Pokémon: the Rise of Darkrai (Part 1 of 2)

This movie…

Oh, this movie…

My so-called “best friend,” Jim, gave me the DVD for this movie, the tenth in the series, (along with the eleventh, Giratina and the Sky Warrior) for Christmas.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to make him watch it with me.  This movie…

It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, because it does eventually, it’s more that the whole first half of it is one great big long “what the hell is going on and why do I care?” It opens with a scientist guy reading cryptic nonsense from a dead person’s journal, intercut with scenes of the nightmare the journal describes: two enormous magic dinosaurs fighting in the middle of an electrical storm in space, a place the narration calls the “space-time rift.”

One quickly learns that in Rise of Darkrai it’s generally best just to go with it.

HERE BE SPOILERS!

The pink magic space dinosaur gets the blue magic space dinosaur in a headlock (I think this actually happens later in the movie but I found the picture too hilarious to leave out).
 The pink dinosaur is injured by the blue dinosaur and attempts to flee, as they continue to lob explosions at each other.  The scientist’s hourglass falls and shatters.  This is SYMBOLISM; I’m pointing it out because it’s very subtle and I was worried you might not catch it.  We then cut to our dearly beloved heroes Ash and Pikachu, and their current minions, Brock and Dawn.  Like Iris and Cilan in Victini and Zekrom, these two don’t really contribute a lot to the movie but you can tell the writers were still trying on this one.  Ash’s quest for Pokémon ‘mastership,’ to use the narrator’s ‘word’, has taken the trio to a place called Alamos Town.  On the way, they meet a young woman named Alice who can play music with a leaf (this is actually a thing, apparently) and, to Brock’s astonishment, is not in his “little blue book of babes” (presumably a journal of his life as an incredibly creepy stalker).  She gives them a lift into town on her hot-air balloon, during which they experience a strange and disconcerting but apparently harmless shockwave of some kind, and points out Alamos Town’s major landmark, the Space-Time Towers.  Team Rocket show up in their own hot-air balloon but are blown out of the sky by a group of Drifloon without even managing to attract the attention of the real cast.

When they land, Alice shows them around, they have some battles, and then they visit Alamos Town’s public gardens, which were built by the same architect who designed the Space-Time towers, a fellow named Godey.  There are some cute scenes where the team’s Pokémon play with the wild Pokémon that live in the gardens and get into a fight over an accident, but Alice uses her mad leaf whistling skillz to calm everyone down.  While the kids are complimenting Alice’s music, a wild Gallade shows up to warn her about something.  They all follow Gallade to an area of the gardens where some stone pillars have been twisted out of shape somehow, which the local pompous aristocrat, Baron Alberto, is quick to blame on Darkrai, a mysterious Pokémon associated with nightmares.  Alberto notices a rustling in the bushes and, sensing Darkrai, sends out his Pokémon partner – a Lickilicky (proving once and for all that Nintendo know the easiest way to make the audience hate their designated antagonist is by giving him a Lickilicky).  Alberto’s strategy with Lickilicky throughout this entire movie is to Hyper Beam everything, and this is just what he does here, but the rustling unfortunately turns out to be a man named Tonio, the scientist from the prologue and Alice’s sort-of-boyfriend, who is… doing science things… to investigate the distortion effects.  While he recovers from this wacky misunderstanding, there is another shockwave and Ash spots the real Darkrai appearing in the shadows.  Alberto is quick to aim a Hyper Beam at him but fails to understand how massively outclassed his Lickilicky is against the embodiment of all nightmares.  Darkrai evades Lickilicky’s attacks without effort by turning into a shadow and then hurls a sphere of darkness back at Lickilicky, but misses and hits Ash, causing him to trip out and have a vision of the enormous magic dinosaurs from the prologue.

 "My god!  The levels of SCIENCE in this area are off the charts!"

Hours later, Pikachu manages to shock Ash awake in the local Pokémon Centre, where Nurse Joy explains that anyone who falls asleep near Darkrai suffers from terrible nightmares, so he is shunned by just about everyone.  While they’re talking about this, Tonio obsesses over what looks to me like a knot in the wood of the floorboards, which he is convinced is another space-time distortion, and runs off back to his study beneath the Space-Time Towers.  He spends the night there reading the journal, which belonged to Godey the architect (Tonio’s great-grandfather), and recounts how Darkrai appeared in the gardens long ago and was befriended by Alice’s grandmother, Alicia, when she was a little girl.  Tonio then finds an early schematic of the Space-Time Towers, accompanied by Godey’s statement that his nightmare had made him understand “for the future, I needed to leave Oración for the world.”  The journal fails to explain what Oración actually is, though.  Tonio falls asleep in his study and is found in the morning by Alice, who is giving Ash, Brock and Dawn a tour of the Space-Time Towers.  While Alice berates Tonio for sleeping on the floor and Tonio goes over his discoveries of the previous night, Pikachu and Dawn’s Piplup discover a shelf of heavy brass discs, about the size of film reels, filled with clockwork mechanisms and dotted with complex patterns of holes like the punch-cards used to program the first computers.  Tonio explains that these ‘music discs’ are used to make the towers play songs and, at Dawn’s insistence, leads the group up to the control room that sits between the two towers, about halfway up.  When an impressive-looking machine is activated with a disc in its slot, an array of enormous hammers positioned up and down the insides of the towers play the music encoded on the disc by striking a series of taut cables, like a ludicrously oversized piano.  THERE IS SURELY NO WAY THIS COULD POSSIBLY BE IMPORTANT LATER IN THE MOVIE.

 Darkrai.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori.

Shortly after the group leaves the Space-Time Towers and Tonio returns to his lab, Alamos Town experiences more shockwaves.  We cut back to the space thunderstorm for a minute and see the pink magic dinosaur trying to escape the blue magic dinosaur by diving through a tear in space, through which the Space-Time Towers are visible.  This is accompanied by an especially impressive shockwave, which Tonio, down in his lab, realises is emanating from “between the dimensions”…whatever that means (for something to be between dimensions it’d have to be outside them, and does the word “outside” even have meaning when excluded from physical space, and how the hell does Tonio measure this nonsense, and I don’t think they even really know what the word “dimension” means, and you know what I’m just going to go with it).  Without warning, Darkrai appears in the town square, where Ash and his friends are enjoying more battles against the trainers they met the day before, and gives the terse command “go away!”  Alberto and his Lickilicky are on the scene instantly (accompanied by Team Rocket, who are pretending to be reporters doing a story on him) but fail just as spectacularly as before to make any impact on the mysterious Pokémon, who puts a dozen Pokémon in the square to sleep with his Dark Void attack and then flees.  Ash and Alberto pursue him, but he quickly escapes after putting Lickilicky to sleep.  They are then confronted with a hallucination of a Bibarel floating in the air and walking through walls… which… is weird, don’t get me wrong, but the movie’s just getting started, because Alberto then turns into a Lickilicky.  He can still speak normally for some reason, despite now having a tongue twice the length of his body; in fact at a later point in the movie he even manages to talk while using his tongue to restrain Darkrai with Wrap.  Like I said at the beginning, it’s best just to go with it – especially as it prompts Alberto to wail what is easily the best line of the movie: “MY ROYAL TONGUE!!!”  When Ash, Team Rocket and Alberto arrive back at the gardens, they learn that images of all the Pokémon Darkrai put to sleep are running around them in circles.  Tonio deduces – through SCIENCE – that the space-time distortions are merging their dreams with reality, and suggests that Lickilicky is dreaming about being Alberto.  I’m pretty sure this makes no sense at all.  Shouldn’t there just be an image of Alberto wandering around nearby making Lickilicky noises?  Besides, if all the other dream effects are just illusions, why does Alberto actually gain all of Lickilicky’s powers?  All this aside, I am delighted by the implication, which Jim pointed out after the movie had ended, that Lickilicky’s worst nightmare is being Alberto.

The other trainers discover that the town has been surrounded by a thick, impassable bank of fog, which prompts Baron Lickilicky (as Jessie of Team Rocket quickly dubs him) to start a witch-hunt for Darkrai.  Alice isn’t sure Darkrai’s behind it all, though, and Tonio agrees, recounting a day from their childhood when (he suspects) Darkrai saved Alice from a fall in the gardens, though she had always believed Tonio saved her.  They return to Tonio’s lab and review some video footage of the biggest shockwave, collected by Tonio’s Drifblim.  Zooming in and enhancing the image, Tonio sees, for a fraction of a second, the pink magic dinosaur from the prologue appearing at the epicentre of the shockwave, and identifies it as Palkia, an ancient godlike Pokémon that rules over the spatial dimensions.  Darkrai’s earlier command, “go away!” was directed at Palkia, and, after dealing in short order with Alberto’s phenomenally poorly-conceived witch-hunt, Darkrai is now on his way to enforce that command…

Dun-dun DUNH!

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