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  • As Pokémon movies go, POKÉMON: ZOROARK MASTER OF ILLUSIONS is on par with the others when it comes to spectacular visuals, fast pace, and abundant action and adventure. However, the cast of characters is a bit more crowded than most, stretching our sympathies too thin among too many new (and returning) characters and giving us a villain whose strategizing is unnecessarily complicated and whose motivation struck me as much too abstract for a movie like this. (But then, most of the recent Pokémon movies have veered into increasingly abstract territory.) The antagonist here, Grings Kodai, is a media tycoon who has gotten ahead because he's able to predict the future. How he got this "gift" forms a significant backstory, complete with a flashback to a violent engagement with a "time ripple" that first appeared 20 years earlier in the locale of Crown City and which has now appeared again. Kodai's actions at that time had a devastating effect on Crown City and threaten to cause equal damage this time. The emergence of the mystical nature Pokémon, Celebi, coincides with the appearance of the time ripple. It becomes the mission of our heroes, Ash, Dawn, Brock, and various allies they pick up in town, to return Celebi to the time ripple before Kodai can get there. (Celebi was a significant character in the fourth Pokémon movie, POKÉMON 4EVER, 2002).

    Also mixed up in all this is Zoroark, a Pokémon that can create mass illusions. Kodai has imprisoned Zoroark's little companion, Zorua, in order to force Zoroark to perform illusions of disaster to cause the evacuation of Crown City's Old Town district, where the time ripple is located. Zorua escapes and joins up with Ash and company in town. Zoroark goes on a rampage in town to find Zorua and is pursued by Kodai and his army of dutiful Pokémon henchmen. Zorua has psychic powers and is able to speak to humans telepathically.

    Also on hand in an already overstuffed narrative are the town's three Pokémon protectors, Entei, Raikoh and Suikun, who engage in a battle with Zoroark even though they're all, technically, on the same side. At some point, there are just way too many entities in play to keep track of and it was hard to concentrate on the ones most in need of our sympathy, Celebi and Zorua. The screenplay really needed some streamlining here.

    The town of Crown City is based on streets and canals found in towns in the Netherlands and Belgium. The design and layout of the town provide a breathtaking backdrop to the action. The most beautiful scenes are those where Celebi flies through town adding color and vitality to the trees and flowers along the streets. No matter how convoluted the story gets, the images are always lovely to look at.

    Kodai, the lead villain, operates out of a massive airplane HQ. He's got all sorts of little high-tech gadgets assisting him, including miniature floating TV cameras, spy devices, portable cages, and little boxes that take on the forms of various Pokemon to execute deceptive maneuvers. He's quite a formidable villain, the kind this franchise needs, yet I just didn't buy the notion of a "time ripple" and his use of it to gain the power to tell the future. By the time of the events in this story, he's already in "control of the mainstream media," as one journalist character tells us, so you'd think he'd be too smart to jeopardize his position by such a risky move as paralyzing Crown City to get to the time ripple again. Besides, such a man would have an army of staffers to do his bidding, but we really only see two humans working for him, one of whom turns out to have conflicting loyalties. Granted, this is just a cartoon, but for such an intricate and suspenseful tale, I needed a stronger reason to suspend my disbelief.

    As usual, Team Rocket, the TV series' trio of perennial villains, is marginalized, always popping up at the periphery, but not getting directly involved in the action. In fact, no one notices their presence in town throughout the entire movie.

    Of the last seven Pokémon movies, I would argue in favor of POKÉMON: ARCEUS AND THE JEWEL OF LIFE (2009) and the latest one, POKÉMON THE MOVIE WHITE: VICTINI AND ZEKROM (2011), as the best works among them. Still, as animated adventures for children go, all the Pokémon movies deserve attention.

    For the record, I watched the English-dubbed version released on R1 DVD for this review. I do wish the DVDs of these movies would feature the Japanese language track also.

    NOTE: The character of Zorua appears in an episode of the current Pokémon season, "Pokémon Black and White." The episode (Season 14/#38) is "Movie Time! Zorua in 'The Legend of the Pokémon Knight'" and it premiered on the Cartoon Network on October 22, 2011. Zorua appears as a new character with no indication in Ash's reaction to him that they'd ever met before, even though the events in this movie predate the episode.
  • In an earlier review, I compared Pokémon to Minecraft in terms of quality. At the moment I feel "Star Trek" would be more apt, in that, for a while, the even-numbered films were substantially better than the odd. "Lucario and the Mystery of Mew", "The Rise of Darkrai", and "Arceus and the Jewel of Life" outshone respectively "Destiny Deoxys", "Pokémon Ranger: Castle in the Sea" (yes, I am going to keep calling it that), and certainly "Giratina and the Sky Warrior". "Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions" fits neatly into this pattern, because it is overtly bad. (Of course, since then every new Pokémon film has been bad, but let me have my simile.)

    Let's begin on a positive note: I really like this film's setting. Crown City was based upon existing locations in Belgium and the Netherlands, where I happen to live, and looks very pleasant indeed. As Celebi flies through the narrow canals at the break of day, it seems we will be treated to atmosphere-building on par with the earlier films. But this notion is erroneous. Within minutes, the city is locked down by a villain, and the remainder of the film is spent running and fighting.

    Oh dear, the paragraph I had reserved for the things I liked turned sour after only three sentences; what a discouraging sign. If these films keep worsening, I may do away with a synopsis altogether, and write no more than 'it's boring; don't watch.' But at the moment I'm still willing to determine *why* this film is boring and not worth watching.

    Firstly, the set-up is some of the flimsiest in any of these films. Ash and Co. save the shape-shifting Pokémon Zorua from an assault, only to be insulted in return. (It seems Zorua has taken personality lessons from Shaymin.) As always, the idiots will nevertheless try to help the Pokémon, in this case to find its mother Zoroark, who has been taken prisoner by the evil magnate Kodai. Oh, and Zoroark can transform into legendary Pokémon, which is about the most desperate fanservice to still earn a G-rating. What follows comes almost down to a Battle Royale: Ash, Brock, Dawn, Kodai, Zorua, Zoroark, Celebi, some civilians and some henchmen are locked into the city, and hopefully only part of them will come out of it again.

    Another thing that stands out is the strange pacing. Not only considering the plot structure -- that has been well-balanced in two or three of these films at best, -- but also in terms of dialogue. The writing is as asinine as usual, but the way in which it is delivered flows worse than usual. Conversations are plain uncomfortable to listing to, nor does a single joke land. I never found Dawn's clowning Piplup very entertaining before, but here it is the source of many an awkward silence.

    Really, the entire film feels uneasy. Scenes that were supposed to be funny feel awkward; scenes that were supposed to be beautiful feel businesslike; scenes that were supposed to be exciting feel languid. When the city is locked down in the beginning it feels like a third-act climax; when the real capper occurs it is disappointingly small-scaled. How ironic that Zoroark is a shape-shifter, because the film she inhabits is an amoebic product; a formless mass that keeps moving indistinctly until it stops. On an unbearably happy note, I might add.

    This is the first film since the first film that feels like it was made by people without any knowledge on how to make a film or how to structure a story, even though that simply isn't true. Kunihiko Yuyama and Hideki Sonoda have worked on virtually all of the films as director and screenwriter respectively. They have made many bad Pokémon films before this one, but never did it feel like they had given up trying. You better get used to it though, for this was the only the prelude to the Dark Age of Pokémon Films.
  • This movie is better than the 9th movie, but it's still sucks.

    All the "illusions" fall flat, the "avataring" goes all the place, and the writing makes as much sense as a Batman fanfic.The moment of KodaI taking over the world goes no where. The Zoroark and Kodai battles are long and senseless. AND THE "MOTHER AND CHILD" Bond theme IS SLIGHTLY IMPROVED, but still JUST offensively remarkable too. This movie is as offensively bad as the 9th movie, but it's still seems lame and unnecessary. And another attempt for Pokémon to get Ash and His friends to get back into the spotlight. BUT HEY,I TAKE OVER ANY BATMAN ANY DAY.

    SO A ROTTEN STARFISH FOR THIS POKEMON MOVIE,and Pokemon's status as "one of the most backlashed Kids Anime" is still going strong.
  • I really think this is one of the better "Pokémon" movies, but being a huge fan, it's hard not to consider them guilty pleasures. I looked up and discovered that this had more pokemon than any other movie ever made! I actually was pretty blown away by the sheer number of random pokemon that appear in this. It did give off the feeling of an epic movie. Even the length was impressive. Okay, it's really nothing that new for the pokemon mythos, but for a fan, it's quite nice. The best part is probably the villain, Grings Kodai. I honestly don't think any pokemon movie has had a more evil villain than this guy.

    What I love is how hands on he is. He outright has devices that directly attack the pokemon. He's even attacking Zorua, who's practically a baby! I actually liked the allusions to "Pokémon 4Ever" and this truly was a better version of that film. Zorua is very funny, especially with his transformations and how playful he is. I feel so bad for forgetting a lot of these pokemon! Well, at least I'm keeping up with my reviews of the series. I DO intend to review the episodes eventually. It's just great to see all these creative designs. ***
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Zoroark: Master of Illusions (2010) is different from all of Pokémon films. It isn't an odd one but a great one. It sets in a beautiful city yet it is environmentally friendly. What's more visually impressive are the amazing illusions created by Zoroark, the master of illusions itself, in a grand scale. Captivating and feasting the audiences eyes with all of that, the animated feature also has one of the most compelling plot for a family film. Though, it can be overwhelming as it can be dark but it is also heartwarming in the most subtle way!

    Particularly, the plot of this animated feature involves a lot of deception and it has realistic progression. It may also educate young audiences about mass media as it presents a clever media control and manipulation story. Then, its villain named Gring Kodai is certainly one of the most interesting villain created by the franchise. He has a strong and merciless personality but like every human in the world, he is never without his own flaws. In the end, it shows how pathetic some people can be due to greed. One should not damage the environment due to selfish reasons and forcibly separate the child from parents!

    If you must know or kind of know through reading my film blog, I can be quite hopeless for everything endearing. However, I understand that it's not the same for everyone but I must mention that Pokémon are lovely creatures in the anime and video games. They are not just pets but life long companion and it is quite fun to watch them. Then, the friendship between Pokémon are also genuinely so innocent and they often can be amusing. While it is unlikely for us to understand Pokénese fully, it is not difficult to understand these creatures as they are quite straightforward in their expressions. From the city's and (time) travelling Pokémon to shiny legendary and interesting new ones; there are just so many adorable Pokémon in this one!

    (Speaking of time travelling, this is another interesting time travel related story by Pokémon. It seems to be a follow up to Celebi: Voice of the Forest (2001) but it is not as the Celebi here is not the same one though they might know each other!)

    In brief, Zoroark: Master of Illusions (2010) is exceptionally satisfying. I am happy to report, this one is worth your time to watch and it is certainly ranked highly among the best Pokémon films ever made. It can be the most outstanding, clever or emotional one out there as the creators of this animated feature clearly put a lot of effort into making this one. It all depends on yourself but in general, I am sure this one is great. Too bad, it is also the last one featuring Dawn because she is one of the most pleasant characters ever.

    PS. This is the only one I rated 9 stars. Will write Worst to Best Pokemon film soon.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really didn't like this one that much. It is one of the worst Pokémon movies. The main thing about this one is that everything about it is tired and nothing fresh or new.

    The story of this one is nothing too notable. It's yet another example of a bad guy wanting to capture some Pokémon for his own selfish reasons.

    Grings Kodai is another lame villain. The idea of the villain being a media mogul isn't too bad, but his character was boring and, like Zero from "Sky Warrior", was essentially a rehash of past villains. Not many Pokémon movies excel at villains, and this one is one of the worst.

    Zorua isn't the most annoying Pokémon ever, but he certainly had his moments. This is yet another example of the "Ash and the gang meet a cute Pokemon and go on an adventure with it" cliché and there isn't much to separate it from most of the others.

    The pace of this film is kind of slow and it has some of the most cringe-worthy moments in the series, which says something! The script has some inconsistencies as well.

    I will admit, though, that the film did pick up a little bit in the final 10-15 minutes. The ending of this movie was pretty great. It was touching for Zorua to be reunited with his mother, Zoroark.

    This is by no means a bad Pokémon film, just a rather dull and tired one. Despite featuring several cool legendary Pokémon, this in my opinion is the least memorable of all 18 Pokémon movies along with "Jirachi Wish Maker." Recommended to Pokémon fans, but don't expect much.