With all, that’s going on in the Pokemon world, and all the various animation projects that are being done in it, it’s very easy to forget that there are still Pokemon movies coming out. Specifically, the “new timeline” movies featuring Ash and Pikachu on a more solo level. Now, Netflix has released their first film in the franchise via Pokemon Secrets Of The Jungle, and while familiar in some ways, it’s still a solid Pokemon story.
If you really wanted to boil this all down, Pokemon Secrets Of The Jungle is honestly the Pokemon version…of Tarzan. No, really, full-stop, and it has a lot of similar beats to that movie for better and for worse.
In a forest within the Pokemon world, there is a sacred tree, and it has magical healing waters that are protected by a powerful yet aggressive tribe of Pokemon known as the Zarude. One of them though goes and finds a human child, and because of that, they decide to raise it even if it means being an exile from the group. He names that boy Coco, and their journey begins.
Naturally, like Tarzan, Coco is able to learn to talk to Pokemon of all types and becomes a protector of the forest.
That is, until Coco gets into trouble and meets…you guessed it, Ash Ketchum. Through very familiar territory, Coco is exposed to the world of humans and realizes that his “dada” has not been telling the truth. Now Coco must deal with the revelation that he’s a human, all the while learning about his own history alongside Ash and saving the forest when it comes under threat.
The movie goes and pulls a ‘Hunt For Red October’ if you will as we get to hear the conversations between Coco and his father as well as the Zarude talking with one another. It makes things much more compelling, and not reading subtitles for this adds a lot of depth. Especially since “dada” is much emotional and caring than the other Zarude and his love for Coco is clear.
And yes, that is a Zarude wearing a pink scarf, you got a problem with that?
Anyway, things take a turn for the typical once it’s revealed that a certain scientific organization is after the healing waters held in the “Heart Tree” the Zarude call home…can you guess what happens next? Yep! The lead scientist is a bad guy, is responsible for the death of Coco’s parents (murder in the Pokemon world? Yeah, suppose that does happen…), and now we have to stop him.
This honestly is where the movie falls a bit off the rails. Because Doctor Zed (who you knew was evil from the start because he’s named after the Power Rangers villain) is as one-note as he can get. He’s doing all of this just to prove that “he was right” about the Heart Tree…and it’s never made clear what he was trying to prove. Furthermore, he apparently thinks that all Pokemon are worthless (which is so odd it hurts), and…well…honestly that’s it. That’s all the depth of his character.
Granted, not all Pokemon villains are super deep, but even Giovanni has more personality and style than Zed and it’s really eye-rolling when he tries to go full evil villain and he sounds like nothing more than a cliche.
Furthermore, his whole plan revolves around one machine beating an army of forest Pokemon (and Pikachu) and yet it only goes down after a very specific strike by Pikachu. Even though we’ve seen in COUNTLESS Pokemon tales that robots are usually very easily beaten by Pokemon…so…yeah…
That’s not to say it’s all bad story-wise. As always, Ash is a beacon here, and even though his role is smaller due to the story, we do hear some really great stuff from him. Including a story about his dad! We still don’t know where he is, but at least Ash remembers him!
Plus, the stuff between Coco and his “dada” are great, and there’s a lot of beautiful moments here. Including when Zarude unites the forest Pokemon to save the forest as a whole, and when Coco risks it all to use a Pokemon move to save his dada. How is that possible? Because humans and Pokemon share the same life energy, something that the series has teased all along.
Furthermore, the visuals are really good. Including some great perspective shots during chase scenes and battle scenes that are really fun to watch.
I will say that the ending…did leave something to be desired. Basically, after restoring the forest, Coco decides…to go on his own journey to “help bond humans with Pokemon”…but it’s not exactly explained how he would do that as he’s only been in the human world with Ash and STILL doesn’t know the language. I know it’s meant to be meaningful, but remember, Tarzan stayed in the jungle, so should’ve Coco.
Regardless of that, Pokemon Secrets Of The Jungle was a fun film that all Pokemon fans should see. It’s not the deepest, but it does have a lot of heart.
Pokemon Secrets Of The Jungle Review
Pokemon Secrets Of The Jungle brings a very special Pokemon tale to Netflix. It’s not the best one ever, but for what it depicts, it’s a fun watch.