Published on March 31st, 2012 | by Joss Card0
Who’s the Real Villain?
In the far forgotten mists of time of the year 1998, I was at a movie theater reaping the benefits of being a “fringe-friend”. You know what I mean. One of those kids who were filler at a birthday party. You can’t have a birthday party of only 3 kids, or mom and dad would get depressed that their little Tyson isn’t as cool as he should be. I can’t really remember the kid’s name, what my relation was to him (I think Cub Scouts…? Maybe?), or how old he was turning. But I do remember that we were all given promotional Pokemon Cards (Mine was a Promo Mew) and were told that we’d be going to go see the Pokemon Movie that night.
That was bitchin’.
Well, about 15 years have passed since then. And in that 15 years I only got worked up to see Pokemon Movie 2000 (which wasn’t, in fact, the 2000th movie, but was actually the second.) for which I got a promotional Ancient Mew card (which is still unopened somewhere in my room for reasons I can no longer remember.) The movie in question sucked a bit more than I could bear and so it saved me from going down the long and depressing road of the endless Pokemon movies. As of now there are 14, with one slated for this summer, not counting all the non-movie specials like Mewtwo Returns.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity of rewatching the first three and I was surprised at how much I still loved the original, how much I disliked the second, and how much I just didn’t care about the third. (Why Entei? Raikou is way cooler!) But, more importantly, I came to understand something about the Pokemon universe and how it ties in with us: We are the worst of all the villains in the Pokeverse.
We break it down like this. By the year 2000, there were two main motivations to play the Pokemon games. To “Catch Em All” (Which is something that we “Gotta” do.) And to “Battle Em All”, which being an RPG is something that we avoided at all costs only to find ourselves ridiculously under-leveled to fight the next gym leader. And then we take a look at the villains of the first pokemon movies.
Mewtwo is the first Pokemon villain in any movie and he was genetically created in a lab. He kind of had a hang-up about not knowing what he was created for, which probably means that blowing up his creators a few minutes after being born was a bad idea in retrospect.
|Doctor Tenma creates yet another sin against god.|
Giovanni arrives and tells Mewtwo that his purpose was to help him. So he does for a bit, until Giovanni goes all jerk-face and tells the unstoppable, psychic powerhouse that he was just using Mewtwo to gain power. It turns out that Mewtwo didn’t like being told that he was a total tool and he level’s Giovanni’s place as well, taking with it a bitter view of how humans treat Pokemon. As it turns out, his skewed view is probably pretty true.
The crux of the film is that Mewtwo creates an unstoppable clone army and plans to eliminate all life on the planet and replace it with his superior clones. One thing leads to another when all the best trainers are invited to visit Mewtwo’s island getaway to prove his point. Ash is somehow invited, despite him getting to the fifth round of the Indigo League Championships and losing. The best trainers (plus Ash) are then pitted against the clones. In the climax, Mew faces off with Mewtwo while all the clones fight their originals in what would be considered the most epic Pokemon battle ever… Except that it’s not.
|Oh the humani- Holy crap! Are those Charizards fighting?! SWEET!|
While it should be pointed out that Mewtwo’s ideal of Pokemon shouldn’t be the tools of personal power struggles while creating a clone army to prove the his own power is highly hypocritical, it still gives us the idea that having Pokemon fight to build up your self-esteem is amoral. Which is interesting, since the first time you see our hero, Ash Ketchum, he pits his Pokemon in a fight for no other reason than, “Hey, you! Let’s battle!”
This is where we’re even worse. Effectively half of the games is battling. You catch Pokemon to battle other Pokemon. You get experience points to level up, evolve, and gain power to battle even more Pokemon. Mewtwo was battling because he needed to feel like his life had purpose. Ash was battling because of rank advancement in whatever League he happened to be strutting around in. Almost all of your battles were either with the computer, or to prove to your friends that your army of level 100 Mewtwos could wipe his army of level 100 Mewtwos. (If you never knew the Missingno glitch in grade school, you were about as potent a threat as Canada was in the Cold War.) All of your battles were for self-gratification and to smash some other kid’s face in the dirt because you probably couldn’t do it in real life.
So, if we compare the possible reasons to force other creatures to fight until one lost consciousness, Mewtwo had a pretty legitimate reason compared to us. Even Ash knew when to call it quits. But how many of us threw our little 6-’mon army at the same gym leader over and over until a combination of luck and shoddy AI programming let us finally scrape by that victory?
But, that’s only half of the game, argumentatively. The other half, catching them, is brought up in Pokemon Movie 2000.
Lawrence III is your typical rich kid. He’s got cash, a hobby, and a giant floating castle made out of wonder and defiance of physics.
|I couldn’t find a picture of the real thing, so here’s one a bear and a bird made instead.|
His purpose in life is to collect. He has quite the extensive collection, we’re told. And what he wants more than anything is a Lugia. A rare Pokemon that only appears when the balance of harmony is disrupted by a mystical creature named Discord… Wait. I might have blurred lines into a different show for a minute there.
This is accomplished by capturing the three legendary bird Pokemon. Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres. So, Lawrence III floats around a couple of islands and starts firing cannon shots at random mountains for the birds to show up. He then throws a gigantic electric cage to capture them in and puts them in his trophy room.
I feel that this is as good as any point to ask what Lawrence’s collection really is. It starts with an Ancient Mew card and leads to him wanting a live Pokemon. He’s also got a lot of other crap in there, including a boat which Ash and the gang escape on later.
|He also collects Cow Tools apparently.|
There isn’t much more to be said about the plot, other than the way that Ash can restore balance to the world is to place three colored stones on an altar and then play a song on an ocarina… Seriously.
Lawrence is brought to his senses only after his ship has wrecked, his collection is strewn across the sea and the only thing he has left to his name is his Ancient Mew card. Which means that his new net worth hovers between $0.99 and $5 (plus shipping and handling.) He’s basically told that he shouldn’t think of living creatures as simple things to collect.
And then the movie ended and you went home and tried to catch ‘em all…
It isn’t necessarily the amount that you catch that makes you worse, but rather the method and treatment afterwards. Let me give you an example.
In the movie, Moltres is scared out of hiding with a cannon and then placed into a rotating electric cage. He sits on a pedestal in the collection room looking out the window to the world below. He’s given the temporary company of Zapdos (and for a brief time, Ash n the gang).
Enter my pokemon adventure. Moltres is chilling in hiscave when suddenly a 10 year old kid comes out of nowhere and hurls a ball at him. The ball opens and Moltres is now trapped in a small sphere about the size of my fist. It’s dark, it’s scary, and he sure as hell has no idea of what’s going to happen to him.
Lawrence is likely going to check on Moltres once in a while. Feed it, take care of it, talk to it. Meanwhile, my Moltres is never going to leave Box 4 because with my level 100 Mewtwo and a Blastoise that knows both Blizzard AND Earthquake, I’m already an unstoppable force. That Moltres will perpetually be in a state of uncertainty and fear, while Lawrence’s Moltres is likely going to adapt to its environment and might even come down with Stockholm Syndrome.
|Birds dig crazy cow-licks.|
That covers the other half of the Pokemon spectrum. Between battling and catching, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re far worse than the villains of the Pokemon movies. But it could always be worse. We could be like Entei in the third movie and say to an unprotected little girl, “Yeah, I could be your daddy.”
|“I’ll make all your dreams come true.”|