So, Alamos Town is surrounded by thick fog, no-one can leave, most of the town’s Pokémon trainers have just been summarily crushed by a living nightmare, and apparently there is an extradimensional god/pink magic dinosaur hanging out somewhere in the town. Also the local baron is a Lickilicky.
That’s great odds.
Once Ash and his friends learn that Palkia is in Alamos Town, they rush out to the square, where Darkrai has managed to detect the Spatial Pokémon hiding invisibly inside a little pouch of folded space above the Space-Time Towers. Darkrai begins to attack Palkia with his freaky shadow powers, so Palkia bursts out of hiding and banishes the fog enveloping the town – revealing that the whole place has been yanked into a pocket universe and is now floating in space. They can still breathe and stuff because physics is having an off day. Palkia will do that to you. Also, all of the freaky dream things stop happening, the victims of Darkrai’s Dark Void wake up and Alberto is no longer a Lickilicky, because… I don’t know. I don’t think the movie ever really gave a reason; it just sort of happened. Palkia and Darkrai throw explosions at each other for a bit, until Palkia’s enemy the blue magic dinosaur (alias Dialga, the god of time) shows up, bearing even more explosions, and all hell breaks loose. With every blast they lob at each other, the fringes of Alamos Town begin to disintegrate as their space- and time-warping powers destabilise Palkia’s pocket universe. Alice runs out into the middle of the square and tells the two combatants, in what I imagine to be her very sternest voice, to “stop fighting right now!” This, predictably, has absolutely no effect and Darkrai has to rescue her when Dialga and Palkia nearly fall on her head. To be fair to Alice, no-one else seems to have any better ideas. They just watch the two magic dinosaurs blowing each other up and taking the town with them, while Darkrai flies around intercepting any attacks that endanger the Space-Time Towers, until both Dialga and Palkia get annoyed and blast Darkrai to the ground. This leads to a scene where Darkrai mistakes Alice for her grandmother, Alicia, and a touching little flashback in which a young Alicia encounters an injured Darkrai in the gardens, sees past his fearsome exterior, and heals him with the music of her leaf whistle (okay, okay, it’s clichéd, but “the healing power of music” isn’t exactly out of place in a setting like Pokémon), encouraging him to stay as long as he likes because “this garden is everyone’s.” Ash apologises for assuming Darkrai was the bad guy, and Darkrai just gives him a dirty look (I’m not sure whether this was intentional but it’s hilarious). Once he’s gotten his breath back, Darkrai flies back to the battle.
It’s at about this point, I think, that Tonio starts reciting the description from Godey’s journal of his nightmare, which seems to be playing out right in front of them, as well as the part about “leaving Oración for the world.” The name Oración rings bells for Alice, since it’s the name of the song her grandmother taught her to play on the leaf whistle – the one that magically calmed down the squabbling Pokémon in the first act (odd that she hasn’t tried this song already, come to think of it, since it was her go-to option earlier in the movie – and even odder that Tonio hasn’t already asked her whether she’s heard the word before). Light bulbs start coming on in everyone’s heads. The Space-Time Towers aren’t an insanely extravagant and recklessly impractical tourist attraction… well, okay, they are, but they’re also Godey’s way of “leaving Oración for the world” – his contingency plan for the prophetic nightmare Darkrai sent him. There’s no music disc labelled “Oración” in Tonio’s rooms beneath the towers, but Alice manages to find it hidden amongst the relief sculptures on the ground floor. She, Tonio, Ash and Dawn head for the control room on her balloon, which doesn’t last long in the crossfire of Dialga and Palkia’s battle. Ash and Dawn somehow manage to jump over to the control tower without shattering their legs, while Alice and Tonio fall, but are rescued by Tonio’s Drifblim and Alberto’s Lickilicky. Unfortunately, Ash and Dawn now have to climb the rest of the way up the control tower… which is starting to disintegrate, like the rest of the town… and here I have to stop and talk about this disintegration business because it really bothers me. Whatever dimension-twisting power is causing the effect has obviously reached the towers by this point, but it isn’t causing them to collapse, even as their foundations begin to dematerialise. What’s more, Ash, Dawn and their Pokémon suffer no harm at all (apart from the obvious danger of falling as the steps vanish from beneath their feet), while the objects around them are being taken apart at a subatomic level by the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Because it’s Pokémon, my suspension of disbelief will just about stretch to accommodate that, but to crown it all, the other trainers in Alamos Town are attempting to slow the progress of the advancing wave of disintegration by attacking it with their Pokémon. I… honestly can’t even articulate how little sense that makes. Luckily for the movie, I couldn’t tell whether it was supposed to be working.
Anyway, Tonio’s computer decides (using SCIENCE) that one more collision between Palkia’s Spatial Rend and Dialga’s Roar of Time will collapse the pocket universe and destroy everyone. Darkrai seems to have worked out the same thing and pours all his strength into trapping both of them in a swirly energy thingy, defiantly shouting, in his deep, booming voice, the strangest battle cry I have ever heard: “THIS GARDEN IS EVERYONE’S!” The swirly energy thingy doesn’t last long, and Darkrai is quickly annihilated for daring to intrude, but he’s bought Ash and Dawn enough time to get the song disc to the control room. Pikachu and Dawn’s Pachirisu have to supply the towers with electricity, since the dematerialisation has cut off their power source, but the delicate mechanisms that create the towers’ music seem totally undamaged. Oración plays, and Dialga and Palkia suddenly think “wait… why were we fighting again?” This scene… this scene bothers me. I think it would have been a perfectly effective scene if it had just focussed on the dragons’ reactions to the sound of Oración as the song played… but this is the climax to a Pokémon movie, which means that sparkly things need to happen. A bunch of extra protrusions, which remind me of the hands of an old-fashioned clock, unfold from the sides of the towers (this I can deal with). The towers start glowing. The clock hands actually start to grow and blossom. Finally, two enormous golden wings of light unfurl and bathe the entire town (or what’s left of it) in their radiance.
…I’m guessing no-one has ever actually played Oración on these things in the hundred years since they were built, ‘cause that really would have given the game away.
Seriously, though, this climax has a perfectly respectable age-old theme – “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – which can stand on its own two feet just fine, thank you very much. Invoking extraneous sparkly things and making the whole business literally magical just puts more distance between reality and an idea that isn’t at all out of place there. Isn’t the monumental architecture of the Space-Time Towers themselves spectacular enough?
Not that anyone ever listens to me.
Dialga shrugs and flies off back to his own dimension, leaving Palkia to clean up the mess. Ash and Dawn give Palkia a very stern talking to, commanding her to put Alamos Town back the way it was… and Palkia is like, “whatevs,” does it, and flies away. Ash and his friends are all distraught that Darkrai is dead, and have a little mourning scene complete with a greyscale montage of their memories of Darkrai… which is quite poorly done, if you ask me; the music playing is slow and sentimental, exactly as you’d expect from a scene like this, but since they have no soft, gentle memories of Darkrai, the montage is mainly comprised of the coolest explosions Darkrai was involved in during the battle. Honestly, it feels like a parody of eulogistic montages, but I think they mean it. None of that really matters though; as they very quickly learn, Darkrai isn’t dead at all, because Pokémon movies have a huge difficulty with allowing their heroic sacrifices to stick. It actually does make sense with reference to the movie’s internal logic; when Palkia restored Alamos Town, she restored everything – including all the living things that were destroyed, like the trees – so it stands to reason that Darkrai would be back too. I just find the effect on the movie’s emotional tone unnecessary and irritating, especially after that godawful montage – did Victini get one of those in movie 14? I’m not sure, but I don’t think he did.
Then the movie ends. During the credits we see footage of the Pokémon Contest they came to Alamos Town for in the first place, but it’s basically over. Rise of Darkrai… has its moments; I’ll give it that (not all of them are good moments, mind you). I quite like the idea that the Space-Time Towers had been Godey’s defence against his nightmares all along (although I question the wisdom of some of his decisions, like not explaining the towers’ true purpose to anyone, storing the unclearly-labelled Oración disc in a completely different place from most of the other songs, and putting the control room halfway up the towers). I’m also generally pleased with Darkrai’s characterisation, which is almost a complete one-eighty from the way he’s portrayed in the games. On the other hand, the movie is very prone to putting funny words in Tonio’s mouth and expecting you to accept them because he’s a scientist. Also, although the movie’s obsession with sparkly things isn’t noticeably greater than that of any other Pokémon movie, it definitely bothers me more, simply because of the way it manifests. Finally… what’s up with the name “Rise of Darkrai”? Darkrai doesn’t really do anything in this movie that could be described as “rising” in the sense that the title implies. I realise “a Film with Darkrai in it” doesn’t have quite the same punch but, honestly, it would have made more sense. On balance, I think I’d probably rate Victini and Zekrom higher, but Jewel of Life remains immovably upon its last-place throne (no; I’m not writing a review of it, so don’t ask me to – this means you, Jim).
Gonna do some other stuff for a while, then Giratina and the Sky Warrior when we eventually get around to watching it. Stay tuned.
EDIT: I WAS MISTAKEN. Darkrai’s characterisation in the games is similar to this movie’s. I APOLOGISE TO ALL THOSE I HAVE MISLED.