In the town of Lohta, a festival is thrown praising “Aaron the Wave Leader Hero” who, according to the legend passed down through the town’s generations, stopped a war centuries ago by using the power of “the Tree of the World’s Origin.” Satoshi and Pikachu participate in a battle to decide this year’s hero and after their victory, they are chosen as the “Wave Leader Hero.” A grand dance party is held in the castle to celebrate the victor, but suddenly the phantom Pokemon Mew appears and takes Pikachu. Soon afterwards, the Wave Leader Pokemon “Lucario” is freed from his centuries-long seal and meets Satoshi. Satoshi must solve the various mysteries of where Pikachu is, what Mew’s after, what the secret of the legend of the Wave Leader is and how it ties in with Lucario’s hidden past as he makes his way to “the Tree of the World’s Origin” with Lucario.
User Reviews: In my ongoing quest to destroy my childhood I have set out to (re)watch all Pokémon films, and see how they hold up now that I am an adult. This has led to some rather confronting conclusions. "Jirachi Wish-Maker" and "Destiny Deoxys" contained about 10 minutes of plot each, and more filler than an airmail delivery package. After their respective bores, I was looking forward to "Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew," commonly known as ‘the good one.’
Not because of the dialogue, obviously. The film starts in medias res, with the Pokémon Lucario warning his master, Sir Aaron, about an impending attack: ‘The two armies are about to clash, master, and our kingdom is caught between them. Once the fighting starts we’ll all be destroyed.’ The writers apparently thought this a very complicated sentence, so have the queen of Cameron clarify: ‘When the armies reach this palace, our kingdom will fall.’ We wouldn’t want anyone to miss that two gigantic stampeding armies are supposed to be a threat.
Sir Aaron heroically prevents disaster from happening, as well as the prologue from taking too long, by sacrificing himself in the enormous Tree of Beginning, hereby making the armies turn peaceful and return home. When Lucario tries to follow him, he traps the Pokémon in his magic staff and leaves it as the sole remnant of his existence.
It is immediately apparent that the animation is good again, arguably for the first time since "Latias and Latios." If I am correct, the used technique involves the digitalisation of hand-drawn animation, like in "The Lion King" and "Spirited Away" (and practically all hand-drawn animation produced since the turn of the millennium), that allows for a cleaner look and more vibrant colours. Unfortunately, the usage of CGI has increased, and it looks stunningly awful, possibly even more so than before.
The good-looking environments and pleasant atmosphere mostly succeed from distracting from this, though: Cameron castle seems like a cross between Neuschwanstein and the castle of Cagliostro. Ash and Co. visit the place, centuries after the prologue, to take part in a costumed tournament. These scenes take up quite some time, and yet I found myself defenceless against their genuine charm and visual flair. Seeing the costumed ball being infiltrated by an overeager Team Rocket and the Pokémon throwing their own party upstairs was just enjoyable. If this film is 40% filler, then at least it is good filler.
The plot starts moving when Lucario mistakes Ash’s aura for Sir Aaron’s and escapes form the staff. (One wonders why he didn’t centuries ago, if he could do that by himself, but we’ll let it slip.) Meanwhile, the Pokémon Mew is chased around the castle, and escapes only barely by teleporting to the Tree of Beginning, taking Pikachu and Meowth with it. As it happens, Lucario’s senses can help Ash find back his little mate.
This is not very creative writing, but a fine reason for Ash to get involved in the events of the plot. Even better: Meowth’s disappearance also creates some actual stakes for Team Rocket. For the first time since "Mewtwo Returns" the trio is actually funny again. Their quips land more often than not and there is a sound that Meowth makes when he is about to crash through a window that makes me tear up with laughter every time I hear it.
The whole troupe journeys to the Tree, following the standard narrative beats of the adventure film genre. Especially annoying is the obligatory fall-out between the two main characters (in this case Ash and Lucario) so that they can make up later. "That was so uncalled for," May yells at Ash. Indeed, it was. Likewise, I would have been impressed with the usage of ‘time flowers’ as a visual storytelling device, had the characters not continually explained what was just shown. But then again, average writing for a normal film is good to Pokémon standards.
"Lucario" is obviously a flawed film, but also an enjoyable one. The characters are likeable and funny, the animation is beautiful (as long as it is hand-drawn) and the story overall is adequate. Although I would give "Lucario and the Mystery of Mew" the same mark as the other two Pokémon films I liked, let it be known that it is easily the best in the series.