Pokémon the movie 2000: The Power of Nostalgia

Every company is trying to find ways to entertain the populace and hopefully earn good graces for future purchases. The Pokémon Company recently released the majority of their not-on-other-platforms movies for free on their Pokémon TV app. The only absences are the Celebi, Latios/Latias, Jirachi, and Deoxys movies as well as anything after Hoopa, which are all currently on Netflix. So for the sake of Nostalgia, and sheer boredom, I’ve decided to take a look back at these movies and partially review, partially inform, and partially refresh your memories of some of our childhood anime movies. I will be skipping the first movie since I just recently reviewed the remake. With that said, let’s dive into Pokémon the movie 2000. Three guesses what year it came out in America.

The year is 2000. You’ve survived Y2K and the end of the world. Everything is embracing the new millennium and the message of naive hope and peace for the future pervades media. Meanwhile, you’re 10 and really don’t care about any of that because there’s a new Pokémon movie hitting theaters. I remember my parents had to drive to a city about two hours away so I could watch it, having earned the privilege after being enticed in exchange for good grades. Ancient Mew card gripped in my dunkaroo covered fingers, it was time to see just who Lugia was and if Ash was the chosen one.

The story is simple. And pretty silly. A Pokémon, Lawerence III, sits high in his CGI air ship as he plays a game of virtual chess in order to capture three legendary elemental bird Pokémon and draw out Lugia, who is responsible for making sure these birds sit down and mind their manners. He captures Moltres with ease which sets the world out of balance. Meanwhile, Ash and his friends are traveling by boat to a nearby island that’s having a festival to honor the very same guardian, Lugia. Collect three orbs, play a song, and eat some fried carnival food. Ash is chosen for the task of being the chosen one to collect these orbs by a preteen girl named Melody much to the jealousy of his companion Misty. He has another companion, Tracy. Tracy is a non-entity in this movie. Forget he exists.

Ash, not one to sit idle, rushes to collect the orbs despite Melody urging him to just enjoy the festival tonight. The captain that brought the crew to this island is all too eager to help Ash and they set out only to be beset upon by a storm. Melody, meanwhile, feels guilty about choosing him for this task and possibly endangering his life so she steals her sister’s boat for a rescue mission. Misty follows in a jealous rage, everyone simping for that 10 year old Pokémon trainer. What follows is a rather fun, silly, and saccharine journey to collect the orbs, fix the imbalance of the world, and save these legendary Pokémon from Lawrence’s collection. Which they manage to do because it’s a kid’s movie. Who literally doesn’t learn anything and even declares he’s starting over while looking wistfully out onto the horizon also clutching an ancient Mew card in his dunkaroo covered fingers.

Is the story good? It’s not bad. It’s pretty passable. It’s not the most newcomer friendly, but you’re not watching this movie without some knowledge of Pokémon anyway. I remember this movie being my favorite as a kid. Watching it 20 years later, I can see why, but I certainly would no longer call it a favorite. It’s absolutely fun for kids who love Pokémon. There’s plenty of adventure and action here and the pace never slows down too much, other than a really awkward like five to ten seconds where we just watch Misty catch her breath for a really long time. What was that about? Anyway, there’s plenty of action and wonder and Ash acts as a good self insert for the kids while having enough personality to be interesting. The dumb 90’s humor still gets me with its 4th wall breaking and there’s a sweet moment between mother and son. Just don’t go here looking for anything deep because you just won’t find it.

The animation, thinking back to when it came out, is really good. There’s the usual anime short cuts but they really don’t take up too much time in the movie. There’s not much obvious dead space to save for the big fight. I was honestly surprised that the animation was this good. I’ve been on an old 80s and 90s and 00s anime kick lately so I can tell that this movie was well made for what it is. They also allow certain moments to pause and rest and have room to breathe which helps flesh out the story. The main issue is characters somehow knowing things they really shouldn’t know and the shoehorning in of Professor Ivy and Tracy. But I know they couldn’t really ditch Tracy so it is what it is.

Fun fact, when the Pokémon anime movies hit America, they did not pay for the rights to the music for the first 3 (and I believe stopped paying for those rights again for the XY movies) so they composed their own music. Sometimes it’s fun and fits the scene. Sometimes you can tell it’s really cheap cost saving music. Luckily the most important song, the one for the guardian Lugia, is great in both English and Japanese versions. Japan’s is more haunting and America’s is more epic. Speaking of Lugia, I loved him as a kid and kids will still love him, but man he doesn’t do anything. He eats it twice and barely helps Ash. He’s still cool, but oh boy does his voice not fit. My husband exclaimed upon hearing his voice (this was his first viewing) “Oh no, he’s hot.” He ain’t wrong. This stereotypical “attractive male character” voice comes out of our bird dragon friend and it’s very strange.

History lesson time. The first three movies written for Pokémon by Shuduo. I mentioned some about him in my Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution review. Shuduo was responsible for the first three movies and the anime through the beginning of Johto where most fans agree, the series took a quality nose dive after he left. He’s responsible for the series’ show bible that was for the most part ignored after he left.

The Pokémon company was happy with how successful the first movie was, but thought the tone was too dark and told him to make things more light-hearted. Beating up four birds was his answer to their requests. There was trouble deciding what the legendaries should be for this movie. Ho-oh was set to have a bigger role in Gold and Silver and Mew and Mewtwo had already been in the first movie which left only the legendary birds. But that wasn’t enough for Shuduo to work with so he asked if he could design a Pokémon to represent the sea and to his surprise and joy, the Pokémon company agreed. It’s not known if he designed/named Lugia or if it was the game design team, but the idea did come from him.

Fun fact, the working title used X as a placeholder for Lugia’s name which is why Pokémon XD Gales of Darkness for the GameCube is named that. It’s also a fact that Shadow Lugia was very much under-utilized in that game.

That’s about all I have to say about this movie. It’s a fun nostalgia kick, but there’s not much here for adults that don’t have any attachments to the movie. Kids that love Pokémon are a prime target and more kids entertainment in these covid times is not a bad thing. If you’d like more insight into the movie, look up Shuduo’s notes. Upon his death in 2010, a lot of his notes were recovered and they’re really interesting. Which we will delve more into in the Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unown review.

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