“Pokemon Heroes” unveils new heroes

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 16, 2003

Featuring the voices of: Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, Rachael Lillis and Maddie Blaustein.
Miramax Films presents an animated film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and Jim Malone.
Written by Hideki Sonoda and Malone. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated G.

 

In “Pokemon Heroes”–the fifth film in the phenomenally popular Pokemon series–a pair of dolphin-like sibling creatures are the center of intrigue. Latias and Latios–the newest characters from the Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire video games–make their big-screen debut in this spunky adventure.

In the world of Pokemon, kids get to be Pokemon trainers and an elite group move on to become Pokemon masters. That’s the goal of Ash, a 10-year-old trainer whose electric Pokemon is a yellow cherub named Pikachu. While Pikachu may emit babylike noises, it has the awesome ability to shock its enemies at will. Literally.

The brainchild of Satoshi Tajiri, the Pokemon franchise today doesn’t carry quite the same cachet it did four years ago when it was so hot it made the cover of Time magazine. But this animated film is a solid effort that will entertain even those kids who think they’ve outgrown Pokemon.

All the old gang is here, including Ash’s best friends, Misty and Brock. His adversaries, Jessie and James (get it?), return as well. But this animated film is all about the friendship between Ash, Pikachu, Latias and Latios.

Jessie and James are no problem for Ash in this adventure, which finds them in Altomare–a land fueled by its wealth of water. But Annie and Oakley (get it?) are another story. Styled to a T, the glamor-girl villains plan to steal the Soul Dew–a jewel with earth-shattering powers. Latias and Latios have many reasons for protecting the Soul Dew. Their late father gave up his life to ensure Altomare’s safety and the glass jewel is, well, his remains.

Latias–the female Pokemon–is able to take the shape of Bianca, her human best friend. But her brother, Latios, either is unable or unwilling to morph into a human form. Fortunately, they both have the ability to “sight share”–each can visualize what the other is seeing. This asset comes in handy when Latios is held captive by Annie and Oakley.

With the help of Bianca and her grandfather, Ash and Pikachu embark on a journey that will pit boy against girl and Pokemon against Pokemon. We all know how this will play out in the end, but the journey nonetheless is worthwhile.

The battle between good and evil is loud, dark and scary and there are a couple moments in this G-rated film that may be a little intense for the kindergarten set. But the overall vibe of the film–that even kids can make a difference if they work together–is a good one.

Much of the scenery is lush, detailed and gorgeous. It’s no coincidence the setting appears European. Director Kunihiko Yuyama and his staff were inspired by the romantic canals in Venice when they created Altomare.

The intricate background is a stark contrast to the simplistic look of the characters. Their stilted movements and rudimentary shapes make them appear out of place–which is exactly what they are in Altomare.

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