One of the benefits of the trend of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia taking over day-to-day life, is that things that were previously very hard to find (with almost zero effort) are now all over the place. The best example of which is the movie we have here; while wandering a local HMV i suddenly had the whim to find the first Pokemon movie and it was quite literally in hands reach the moment the thought came into my head.
P:TFM was the first movie i watched without my parents, and man do i remember the hype. Theaters were whole sale reserved to play this movie when it first released, everybody at school was talking about when they were going to see it, i was excited and tried to get any news on it that i could, and me and my buddy went to see it on opening night. Looking at it now, it wasn’t as big an event as i thought it was (even to this day) only grossing a “modest” 240 000 000 (adjusted) dollars world-wide. It didn’t even make it into the top 20 box office earners of 99, even other kids movies like Stuart Little, Tarzan, and Toy Story 2 absolutely clobbered it.
I think part of that had to do with the audience, my buddy and i had to be the only kids above the age of 8 in a theater that could sit a couple of hundred. Most importantly i think that by November of 99 the Pokemon craze had just about reached its peak, as the sharp decline of the box office performances of Pokemon: The Movie 2000 and Pokemon 3: The Movie show. Thus making P:TFM a perfect example of how hype can get you a strong opening (it had the 9th best opening for the 99′ movie year), but won’t guarantee longevity.
But enough of that boring stuff, i know that what you want to know is if Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back * still holds up. I remember being quite satisfied with what i saw when i walked out of the movie, but as we all know our tastes as children were questionable to say the least…
Team Rocket successfully a clone of the rarest Pokemon Mew; but when Mewtwo rebels against its nature all humanity and Pokenamity is at stake from his rage.
You know the opening to this movie is quite engrossing, and i’m not talking about that acid trip Pikachu’s Vacation or the unnecessary The Uncut Story of Mewtwo’s Origin. I’m talking about the right and proper movie, opening with a montage of Mewtwo’s awakening and realization that he is a clone with no purpose (other than to be a slave), and taking his anger out on his creators.
It’s very surprising actually, he honestly comes off as a more realised villain than the undercooked garbage on display in Age of Ultron. As the opening minute of the movie seems like a dream that Mewtwo is having about what he is, and helps motivate his desire to break out of his containment in a sophisticated way.
The tone of the movie is more “adult” in nature when compared to the TV series, with moments like a clone of Pikachu slapping Pikachu with a mix of anger, resentment, and sadness that is honestly quite raw to watch.
Lastly, the art and animation is both colourful and fluid throughout the movie, with computer effects and spectacular explosions raising the production quality that much higher. The musical score most notably in the opening is also quite nice.
As good as the opening sequence is to P:TFM, the ending drops the ball just as well. It is patently ridiculous that the trainers can condemn Pokemon battles as cruel only after Mewtwo strips them all of their special abilities. The logic being that it is okay to have these pit fights between caged animals as long as they get to shoot flames, or use their water cannons, or their psychic abilities against one another (???).
There’s also nothing wrong with a children’s movie conveying a simple moral, but it’s asinine that Mewtwo gives up being a bad guy after seeing the power of Pokemon tears bringing Ash back to life, especially when he is so strongly motivated at the beginning.
Which brings us to another weak part, which is Ash Ketchem. I never realised how much of a weeny Ash was until watching him as an adult. His voice, characterisation, and his mannerisms have him convey a shocking lack of heroism, and he’s also a chauvinistic moron. As he slowly comes out of the smog of a destroyed building declaring that he’s going to stop Mewtwo with his piddly mosquito punches, when a Gyarados couldn’t hurt him with a fucking laser beam.
I think Mewtwo is also given just a bit too many lines, as he starts to wear off his cool factor just a bit before the end.
And good lord does the music in this movie suck, the credit sequence alone is wall to wall tracks of the most insipid tunes to grace your ears.
Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back is an uneven venture, it starts off really strong but quickly derails itself with a shocking lack of self-awareness, ineffectual main protagonist, and cheap platitudes standing in for decent moral conveyance. The go to defense is that:
“It’s a kids movie, whadayawant?”
OUT OF FIVE
*WTF is up with those titles? Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back? Why not just Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back? Why Pokemon: The Movie 2000? and not just Pokemon: 2000? I know that things get lost in translation sometime, but that’s just sheer laziness on part of the North American advertisers.