Starring the voices of Sarah Natochenny, Haven Paschall, Michael Liscio Jr., Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld and Ikue Ohtani
Directed by Kunihiko Yuyuma (Based on characters created by Satoshi Tajiri)
Available on Disney XD on Demand (Coming to DVD March 21)
My Rating: ****/5
After 10 years on Cartoon Network, the “Pokémon” anime made its move to Disney XD this past November, beginning with the 19th film installment: “Pokémon: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel.” Airing alongside the first two episodes of the anime adaptation of “Pokémon Sun and Moon,” this movie provides a flawed but fun addition to the series’ canon and a solid end to the “XY” series.
Many years ago, an ancient Pokémon known as Magearna was created as a guardian to the Azoth kingdom. The massive steam Pokémon, Volcanion, was also its closest companion until they were driven into hiding by people that wanted to hunt them down.
In the present day, Volcanion and Magearna awaken and must form a reluctant alliance with Ash, Pikachu, Serena, Clemont and Bonnie in order to elude a group of bounty hunters hired by the evil Chancellor Alva (voice of Billy Bob Thompson).
Complicating matters, Volcanion is attached to Ash with electromagnetic clamps for a portion of the film, as well as technology known as a “Mega Wave” that forces Pokémon to Mega Evolve against their will.
While the film may not be the best entry in the long-running adaptation of the hit anime and video game series, it still manages to be an entertaining take on the “Pokémon” franchise that helps introduce two powerful legendary Pokémon to the series. As an animated film, it also does a better job at embracing the outlandish scenarios the games often present than infamous live-action bombs such as the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie. Magearna’s design resembles a Poké Ball crossed with BB-8 from “Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens.” The Azoth kingdom combines medieval cogs and clockwork with modern technology cribbed from an Apple store, and Volcanion’s relationship with Ash plays like a PG-rated version of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
The animation is also a delight to behold, full of stunning environments and vivid colors. The film’s final battle takes place atop a massive airship as “Ash-Greninja” and the Complete Form of the mysterious Zygarde clash with Chancellor Alva and his team of Pokémon under control of the Mega Wave.
One noted flaw is the pacing of the film. At a brisk 93 minutes, the film can feel a bit overstuffed at times. Many of the battles with Alva’s mercenaries play like a round of one of the video games on a large amount of Mountain Dew and M&Ms. Also, Volcanion’s disdain for humanity can get a tad heavy-handed. Thankfully, the animation remains a joy throughout, and Volcanion does get better as the movie progresses.
While not in the same wheelhouse as some of the darker films in the series, “Pokémon: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel” is a solid entry into the long-running saga and a good start to the “Pokémon” series’ run on Disney XD. With the promise of more episodes of the “Sun and Moon” series and a 20th film on track for this July in Japan, the “Pokémon” series will continue to delight children and the young at heart for years to come.
Review by Steven Pryor