During their travels through the Unova region, Ash and his friends Iris and Cilan arrive in Eindoak Town, built around a castle called the Sword of the Vale. The three Trainers have come to compete in the town's annual battle competition, and Ash manages to win with some unexpected help from the Mythical Pokémon Victini. It turns out Victini has a special bond with this place. Long ago, the castle watched over the Kingdom of the Vale, and the partnership between Victini and the king protected its people who lived there. But that kingdom has since vanished into memory, leaving behind powerful relics and ancient Pokémon. Damon, a descendant of the People of the Vale, is trying to restore the lost kingdom with the help of his Reuniclus. His quest has taken him to the far reaches of the barren desert, and he has convinced the Legendary Pokémon Reshiram to join him in the search for truth. Damon plans to trap Victini and harness its power, and as that plan gets under way, the entire town of Eindoak faces disaster. Can Ash awaken the Legendary Pokémon Zekrom to help him stop Damon and save Victini?
Directed by: Kunihiko Yuyama
. Starring: Rica Matsumoto
, Ikue Ôtani
, Hideki Takahashi
, Takeshi Tsuruno
, Satomi Ishihara
, Mao Daichi
, Nana Mizuki
, Kôichi Yamadera
, Shôko Nakagawa
, Mamoru Miyano
, James Carter Cathcart
, Leah Clark
, Jason Griffith
. Music by: Kazuhiko Sawaguchi
, Akifumi Tada
POKÉMON THE MOVIE WHITE: VICTINI AND ZEKROM (2011) played in a few hundred theaters across the country in morning screenings on December 3 and 4, 2011. It was one of two Pokémon movies to be produced in Japan in 2011, both of which were among Japan's highest grossing domestic releases this year. The second one, POKÉMON THE MOVIE BLACK: VICTINI AND RESHIRAM (2011), is slated to premiere in the U.S. on the Cartoon Network on December 10. I was lucky enough to attend one of the theatrical screenings of POKÉMON THE MOVIE WHITE and am happy to report that it is one of the best of the franchise. I write as a Pokémon fan who's seen every one of the previous movies, including theatrical screenings of the first five.
This movie offers a more streamlined screenplay than the last few Pokémon movies and a pared-down group of main characters. There's about a half-hour of buildup and exposition before the narrative shifts into gear with a steady stream of suspense and excitement once all the characters wind up on a floating castle that rises up into the atmosphere, leaving havoc in its wake, and deliberately recalling Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 classic, LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY. Not a bad source of inspiration, I daresay.
The setting is a mountaintop town, resembling settlements in the Andes, with a monumental castle that sits atop a peak overlooking the town. The castle is a remnant of the "Kingdom of the Vale," which existed thousands of years earlier elsewhere and, according to legend, following a devastating war, the castle was lifted up by powerful "pillars of protection" and brought to this peak. One young man from the region, Damon, seeks to restore the kingdom and reunite the scattered descendants of the "People of the Vale." He captures a little psychic Pokémon called Victini and harnesses its powers to fuel the pillars and get the castle moving again. Unbeknownst to him, though, such a move releases the stored-up "Dragon Force" that had been contained in the earth below the castle and which now threatens to destroy the world. Our heroes, Ash, Iris and Cilan, along with Damon's mother and sister, work to stop Damon and return the castle to Earth. They learn how to revive Zekrom, an ancient black flying dragon Pokémon, to help them. But first, it must confront Damon's ancient white flying dragon Pokémon, Reshiram.
While Reshiram and Zekrom provide spectacular action setpieces in the film, it's the endearing little Victini, which looks like a beige squirrel with over-sized pointed ears, who earns our sympathy and keeps us engaged with the story. We first meet Victini, which can turn invisible when it wants, as it helps Ash telekinetically during a particularly perilous mountain climbing episode where Ash had tried to rescue some stranded Pokémon. The group gets to meet Victini when it's attracted by the "macarons" (cookies) offered by Cilan, who has baked them himself. Local characters Juanita and daughter Carlita are impressed by the newcomers' ability to coax the elusive Victini into view and then earn its devotion. Needless to say, Damon's cruel attempts to exploit Victini to carry out his self-proclaimed mission outrage Ash and company and get them involved in the action.
The imagery is quite spectacular, ranging from the breathtaking sight of the town of Eindoak situated atop towering mountain peaks, to the scenes of the massive castle floating up in the sky high above the Earth. The castle itself is beautifully designed and laid out, particularly the massive chamber where Damon uses the pillars to power the castle's moves. A helicopter piloted by the town's mayor is the one rescue vehicle summoned to duty, although a robot Pokémon owned by Juanita helps out as well. On the Earth, the purple flames of the Dragon Force spread out of control through the region's forests, forcing hundreds of adorable wild Pokémon to flee in panic. The whole thing is quite compelling throughout. As Pokémon movies go, this one ranks with Movies 1, 6, and 7 as the best of the franchise, although I enjoy all of them and can easily rewatch any of them.
Iris and Cilan are seen in the latest Pokémon TV season, "Pokémon Black and White," currently airing on the Cartoon Network. It's one of the best seasons so far in the long-running franchise and the two new characters are something of a breath of fresh air.
ADDENDUM (121011): I watched the companion movie, POKÉMON THE MOVIE BLACK: VICTINI AND RESHIRAM, in its premiere tonight on the Cartoon Network (interrupted multiple times by commercial breaks). As far as I can tell, roughly 70-80% of it is exactly the same as POKÉMON THE MOVIE WHITE. It simply amounts to an alternate version with Zekrom and Reshiram basically reversing roles. The only footage that's different is that which shows Zekrom acting as Damon's aide and Reshiram being revived by Ash to restore the balance, whereas in the first movie it was the other way around. Damon's other hench-Pokémon are different from those in the first film. For instance, Reuniclus has been replaced by Gothitelle (who is in one of the TV episodes), but they do exactly the same thing. It hardly seems to have been worth the effort. I don't understand the rationale for making two movies from the same material that tell exactly the same story with only slight changes in the cast of Pokémon and then releasing them together.
Review by Brian Camp from the Internet Movie Database.