Long ago, Arceus granted a fragment of its power as the Jewel of Life to help Michina in the town's hour of need, only to be betrayed when it was time for that power to be returned. After so many years, Arceus is about to return to reclaim its stolen power- enraged, vengeful, and seemingly unstoppable. Not even the combined might of Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina can stop Arceus from devastating all existence across the dimensions. But Ash and his companions, joining forces with their new friend Sheena, May have discovered the only way to redeem that ancient betrayal. Their journey will be both dangerous and uncertain: even if Ash and his friends can set an old wrong right again, will there be time to return the Jewel of Life before Arceus destroys everything and everyone they've ever known?
Directed by: Kunihiko Yuyama
. Starring: Sarah Natochenny
, Michele Knotz
, Emily Bauer
, James Carter Cathcart
, Kayzie Rogers
, Bill Rogers
, Rodger Parsons
, Ikue Ôtani
, Carmen Borgia
, Wayne Grayson
, Dan Green
, Jason Griffith
, Carrie Keranen
. Music by: Shinji Miyazaki
It is generally agreed upon that the later Pokémon films are worse than the originals. After the abominable "Giratina and the Sky Warrior" I was expecting "Arceus and the Jewel of Life" to affirm this prejudice. As it turns out, the film has some actual good ideas that almost weigh up against the familiar myriad of flaws.
The film opens, as usual, with a commercial for the previous ones and a boring prologue. The first words are spoken by the Pokémon Arceus: 'It is time to return the Jewel of Life.' At least they chose an apt title for once. Arceus' demand is dismissed by one Damos, who traps the Pokémon and keeps the precious to himself.
Some 1,000 years later, Ash and Co. visit the scène de crime and find the distortions of space and time they should by now have gotten used to. Yes, this is still the "Diamond & Pearl Trilogy", so prepare for Dialga, Palkia and Giratina wrecking things.
The team comes across a pair of young people, Kevin and Sheena, who explain that the endless quarrels between legendaries are caused by Arceus, apparently the creator of everything, who is trying to break free from his dimensional prison. After Damos' betrayal in the prologue, the Pokémon has cultivated a hatred of humans and sworn to destroy the entire race. It takes some effort to convince Ash of this, because he simply cannot stomach the notion that a Pokémon could want to hurt humans -- besides Mewtwo, Zepdos, Moltres, Articuno, Groudon, Deoxys, Rayquaza, Regirock, Regice, Registeel and that vicious terror Shaymin, at least.
Speaking of the devil, Arceus finally escapes and starts raining fire upon the city as if it were Sodom. (Seeing how Arceus is literally this universe's god, the similarity can hardly be coincidental.) Sheena reveals herself to be a descendant of Damos and offers the Jewel of Life to the Pokémon in an attempt to soothe its anger. Unfortunately, the stone turns out to be a fake, and mankind is officially toast. In a final effort to save the world, Dialga transports Ash, Brock, Dawn and Sheena to the past so they can prevent Damos' betrayal from happening in the first place.
I must admit that this is an interesting set-up: The Old Testament by way of "Majora's Mask". It is even fun to see the past world, and how people's interaction with Pokémon has changed throughout the ages, but these charms hardly amount to anything substantial.
The most prominent of the film's flaws is that it is -- simply put -- rather dumb. Ash and Co. need to have it explained to them that they have been locked up in a dungeon, for example. And the lack of moral complexity is jarring. "The Rise of Darkrai" stood out because it did not need a villain. Rather, it was the quest of multiple parties to save what was dear to them from the turmoil caused by misconception. This film throws in a simple villain, Marcus (or Gishin, in the sub), whom we instantly recognise as such because he has a staff and wears robes.
As the story progresses, its quality keeps declining. Basing a plot around time travel is always a can of worms to open, but "Arceus and the Jewel of Life" makes a bigger mess out of it than most. The "Back to the Future"-style slowly disappearing in the past because the present is being changed is a good example, but there are bigger inconsistencies. Why, for example, is Arceus still raging in the future when everything has been restored in the past? And how can you defeat a god with the power to manipulate space and time by dropping a rock on its head? And why can't Arceus travel back to the past as well to stop Ash? Or prevent Damos' betrayal himself? Or, you know, un-create mankind? And wait a minute, why is Kevin even in this film when he adds precisely nothing to the plot?
It is a shame that the film never surpasses its premise, because it was honestly interesting. "Arceus and the Jewel of Life" is just not as good as it could have been. Then again, it is also far less awful that it could have been. The story is arbitrarily presented as a trilogy capper (you wouldn't guess without checking Wikipedia) and not a little inconsistent, but does feel like the product of good ideas and perhaps even a little passion. It would not be the best introduction to the franchise, but Pokémon fans should savour this film, because it contains the last bits of quality in the franchise for quite a while.
Review by Shostakovich343 from the Internet Movie Database.