A couple of weeks ago I went, against my own better judgement, to see the new Pokémon movie, Pokémon White: Victini and Zekrom. Is there, you may well ask, a Pokémon Black: Victini and Reshiram? Yes, there is. Only White was actually released here in New Zealand though (and that only for one weekend), and the reason for this is that they are the same damn movie. You see, Pokémon has finally taken its policy of always releasing two nearly-identical games at a time to its most insane possible conclusion by releasing two nearly-identical movies at the same time. There are, I am lead to understand, numerous little cosmetic differences, but the plot is the same, which leads me to wonder what the point is supposed to have been. I’m getting ahead of myself, though… let’s talk about what happens.
Victini and Zekrom opens in a desert (Victini and Reshiram opens in a frigid polar area; either way, we see the other area later in a flashback) where a hooded man and his Reuniclus encounter an injured Blitzle on the dirt road and return it to its owner, a little girl in a nearby village. The villagers thank the man, whose name we learn is Damon, but tell him that “the answer is still no.” Damon and the villagers are both descendants of a race called the “People of the Vale,” and Damon has concocted a zany scheme to restore them to their ancestral homeland. They’re very diplomatic about it, but they clearly think he’s off his rocker and are humouring him because he’s kind of a nice guy. Luckily for Damon, he soon gets a chance to prove he isn’t completely insane when a huge herd of Bouffalant, frightened by a tornado, stampede towards the village. As the villagers panic, Damon summons Reshiram, a mythical white dragon Pokémon with absolutely no concept of subtlety, who solves the problem by hurling ludicrous quantities of cerulean fire at it. Reshiram tells the villagers to follow Damon, and this time they readily agree, because, well, Damon doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to nuke their village if they don’t, but you never know with these Destined Hero types.
After that little prologue, we join Ash, Pikachu, and their travelling companions for the most recent season of the anime: Cilan, one of the Gym Leader triplets of Striaton City, and Iris, a young Dragon Master-in-training. I’m sure these two are great, interesting characters in the TV series, but they don’t actually do anything in this movie and their views and opinions on what’s happening mirror Ash’s on just about every point. The only thing I really took away from it was that Cilan likes using culinary metaphors and figures of speech… a lot. Seriously, he makes a food pun practically every time he opens his mouth (I’m guessing he does this in the TV series too, but I haven’t seen any of the Unova season). The movie wouldn’t really have been changed notably by their absence, but it would have been a little awkward to explain, so I suppose the writers figured it was easier just to stick them in, give them some throwaway lines, and have them compete in the tournament that takes place during the opening credits. Again, though, I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we first meet up with our unlikely heroes, Cilan is checking his Nintendo DS for directions to their next destination: a place called Eindoak Town, which hosts a Pokémon tournament each year as part of the harvest festival celebrations. Just as they come into sight of Eindoak’s major landmark (a towering castle known as the Sword of the Vale, because its architecture resembles the hilt of a sword) Ash spots a pair of Deerling on a crumbling ledge of rock. Unseen by Ash and his friends, a small orange fairy Pokémon tries to talk to the Deerling, but startles them and nearly causes one to fall off the ledge. Ash, apparently forgetting that he has Pokémon who are much better than him at this sort of thing, edges out along the rock face to help the Deerling, but quickly overbalances. However, the orange Pokémon reaches out invisibly from the crevasse where it is hiding and touches Ash, imbuing him with a golden energy just before he falls. Ash miraculously manages to slide down the cliff face, find his balance when he lands, perform a leap that would put an Olympic athlete to shame, while keeping hold of both Deerling, and reach another ledge facing the first one. Presumably Ash pulls this kind of stunt off-screen all the time, because everyone is perfectly happy to chalk this one up to luck. Ash can’t see a way to get back, but he can feel a breeze from a nearby cave mouth and guesses that it will lead him to Eindoak Town, so he tells Iris and Cilan to go on without him. The fairy Pokémon follows him, still unseen, as he is inexplicably able to lead Pikachu and the two Deerling through a labyrinthine crystal cave and into one of the basement rooms of the Sword of the Vale. Iris and Cilan reach the castle to find Ash waving at them from a balcony.
Ash, Iris and Cilan release the Deerling in one of the two massive rooftop gardens and then start exploring the castle. No-one seems to mind that there are three kids and a number of Pokémon wandering around the historic castle uninvited and unsupervised. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone there to mind – except for an invisible something that keeps stealing Cilan’s macarons from Ash. Eventually the group runs into Damon, the fellow from the prologue, who is working on restoring the castle. By himself. Oh, the uphill battle of cultural heritage management… Anyway, Damon shows them the quickest way out of the castle so they can take part in the harvest festival. As they check out the town, Ash, Iris and Cilan meet a woman named Juanita who runs a souvenir stand with the help of her Golurk, selling trinkets modelled on a legendary Pokémon called Victini, who has the power to make people (or Pokémon) insta-win at everything. He’s also kind of a klutz and keeps banging into things invisibly as he follows Ash around the town. Iris buys a pendant for good luck, and they move on to enter the festival tournament. Cilan is quickly overpowered, while Iris is disqualified when her Excadrill (who’s kind of a douche) breaks out of his Pokéball when she has a Pokémon in play already, but Ash works up an impressive winning streak.
EDIT: Having watched some of the Unova series since writing this review, I have learned that, although Iris’ Excadrill is kind of a douche, this incident was actually the fault of her Emolga, who is a gigantic douche, and has a habit of using Volt Switch without warning and at the most inconvenient moments possible.
When Ash’s Tepig defeats a powerful Samurott (despite a type disadvantage, as Iris and Cilan explain for us just in case someone in the audience has never heard of Pokémon before), Juanita’s daughter Carlita, the trainer who defeated Cilan, begins to suspect that Victini may be helping Ash and challenges him with her Hydreigon. Hydreigon is a tremendously destructive Dragon Pokémon and a fundamentally ridiculous thing for a teenage girl to have, and marks Carlita as probably one of the most powerful trainers Ash has ever met. None of this merits comment from anyone (except for Iris, who thinks Hydreigon is adorable because she’s a shameless dragon fangirl). Ash’s Scraggy meets Carlita’s challenge and is quickly knocked into the bushes. Carlita, watching carefully, notices Victini appear and power up Scraggy, who leaps back into the fray and pulverises her Hydreigon. She tells Ash what’s been happening, and explains that Victini can become invisible. This is apparently Ash’s first clue that maybe his recent run of success has not been all luck. The four of them manage to persuade the Victory Pokémon to emerge from hiding by offering some of Cilan’s macarons, and the tournament is quietly forgotten. Ash, being Ash, immediately tries to hug the poor thing and nearly crushes him. How Ash always manages to be the one who gets all chummy with the legendary Pokémon is beyond me; if Victini’s experience in this movie is at all representative I’m surprised there are any legendary Pokémon left. Pikachu is able to smooth over his partner’s glaring faux pas, however, and Victini joins the group. Ash soon manages to injure him again by grabbing Victini’s hand and dragging him along as he runs to check out one of the six massive dark purple pillars scattered around the town. Victini crashes painfully into an invisible force field while Ash runs straight through, and Victini (reasonably enough) decides he’s sick of this lunatic and flies away. Carlita explains that the pillars, known as the Pillars of Protection, mark a boundary line; according to the legends Victini can never pass the pillars or leave Eindoak Town.
Juanita helps the group find Victini again in the rooftop gardens of the Sword of the Vale, where Ash apologises profusely for repeatedly injuring the tiny Pokémon and manages to regain his trust. At the castle they meet Damon again, who turns out to be Juanita’s son (and a terrible son he is too; Juanita didn’t even realise he was back in Eindoak since he apparently never talks to his family or tells them anything). Damon and Mannes, the mayor of Eindoak, tell Ash, Cilan and Iris about the People of the Vale, the legend of Victini, Reshiram and Zekrom, and Damon’s plan to return their people to their ancient homeland, which means… it’s exposition time!