After my posts earlier this year regarding treating “silly” material with a level of dignity that can make it work as a real movie instead of the usual high-budget, low-coherency crap we end up with instead, and praising “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” as a great example of this principle, I would be remiss not to address “Pokémon Apokélypse.”
A confession: after seeing the Legend of Zelda fan trailer a few years back, I became interested in the idea of creating trailers for less iconic properties. I was interested in the challenge of taking material that Hollywood would probably see as silly and make a down-the-middle, lowest common denominator panderfest, and try to instead make a version of it that would make people go “I never thought I’d want to see a [name of property] movie, but now I kinda do.” This is one of the reasons I loved on MK:R like I did — they were helping to pioneer that field.
I’m not going to tell you what some of the properties are that I’m thinking about, because I still do plan to do them. But I will say that one of them was going to be Pokémon. But these guys beat me to it!
Obviously, this is something of a satire of the automatic tendency to make everything “gritty” and serious these days — in a way, a response to MK:R more than a kindred spirit. They said they were going for a College Humor vibe, and I think they succeeded — both in terms of satirizing the kind of movie (and in particular, the kind of trailer) that they’re emulating, and simultaneously making me think “You know…I might actually watch that if it were real.”
I was too old to be “into” Pokémon growing up, but my brother was just at that age and he would watch it every morning during breakfast, before we went to school. Which meant that, for lack of anything better to do, I watched it every morning too. And it’s always struck me how, despite the colorful anime gloss, Pokémon battles are basically dog fighting matches — or, if you attribute more intelligence to the Pokémon, gladitorial contests.
So I liked this trailer addressing that, but quite honestly I don’t think they even needed to have the matches driven underground. The even more dystopic vision would have Pokémon matches as the publically-approved national pasttime, in essence a fantastical regression to the barbarisms of ancient Rome. This would give some opportunity for growth in Ash — he would have grown up thinking of Pokémon as little more than the equivalent of Battle Bots, bred and trained solely for the purpose of sport. His relationship with Pikachu would force him to reconsider what he’s been taught about the “sport” and its combatants — Pikachu is intelligent, Pikachu feels pain and fear. Pikachu is his friend. This should change everything for him.
The cartoon never addressed this because Pokémon battles were treated more like boxing matches than cage matches. But a film could go there. This one kinda does, but the fact that it’s already accepted by everyone involved that this is kind of fucked up, instead of Ash realizing how fucked up it is despite its cultural acceptance, gives the story slightly fewer places to go.
The effects are pretty good here, considering that these guys apparently aren’t very experienced in 3D animation and they’re dealing with a bunch of weird CG creatures. The shot with Pikachu getting strangled by Ivysaur has the ivy tendril clipping right through his face and into his mouth, but the tracking on the camera and the compositing in general are pretty good.
Overall it’s funny, decently made, and even with the dodgy acting and effects, and the fact it’s a satire, I’m still more interested in seeing Apokélypse than, say, YOGI BEAR.