Once upon a time in a far off desert city known as Dahara, there lived a legendary creature known as Hoopa. The creatures’ origins were unknown, but it brought the townsfolk many riches through its magical rings that could summon anything it wanted, so they weren’t very worried. Hoopa helped them turn their small desert land into a wondrous and lively city. Hoopa also provided a source of entertainment for many people by summoning other legendary creatures through its magic rings and doing battle with them. But all good things must come to an end, and over time Hoopa lost control over itself and its power and started destroying Dahara City in the midst of battle. That day, one brave mage showed up with a magic bottle and captured the grand power of Hoopa within it, and it stayed there for all eternity. Until now…
That is the setup to the 18th Pokémon movie, Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. I may be a little rusty on my Pokémon movie knowledge, I used to watch the first three films as a kid all the time and that’s it, but I’m slowly catching up on all the movies I’ve missed out on over the years. Unfortunately for this movie, I may have liked it a lot more if I hadn’t seen more of the other films in the series. Hoopa and the Clash of Ages honestly feels like an incredibly lazy film, a rehash of past Pokémon films and mainly just made to throw in a bunch of cameos of Legendary Pokémon. It does have a lot of great lore and mythology, and it looks absolutely gorgeous, but not enough to elevate the movie to the level of better films in the franchise.
After the wonderful setup of a giant genie Pokémon almost destroying the Arabian-esque Dahara City, we find ourselves at a desert Pokémon Center near the present day version. Our favorite forever-young Ash Ketchum (voiced by Sarah Natochenny) is relaxing with his current companions, Serena (Haven Burton-Paschall) and siblings Clemont and Bonnie (Michael Liscio Jr. and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld, respectively), before being very quickly introduced to a much smaller version of Hoopa (Lori Phillips, and later with Hoopa’s “Unbound form” is voiced by Ryan William Downey) as it steals their donuts through one of its magical “Alléhooparings” (pronounced in the English dub as “Ali Hoopa ring”). Ash, Pikachu, and the rest of his companions end up going through the magical rings which transported them to Hoopa. There they meet not only Hoopa, an adorable yet mischeivous small floating Pokémon, but also one of Hoopa’s caretakers, Pokémon trainer Meray (Emily Woo Zeller). Unfortunately, their fun meeting is interrupted by Hoopa’s other caretaker Baraz (Daniel J. Edwards), as he returns from his journey to find the Prison Bottle, which holds Hoopa’s true power after being captured within it by Meray and Baraz’s great-grandfather decades ago. Baraz shows up and is possessed by the bottles power into opening it and forcing the power upon little Hoopa, revealing a dark and angry power willing to summon any Legendary Pokémon to help it fulfil its lust for revenge at being locked up for all these years.
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages barely lives up to its title. Sure the film and the battles are big, but its potential for awesome is squandered by poor writing. Hoopa’s powers, the ability to grant wishes and makes things appear only to find out that Hoopa’s powers are just teleporting items from anywhere in the world to here is just a rehash of Jirachi’s abilities from the 6th Pokemon film, Jirachi Wish Maker. Moreover, the dialogue of is poor at times with characters occasionally uttering repetitive lines such as: “The anger is trying to become the real Hoopa. Hoopa, yet not Hoopa. It’s a shadow of Hoopa.” On top of all that, the biggest problem this film has is a lack of danger. Before the last 20 minutes or so, we literally only see a total of eight human characters and a few more Pokémon. It’s very hard to care for and worry about the destruction of Dahara City if we never actually get to see or know the people living there. Having giant Pokémon duke it out over the destruction or salvation of Dahara City means nothing if we don’t feel what the stakes are. Not to mention, in all honesty, the film itself just feels like a lazy excuse to make a Legendary Pokémon battle royal. They crammed in so many Legendary Pokémon that it was hard to get excited when new ones showed up.
On the plus side, the film looks and sounds great. The voice acting is pretty fantastic, especially by Lori Phillips as she gives us one of the most endearing and deep portrayals of a Legendary Pokémon with Hoopa. The animation is gorgeous, especially when it comes to all the legendary fights in the second half of the film. The writing isn’t a complete lost cause either. There’s an incredibly sweet moment between Hoopa and Ash when Hoopa wants to grant Ash’s one true wish of being a Pokémon Master, but Ash says that he would much rather get to that point by hard work and training. No matter how many episodes and movies go by, Ash will never change, and he never should, and that was just one perfect moment reminding us all why we love him so much.
The writers also did do one really fantastic thing in the script, the lore and mythology. Pokémon has such a rich mythology as it is and every movie focuses on fleshing out the mythology behind a specific Legendary Pokémon, and Hoopa and the Clash of Ages succeeds in that respect more than any other Pokémon film I’ve seen. Hoopa is given such a rich history, helped partially by being based on the already mythical Jinn or Genie that spans lifetimes. On top of Hoopa’s mythology, we also get a taste of the mythology and worship behind Arceus, the Legendary Pokémon which is thought to have created the entire Pokémon universe. Meray, Berez and their great-grandfather all bear necklaces resembling the symbol of Arceus and they all are able to tap into the “power of Arceus” to help Hoopa over the years. This film overall is just rooted in deep mythology that is wonderfully written and explored throughout the entire thing.
As a whole, Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is nothing more than decent. It’s a nice fun way to kill an hour and 15 minutes and probably a little bit nicer for the kids who watch the anime as the film feels more like an extended episode as opposed to a legitimate Pokémon film. Its writing doesn’t give off the grandiose feeling most Pokémon films have, it has some pretty poor dialogue throughout the entire film, and the lack of danger can be a real deal breaker. Thankfully we do have some rich lore throughout the film to keep people interested, tons of Legendary Pokémon cameos to keep fans of pretty much any Legendary happy, and an incredibly endearing character with Hoopa. I’d say if you’re a huge fan of Pokémon or at least the lore behind the Pokémon universe, check this movie out. Even though the film is hindered by a lot of aspects, I’m sure I’ll be checking it out again in the future.