The international showings of the film have revealed that TPCi has yet again replaced most of the film’s original background music with very cheap synthesizer music. They kept only one and a half tracks from the original soundtrack: the music that plays over the narrator’s “World of Pokemon” sequence and part of Clement’s “Science is Amazing” music that plays when he pulls out his invention.
We don’t know why TPCi started replacing the music starting with the Diancie movie, but it’s not hard to see that Pokemon films the past few years are being treated more cheaply and simply than ever before (especially in the story department). Most other Japanese shows and movies have no issues keeping their music, so unless there’s some odd licensing troubles going on with Pokemon (and why now?), it’s likely TPCi just doesn’t want to pay for the rights to use the music anymore.
Unfortunately the English soundtrack sounds like one long “marshmallow” track that doesn’t really change in tone from scene to scene or does so weakly at best. This completely disrupts and confuses the flow of the film and does nothing to guide the viewer, which is the whole purpose of using background music in the first place. Heck, in a lot of films, you only know the bad guy is the bad guy at first because the music is sinister! But the English music does nothing to help us here.
For example, at the very beginning of the film, we see Hoopa using Kyogre and Groudon to _____ the townspeople. Why the blank? Well, from watching the English scene just once, I can’t really tell if Hoopa is trying to entertain the townspeople with its theatrics or if it’s trying to frighten them with its power. Am I supposed to be loving this? Am I supposed to be scared of this? The music doesn’t tell me what the tone of the scene is. To be fair, even without the music, I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a frightening or entertaining scene, which you could attribute to poor directing (after re-watching it, I did finally recognize a shot of the townspeople smiling, but it’s the only 2-second evidence that tells us they’re enjoying it). However, the director knew when he was making this film that he would be relying on the soundtrack, so even in the final Japanese product, we could still tell what was going on even if the scene itself doesn’t make it very obvious. But the English music does nothing to help the viewer here.
If I could describe what the English music is doing, I’d say it’s “describing” the visuals in the most boring way possible. For example, when Hoopa summons Groudon, we see fire fall out of Hoopa’s ring and Groudon appears and roars. As the fire is falling out of Hoopa’s ring, the music “falls” with it, and as Groudon appears and roars, the music changes to brass to indicate Groudon is powerful. But the visuals are already telling us this, so it’s completely redundant. The English music is simply filler. It never offers an extra dimension to the film like music is supposed to. I wouldn’t be surprised if the English composer, Ed Goldfarb, was paid just enough to do one pass.
Worst, when going to the next scene with Reshiram, Zekrom, and Regigigas, you can begin to tell Hoopa is going out of control and the townspeople don’t like what it’s doing. But the music just keeps the exact same tone as the previous scene, proving it has no sense of what’s going on. There is no “shift” in the music from the previous scene to the next, unlike the Japanese soundtrack. And this pretty much describes the rest of the film. One long undefined scene. A wet rag. Wishy-washy. Background music is probably the most powerful tool for influencing an audience’s emotions, and yet when the company that owns the film decides that it’s not necessary to put effort into it, you know that the product itself is nothing special.
What has become clear in recent years is that Pokemon films aren’t meant to be taken as seriously anymore (we’ve had to lower our standards to enjoy many of them before, but now that’s not even possible). Gone are the days of introducing mysterious Legendary Pokemon, of having heavy plots, of trying to dazzle audience members with more than just boring battles that have no real stakes to them. Mewtwo wondered about its existence, Latias lost its brother, an old legend came to life and showed the dangers of disrupting the fragile balance of nature, Lucario wanted to know why its Trainer abandoned it and then died with him, a little girl used Pokemon to cope with the loss of her parents, God forgave corrupt humans and realized his place in their world, Max said goodbye to his friend, Alamos Town learned not to judge a book by its cover, May said goodbye to her child, Shaymin showed gratitude and stopped being a bitch. Now what do we have? I’m not even sure. The Legendaries learn to control their powers with the power of friendship? But when even the American company is pulling its funds, you know none of this is meant to be taken seriously anymore. TPCi cares so much about the product at this point that they don’t even spellcheck their own credits. (And it’s the freakin’ editorial department! The editorial department!!)
I am a graduate film student and have directed many short films, so maybe I’m just being too critical over a dumb kid’s movie. Maybe because I love Pokemon so much I’m also being extra critical, especially since I want to make a live action Pokemon film one day. So I’d be interested to see what other fans think, especially when the Hoopa dub premieres in the States. I have always felt Pokemon films have so much potential but just never takes advantage of it, especially recently. So let me know your thoughts below!