This review was corrected May 14, 2003.
Having settled into a formula of maximum action and minimal whimsy for its battery of feature releases, the makers of “Pokemon Heroes: Latios & Latias” barely raise a ripple as they tread water in this fifth entry. It’s sad enough the animation of the ongoing adventures of Pocket Monsters and their human trainers, one of the lowest grades of anime work in the industry, demonstrates no improvement or enhancement. But the action this time is even less inspired than past battles, likely assuring a further erosion in domestic B.O., which has declined with each release.
An obligatory but brief intro of lead trainer Ash Ketchum, his loyal Pokemon, Pikachu, and fellow trainers Misty and Brock intros things for those too young (or too new to parenting) to know the tube series or the previous movies. Just as each feature highlights new Pokemons not only for plot, but to boost merchandise sales — this time, it’s the winged pair, Latios and Latias, who guard the island city of Altomare — so too are new nemeses established in the nefarious duo of Annie and Oakley, teenaged fashion slaves spying for a mysteriously off-screen baddie named Giovanni. They are assigned to capture the Soul Dew, a giant jewel that contains immense powers that’s held in Altomare’s museum.
Every “Pokemon” pic has its delightfully screwy moments, and even though this one features depressingly fewer than its predecessors, it does have fun with the idea that the museum contains not only antiquities and fossils, but also a nasty-looking weapon named the Defense Mechanism that can apparently blow up the world.
As usual, pic’s early sections display the most pleasing visuals, including a detailed rendering of Altomare as a hyper-detailed re-creation of Venice. The animators have some fun exploring, along with Ash and Pikachu, the canal city’s labyrinths and the ways in which unlikely characters can pop up around any corner.
The fun mostly evaporates and the animation fails when it comes time to deliver the central action. Some point is being made about Annie and Oakley losing their battle to destroy Altomare because they get drunk on power, but it’s lost in a flurry of plotting nonsense.
The new creatures are visually unexciting, as are sound effects for them, while the character rendering is by now pure hack-work. Rising above this charmless project is a score by Coba and Shinji Miyazaki that has fun toying with quasi-Venetian music and what sound like variations on the “Charlie’s Angels” theme.