POKÉMON THE MOVIE: HOOPA AND THE CLASH OF AGES (2015) is the 18th Pokémon Movie and the second in the XY series (after last year's POKÉMON THE MOVIE XY: DIANCIE AND THE COCOON OF DESTRUCTION, also reviewed on this site). It offers at its center a mischievous little flying Pokémon named Hoopa, who talks and has a taste for donuts and boasts an extraordinary power found in the three rings it carries on its circular body in which it can teleport living beings and objects (some quite massive) from distant places to wherever it happens to be. Hoopa also has a giant form, with multiple arms and clawed hands, resembling a traditional Arabian Nights genie, as befitting the movie's Middle Eastern setting. The giant form of Hoopa is indeed contained in a bottle like the one that housed the genie in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD and similar tales. Hoopa, in his cute, dimunitive form, becomes the companion of two Arab children, Barza and Meray, who live in a traditional village, and pulls all sorts of pranks on the villagers.
A decade later, Barza and Meray enter Dahara City, a modern Middle Eastern megalopolis patterned after Dubai (United Arab Emirates), and encounter our heroes, Ash Ketchum, Serena, Bonnie and Clemont and their various Pokémon. Long story short: Hoopa's giant form, which had wreaked havoc on the village 100 years earlier, is released from its bottle after Team Rocket tries to steal it and begins a new rampage on Dahara City with the help of six Legendary Pokémon it has summoned with its rings (Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, and Kyurem), while Ash, Pikachu and little Hoopa summon some Legendary Pokémon of their own (Lugia, Latios, Latias, and Rayquaza). The ensuing battle royale in the skies over the sprawling nighttime skyline of high-rise Dahara City takes up much of the film's second half. The battles are spectacularly designed and rendered and would have been much more exciting in the service of a more engaging story.
I had two major problems with this scenario. For one thing, I never quite grasped why Hoopa came in two separate forms, with giant Hoopa able to exist outside of little Hoopa. Barza explains the giant form as "the Fury, the true form of the power that's trying to control Hoopa." He goes on to say that it's "a shadow of Hoopa" and that "the anger is trying to become the real Hoopa." So how is it able to take physical form and lift up huge buildings and smash them? Granted, abstract concepts like this are at the heart of the whole Pokémon franchise and it's futile to seek logical explanations, but in order to suspend my disbelief and accept something like this, I needed a more inventive explanation. Also, I found the mischievous little Hoopa extremely annoying and never understood the various characters' attachment to him. He does some pretty nasty things to them, yet they seem to find him endearing. Put the little Hoopa in the bottle also, I say. (I suspect, though, that the film's intended child audience will find Hoopa much more appealing than I did.) As a result, I didn't find a whole lot at stake for the main characters. They just seemed to enter someone else's story and decided to tag along, a not uncommon plot hook in these movies and less interesting for me than the stories where their own fates are directly affected. It doesn't help that Barza and Meray are such lightly-drawn characters who give us little reason to care about them.
The movie comes with a supplementary 14-minute short entitled, "Hoopa, The Mischief Pokémon," which offers vignettes of life in the Arab village with Barza and Meray as children and little Hoopa as their trickster companion. This short is featured as an extra on the Japanese DVD. When Cartoon Network premiered POKÉMON THE MOVIE: HOOPA AND THE CLASH OF AGES on December 19, 2015, it ran "Hoopa, The Mischief Pokémon" in the 15-minute time slot preceding the 6:00PM (EST) start time of the movie. Which struck me as odd, considering that it wasn't promoted at all and would probably have been missed by the thousands of Pokémon fans tuning in at 6:00PM. (I only caught it because I was curious as to why so much time had been allotted by CN to the preceding film, POKÉMON: ARCEUS AND THE JEWEL OF LIFE.)
Also, CN ran POKÉMON THE MOVIE: HOOPA AND THE CLASH OF AGES in a 90-minute time slot, a short time for a 78-minute movie, given that there were six commercial breaks of four minutes each. (Do the math.) A comparison screening with the Japanese DVD revealed one flashback scene eliminated and lots of individual establishing shots and short bits of action removed throughout the film. (For some reason, Team Rocket suffered the most, with lots of their reaction shots cut from the CN showing.) The Japanese end credit sequence is about four-and-a-half-minutes long and continues the action with scenes of Hoopa making amends for the damage it caused and scenes of Ash & co. continuing their travels, accompanied by an end song sung by Rei Yasuda. None of this was seen (or heard) by the Cartoon Network audience because the end credits were condensed to one minute for the U.S. showing and squeezed in on the side of the frame while a promo for a CN show ran on the other side of the frame. So, by my count, the movie itself was cut to around 70 minutes for the U.S. premiere. I don't understand why the Cartoon Network did this. They could easily have programmed the movie and the short in a two-hour time slot and not had to cut any of the movie OR the end credits.