Pokemon: The First Movie Review
By Alec R. Lee
First of all: goddamn it. I never wanted to review this movie in the first place. Hell, I’m not even a big Pokemon fan anymore. But I keep getting drawn to rant a little more and give my traffic ratings a little boost while I wait for new releases in the theaters. (What? I can be selfish too.) Who knows? This might be a good way to pass the time for all of the six people who actually read my posts. (I tip my hat to you!)
So, let’s start with a trip down memory lane. I saw this movie with a buttload of my friends when it first came out (I must have been in elementary school then, wow). I remember we were all excited for this movie like you wouldn’t believe. And to our undeveloped minds, we had practically found our Blade Runner and this only intensified our love for the franchise even more. (subliminal marketing, hooray!) Cut to the present, and you’d find me mentally kicking myself for ever liking this movie. I can say with confidence that this is not the worst of the sixteen movies, but it is far from the best.
In the beginning of the movie, Terence Malick must have snuck into the studio and pasted underwater scenes set to a calming music. This actually goes on for a few minutes and is nice to actually watch something Pokemon related that takes its time with the pacing. The sereneness is, of course, upended at once as the narrator butts in with some extremely unnecessary dialog about the “great mystery of life.” Get the hell outta here, you jack wagon!
The next scene shows that a Pokemon called Mewtwo is about to wake up from its cloning chamber. Mewtwo is apparently a clone of Mew, the rarest of all Pokemon, and it was designed to be the most powerful Pokemon in the world. Some versions of the movie (particularly the Japanese version) have an extended opening before this, detailing how the means to clone Mewtwo were obtained and why bother cloning a Pokemon at all. It turns out that the lead scientist is obsessed with cloning so that he can bring his deceased daughter back to life, thus trying to create the ultimate Pokemon in order to create his family once again. Wow. That’s actually pretty deep. But 4Kids were under the impression that children would not appreciate the dark opening and took a pair of old scissors and cut it from the print, along with nixing the original soundtrack. In doing so, they mistakenly cut out the part that Mewtwo (as an embryo, or whatever) went through an emotional change as he witnessed the failure of the project and starts questioning why he is alive and other clones are not. Oops.
Mewtwo (not a woman, and should have stayed that way) then wakes up and is less than pleased at the prospect of being treated as a science experiment and trashes the place, killing all the scientists as well. Make up your mind 4Kids! You cut out a great opening but you leave murder in the film? Son of a –ahh, there’s my gin. Where was I? Immediately after this wanton destruction, Giovanni approaches Mewtwo and offers it a partnership in his organization. Mewtwo then works for Team Rocket for a while, winning gym battles and helping them catch wild Pokemon, never realizing that it is being used for someone else’s purposes. Giovanni then pretty much, without any coercion, blurts out that Mewtwo is not an equal in his eyes and has been using him from the start. One angry Mewtwo tantrum later (in which another building is destroyed) and it finds itself on the island in which it was born, where we shift the POV. It would also be a good time to note that Mewtwo’s voice actor is perfect for the role. I usually have some beef with the English dubs of animes but this guy really nails his performance. It’s too bad he’s dead.
Forget that last dark sentence because Ash is in a Pokemon battle with a trainer! Is this what you were hoping for in a Pokemon movie? A battle with absolutely no tension whatsoever that has a crappy pop song in the background? (starting a bad trend) Contrary to Ash’s incompetence in the TV show, he wins this match handily and Mewtwo, watching his performance from afar extends him an invitation to his island. Sounds pretty ominous but the gang just treats it like an adventure. Unfortunately, Mewtwo was joshing most of the trainers he invited because he whips up a storm to hinder them from traveling there. Maybe he gave out too many invitations than he could manage, I don’t know. Ash, Misty, and Brock get there by having Team Rocket, disguised as Vikings (with hilarious accents), shuttle them there.
Once they get to the island, Mewtwo reveals himself as the world’s greatest Pokemon master to the trainers that did make it. One guy complains about the fact that a Pokemon cannot be, in fact, a Pokemon master. Mewtwo just throws this guy into a pool to wash out his mouth. Mewtwo then reveals his master plan: the storm that he created will destroy all humans and all of the Pokemon that are owned by humans because they have disgraced themselves in its eyes. This is a major change from the Japanese version as Mewtwo only wanted to determine where it fit in the world, not destroy it. So instead of being a sympathetic, misguided character, the folks over in America decided to turn up the cliche-o-meter and just straight up make Mewtwo a generic run-of-the-mill bad guy. (Of course!) At least the Japanese actors could tell which Pokemon were which because the English dub also has several inconsistencies such as referring to a Pidgeot as a Pidgeotto (arrrgghh) and referring to Scyther as an Alakazam (AARRRGGGHHH!). Does 4Kids not even read the source material?
Mewtwo then unveils Pokemon that he has cloned himself (the Japanese version would have explained how he had those Pokemon’s DNA to begin with) and challenges the trainers to a battle. Predictably, they all fail, rather miserably as some of them only take one hit before they faint. Mewtwo then decides to teabag the other trainers by capturing their Pokemon with his own special….psychic Pokeballs? This is so that Mewtwo can build an army of clones to take over once the destruction of the world passes. (Moonraker, anyone?) Ash frees the Pokemon and challenges Mewtwo to a battle. Now, when I say challenge, I mean try to punch him in the chest, but Mewtwo simply vaults him to the side of the stadium in light of Ash’s unsportsmanlike behavior. This is where Mew shows up.
Until now, all Mew has done is dick around behind the scenes, doing absolutely nothing. But when one 10-year trainer is in danger of cracking their spine, it comes over to save the day. Mewtwo is now really unhappy that Mew, of all the times to show up, is here now. Not wanting to share top billing, Mewtwo starts lobbing shots at Mew, who doesn’t even fight back. In fact, I don’t even think it’s paying attention. Even when Mewtwo is addressing it, Mew is staring around at other things and giggling to itself. What, does Mew have ADD? Mewtwo eventually stops firing from the hip long enough to actually hit the damned thing. This, however, breaks one of the most important laws of nature: if you attack an animal, it will attack back. And that is what Mew does, it starts fighting back with Mewtwo, having a pretty even match above the island as they slam their force fields together.
While that plot point is going on, the clone Pokemon and real Pokemon are fighting in the stadium below to- oh Jesus tap-dancing Christ, what the hell kind of music is this? It’s so…lame. What band is even…”Blessed Union of Souls”………..
Sorry, moving on. All of the Pokemon begin to faint simultaneously while the humans on the sideline make the connection that fighting is wrong and can actually be dangerous. Seriously? You’re making an anti-fighting message in a movie that is based off a video game completely devoted to you having virtual cockfights, the very reason why this franchise exists, and you’re trying to tell us that its bad? Granted, the Japanese version didn’t go this route but it’s still staggering that the American producers didn’t think of this point when they rewrote the dialogue. Hey, where did my cognac go?
So fighting is bad now, blah blah blah, Mewtwo and Mew are still fighting, blah blah blah, Ash gets killed, blah bla- what? Back up there. Apparently, Ash tried to stop the fighting in the most idiotic way possible, instead of using a loudspeaker or a gun to get everyone’s attention, he gets the brilliant idea to run into the middle of the field, where there is still fighting going on, and gets hit in the process, turning him to stone. Sorry Ash, but if that trick didn’t work during the Gulf War, it ain’t gonna work now. Then the Pokemon start crying. Oh boo hoo. Oh sob, oh cry. Wait…why are the tears glowing, why are they being drawn towards Ash’s body, are they? No they’re not. Shit on my butt, they are.
The Pokemon tears bring Ash back to life.
Where in the flying fuck did this come from? This wasn’t even hinted before and if it was, it’s still a completely stupid way to bring someone back to life. I guess the silver lining on this is that Pokemon tears are never mentioned again in the Pokemon anime. Thank God. I wouldn’t have wanted any of that bad dope the writers were smoking anyway….
God, I’m mad. I’ll wrap up now. Mewtwo sees that fighting is wrong and leaves with the clone Pokemon to find a new home, but wipes everyone’s memory to make sure that they don’t remember that fighting is wrong and so that they continue to do it for the next 13 years (I can’t be any more mad at this point).
Watch at your own discretion, Mewtwo is the only reason why this film doesn’t make the bottom spot on the Pokemon movies list (it’s more attributed to his presence than his character) but even that should not be a reason for newcomers to gravitate towards this.
At least Mewtwo Returns was slightly better…..
Final Score: 15/100