknowledges it. The other trainers copy James's actions when they find themselves in danger, but they don't actually address why. We don't know if they even know why James did what he did and if they are agreeing with James, or just blindly mimicking him, as they do not speak about this at all. And certainly no one connects this action to what Aaron did to Lucario. And Lucario doesn't think about this moment in comparison to Aaron one way or another.
We're afraid that maybe this scene with James was actually intended as proof that trainers can love their Pokémon and that they will go to great lengths to save their friends from danger, thereby justifying Aaron's actions -- without realizing that James actually did the opposite of Aaron and that Aaron should be condemned for his actions.
Beyond the shoddy worldbuilding and the incomplete character arcs, this movie's writing has issues that are even more fundamental than that.
To describe what we consider good writing, our favorite analogy is to say we "don't see the strings" - we are not distracted from the story by its construction and devices. When we encounter a well-written story, we get to the part where the author wanted us to cry, and we cry. When we encounter a badly-written story, we get to the part where the author wanted us to cry, and we think, ah, this is the part where they're trying to toy with our emotions so that we'll cry. Of course, we know a story had to have been carefully constructed, and if we try to deconstruct it we can find the "strings", but good storytelling conceals the "strings" so that we can get engrossed in the story and suspend our disbelief.
The Lucario movie's storytelling is strings everywhere. Everything we're shown in this movie is explanatory contrivance for what's about to happen next. For one example, at the beginning of the movie, we get this oddly-featured scene of Lucario bumping a time flower, which serves the purpose of explaining a contrived flashback that will happen later in the movie. That flashback that happens later in the movie is just so that the twerps all have enough proof to believe Lucario's story, which leads Ash to apologize. Ash didn't apologize before because Max had to have a scene where he comforted Lucario, and offered Lucario chocolate, so that in the credits we can see Lucario and Aaron having chocolate in the afterlife. Of course, all stories are a progression of events where one leads into the other, but usually each event is enjoyable to watch in itself, follows logic and causality, and doesn't solely exist as a mechanical pretext for a later development.
Everything about this is mechanical. In fact, given how plotpoints in this movie seem to revolve around allowing for certain key scenes later, we are almost suspecting that these key scenes were set in stone first, and only later the rest of the movie was written around them, but without blending them gracefully into a whole, since all the strings are so evident. In this example, we think the scene of Lucario and Aaron having chocolate in the afterlife was decided in advance, so they needed the scene with someone offering Lucario chocolate to explain why they would be eating chocolate. To do that, they needed a scene where Lucario was upset, and needed to be comforted, so they had Ash and Lucario get into a fight. But now, Ash and Lucario are on bad terms, which leads to the scene of having to apologize... it's like a poorly solved puzzle. A Rubik's cube where instead of solving it by turning the sides, they moved the stickers around.
There are also elements that seem to only exist to move the plot forward, regardless of whether they make logical sense. For example, there is only one reason why Aaron set his gloves aside before getting encased in crystal: to keep them available for Ash to pick them up later. Even though there also doesn't seem to be a logical reason why Ash needs them, but the plot mandates that Ash must put on the gloves, so the gloves must be there, come hell or high water. So the flashback shows Aaron taking the time to remove his gloves while he's collapsing and dying, for no apparent reason. The flashback also makes the point of showing that Aaron sets the gloves down on another crystal. That crystal conveniently didn't grow around the gloves, even though the other crystals grew around his entire corpse.
How many times have we used a variation of the word "convenient" in this article? (12)
Things that could have been
And yet, this movie features a lot of concepts that are begging to be developed, that we would like to see developed, but the movie entirely ignores them.
There is the idea of Lucario waking up in a different time and everyone he knows is now dead, which could have led to the question of, what is he going to do with his life now, how will he live without Aaron and the Queen in the modern world... but, beyond the one scene in which Lucario wakes up, this is not even a plotpoint. Lucario never struggles with the idea of living in this foreign world because the writers knew he was going to die at the end, so they didn't waste any time with establishing something that they knew wouldn't have any lasting impact.
When Lucario wakes up and learns that hundreds of years have passed, he pretty quickly comes to accept that Aaron has died long ago, and acts as if he's absorbed this entirely. But, to Lucario's perspective, he last met Aaron before having a nap, he woke up, and now Aaron is dead. For him, it's been a matter of minutes, not centuries. The movie then spends the whole time with Lucario hating Aaron over the betrayal, and was it really a betrayal, and what really happened... but the more important point should have been that, one way or the other, Aaron is dead. Regardless of the argument before his nap, in his mind, Lucario's best friend just died. Lucario never wrestles with this, or the idea that he's never going to see Aaron again. That could have too been an interesting point in this movie: the conflicting feelings of Lucario being angry at Aaron, but also mourning his death. But this never comes up.
And for that matter, no one else thinks about what a hard time Lucario is having right now. After the initial sympathy Queen Aileen shows for Lucario right after being released from the staff, no one else has any compassion for him at all. Especially not Ash, who specifically takes digs at Lucario and his relationship with Aaron. May confronts Ash about this, but only addresses the fact that Ash said something mean, and not that Ash said something mean to someone who is going through an unfathomably hard time right now.
The movie frames Lucario as angsty and dark and tough. But, of course he's going to be in a bad mood. He just woke up in essentially a different world, and his best friend is dead. Presenting someone going through this situation as being merely angsty and dark is really unfair. Not even the writers have compassion for what Lucario is going through here.
This movie presents the idea of the world before Pokéballs, and we would be interested to know what would have been different in society, but this concept is wasted by having a Pokéball-like device anyway, with this entire culture never being explained at all. What were Pokémon's lives like at the time? Lucario is not Aaron's fighting Pokémon, he's his apprentice, and it seems like, during the training, Lucario was treated no differently than Aaron would have treated a human apprentice. How was that like? Was it common to treat Pokémon the same as humans? From what we gather from Lucario's flashbacks, the relationship between him and Aaron seems to have been very close. Shippably close. Can we know more about that? Then there is Aaron's Pidgeot flying him around. What was Aaron's relationship with Pidgeot like? We see the armored Pokémon in the war. Were they volunteers for the war? Were they drafted? Were they mere pawns in this? We have no idea.
Lucario is from the time before Pokéballs who was imprisoned against his will in a Pokéball-like staff for hundreds of years. He then wakes up in the time with Pokéballs, and he sees trainers using them around him. Wouldn't Lucario have some sort of reaction to witnessing trainers using these strange devices on their Pokémon partners? Wouldn't he have some sort of opinion about humans casually putting their Pokémon in and out of stasis? How does this never come up?
There is the Tree of World's Origin, and we've talked about it before. If it had been explained in some way, it could have been an interesting concept. But it just leaves us with more questions than it answers. Same with everything about Mew.
And what about the entire situation with the war and the castle that set the entire plot in motion? Initially, we took it at face value, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized nothing makes sense. On our first watch, we had the impression that the castle was under attack from the advancing armies. On a later watch, we realized that there's nothing supporting this assumption, so we thought the problem is that these two warring armies are about to converge on the castle just because it's in the way. On yet a later watch, we realized that the castle is actually nowhere near the two warring armies.
Was the castle ever actually at risk? It is at the top of a mountain in the middle of a lake, and the armies were fighting in a valley two hills away, so did this all really even matter? In modern times, going from the castle to the old battlefield took more than a day in a hurried jeep moving in a Lucario-guided straight line. The armies didn't seem to notice the existence of the castle at all. With all that fog, maybe they couldn't even see it. So, the result is that Queen Leen announces that she'll go down with this castle, while no one is even approaching. It's like if there was a riot in the next town over and you, in your 26th floor apartment, thought your life was at immediate risk.
And the castle is not even only far away. We would like to reiterate that it's in the middle of a lake up a mountain. It is well-defended. It has only two points of access along two narrow bridges over the lake. Just bring up the drawbridges and prepare for a siege. The point of a castle is to be able to defend for months. So Queen Leen gives up before there's even any danger, when she would have been able to withstand an attack, if there ever was any.
Instead of immediately going for heroic sacrifice, couldn't Aaron just have had a heart to heart with Queen Leen and reassure her not to jump to pessimistic conclusions, we're in a castle on a mountain in the middle of a lake, and we're not even sure that these armies two hills away even care about us. This whole conflict could have been avoided with a bit more chamomile.
And we actually still don't even know what this whole war was about. We get that plot-wise it might not even matter, but at least for the sake of consistency and understanding. If we knew what the armies were fighting over, maybe we would have understood the castle's stake in it.
By the way, what is the political entity of the castle? Queen Leen is a queen, but of what? She seems to rule nothing but the castle itself. The castle that is home to two whole people plus Lucario and Pidgeot. That would make her queen of... Aaron, we guess. What about present-time Queen Aileen? Is she actually a queen, or does she just call herself that because she's at the ren-faire, and she's the descendant of Queen Leen? If she's really the queen, then she governs even fewer people than Queen Aileen: only the maid and Mime Jr. It's like the writers forgot that a queen in a castle actually rules something.
How is Queen Aileen the descendant of Queen Leen anyway? Leen didn't seem to have any children. We imagine that, if she did, they would have been a concern as she thought death was approaching. Did she have kids after Aaron died? Well, you gotta move on at some point... Or was he the father, and never knew?
And speaking of children, Queen Aileen also doesn't seem to have any, so why is the castle full of toys that Mew comes to steal? The toys are in the attic, so were they Queen Aileen's toys? In which case, why not just give them to Mew? Or invite Mew to the attic? It doesn't change anything to the queen and the maid if these toys in storage get to be used.
This movie also presents the idea of there being a mystical power of aura that some people and Pokémon can sense and control. This helps to explain the Fighting-type moves that are not physical, but rather special-based. But then this movie also establishes that Ash is one of these people who can read aura. Why? How? And how can something like this have essentially no repercussions ever again? The anime series addresses that Ash could be an Aura Guardian if he wanted, but he still wants to be a Pokémon Master, so he ignores his rare and natural power of aura-reading to continue his career as a consistently mediocre trainer, and doesn't ever use this power ever again. How can he even choose not to use this power? And, if he can essentially read minds, how does he manage to suck so hard at everything he does? Considering that one of the key powers of aura is the ability to identify someone, how does Ash ever get fooled by Team Rocket's costumes? This was not a smart thing to have introduced as a throwaway thing onto Ash.
As a movie in itself, it's rough. The storytelling sucks. The visuals are underwhelming - the drawings are lackluster, and, even worse, the composition is usually ass. When we were trying to take screenshots for this article, we had to resort to a lot of gifs instead, because there never seemed to be a good frame that showed the full impact of what we wanted to show. For example, we wanted to show the two armies and the castle, but that never actually is shown in the movie. You see army A in one shot and you see army M in the other shot, and you see the castle in a completely other shot, with no artful shot that conveys the entire idea. We understand that not every frame can be screenshot-perfect, but this movie seemed to be particularly devoid of screenshottable moments.
Except for Aaron and Lucario, no other movie-only characters have personality or reason to exist. We already talked at length about Mew and how it doesn't do anything. Kid provides transportation and exposition, and accidentally sets off the whole plot, although that is never addressed, and everything that happened easily could have happened for another reason, without her. Banks has even less of a point, just serving as someone for Kid to talk to so that she can indirectly explain things to the audience, and Banks himself provides even more exposition - that he shouldn't even really be able to furnish. The current Queen Aileen only existed for Lucario to do a double-take, and for her request to be taken as an order. Even the regular anime characters were essentially not present in this movie. May danced with a guy and told Ash to apologize, and that was all. Max gave the chocolate to Lucario. And Brock did nothing but creepily fawn over Kid in one scene. Given Brock's character, we would have thought he would have done something similar to his role in the Deoxys movie, to attempt to calm down Ash and help out Lucario, but, for all Brock mattered, he could have not been there at all. And apart from the dance scene and James's shining moment, Team Rocket spends half the movie in a trunk and then are the first to die.
And then there's, of course, the problem that the entire resolution of the plot is fucked up, and no one addresses what was the real problem with what happened between Aaron and Lucario, or with Mew, instead just going to the fluffy pointless, they're together in heaven now. With chocolate. And Mew got a new friend, yay!
But still, this movie is full of interesting ideas, but they're either barely explored or not explored at all. As Pokémon fans, we appreciate those snippets, but we wanted more. This is one of those movies where fanfiction is your best bet to fill in all these blanks.
Even if they didn't explore his character as deeply as we would have wanted, Lucario does make a good impression in the movie. He has a personality and motives, and an intriguing conflict. We suspect this movie is a good part of why Lucario ended up becoming a fan favorite. He certainly got a better movie appearance than Deoxys. Less so Mew. Imagine not knowing Mew and watching this movie. You wouldn't understand why people like Mew.
Overall, this movie has both good and bad points. When Denise first saw it, she hated it, but maybe that's because she hadn't seen the Deoxys movie yet, and now her shit-o-meter has been recalibrated. It also didn't help that the first time we watched it dubbed, and the English voice acting is horrendous. But once you watch it subbed, and put it in the context of all the other Pokémon movies, this is not one of the worst ones. It might be in the upper half in our ranking of Pokémon movies. At least it was trying to show us something that we actually wanted to see. It just didn't have enough consistency and forethought to tackle its own plot.
- Serebii.net News Archive from February 2005, for us to see once again the initial reveal of Lucario.