Apr 20, 2012

[Movies] Pokémon: The First Movie (1999)

As we continue to explore the shared interests and passions of our little family unit, it's funny what things we find out that we have in common. And while it cannot be expected that we'll always find things that all three of us enjoy, it's nice to find these random points of intersection in our interests.

One of the circles that I share with Prince turns out to be Pokémon, of all things. And as much as I enjoyed the game to some extent, the cartoon is really what won me over given how annoyingly adorable Pikachu is. And don't get me started on the soft spot that I have for Psyduck and Squirtle.

So recently I finally go around to getting copies of the Pokémon movies so that Prince could finally see them. And truth be told, I've yet to see all of the movies myself. So expect me to start posting more Pokemon reviews in the days and weeks to come, at least at the pace at which we actually watch the darned things.

The Pokémon cartoons are definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, one that I'm glad to celebrate with my partners for all its worth.

Pokémon: The First Movie was released in Japan in 1998 but released in the US by 1999. It was the first animated movie based on the popular children's television series. It's also known as Mewtwo Strikes Back, in case you were wondering.

The movie actually starts with a 21-minute animated short entitled Pikachu's Vacation, although for the purposes of this review I'll focus on the main theatrical feature. As much as I'd love to talk about the Pikachu shorts alone, I figure they deserve their own Geeky Guide post some time in the future.

Pokemon the First Movie - Mewtwo vs. Mew
Pokemon the First Movie - Mewtwo vs. Mew (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)
The movie begins in some secret laboratory where a mysterious Pokémon, later on revealed as Mewtwo (Phillip Bartlett), is created through a complex cloning process. He is mean to be a clone based on generic material believed to belong to the legendary Pokémon Mew, but with several enhancements. This leads to him becoming one of the most powerful psychic Pokémon around, but also has made him somewhat unstable. Angry at his laboratory captors, he lashes out and destroys the facility. He later meets Giovanni (Ted Lewis), the head of Team Rocket, who offers to train him in the proper use of his powers in exchange for service to the group.

Elsewhere, Ash (Veronica Taylor), Misty (Rachael Lillis) and Brock (Eric Stuart) receive a special invitation from someone claiming to be greatest Pokémon master on a place called New Island. They all rush off to catch a boat to the island, but once there they discover that a mysterious storm has formed making ferry trips too dangerous. And thus all the gathered Pokémon trainers decide to find their own ways to get the island and find out what this Pokémon master has in store for them.

The tone of the movie felt a little weird at the very beginning since we start by focusing on the antagonist of the story, but then you know how it is when we get to these big movies for cartoons after all. There's always that odd urge to interpret the need to make a story big enough for the movie market with going a little darker than before. And Mewtwo is a rather dark character, or at least a rather emotional one if that's the route we'll go in terms of classifying him.

It was nice how the movie tied in various elements from the TV series into the story along with the blatant need to cram as many different Pokémon into the various scenes. Sure, we don't actually see all 150+ Pokémon featured individually, but we do get a lot of fun splash scenes that depict most if not all of them, even if just in passing.  Plus they even found ways to bring in supporting characters like Officer Jenny (Lee Quick), Nurse Joy (Megan Hollingshead) and of course Team Rocket - Jessie (Rachel Lillis) and James (Eric Stuart). You just can't have a Pokémon movie without Team Rocket, right?

The movie did feature a lot of messy Pokémon fighting (and not necessarily formal battling), which was interesting but not necessarily fulfilling from a story perspective. Nor did it quite satisfy that itch for actual Pokémon battling in terms of formally announcing the individual attack commands and the like. I suppose it couldn't be helped given the scope and scale of the movie, but I still wish that they had spent more time on that. We did get that first battle between Ash and the random Pokémon trainer but that was really just a creative way of running through the title sequence.

Pokémon: The First Movie is a fun first romp for the animated TV series into the realm of the big screen - one that was pretty successful at the box office. It wasn't the best Pokémon story ever told nor the tightest one but it certainly proved the concept that Pokémon can certainly survive in the movie market. Thus it still rates a respectable 3.5 quirky clone Pokémon out of a possible 5.

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  1. Ah finally! A Pokemon review! I believe I've seen most movies but my favorite one has got to be "Lucario and the Mystery of Mew". 

    And as much as I enjoyed the gamer to some extent" - winner! =)

  2. Haha, well I'm getting copies of the original cartoon now. Expect reviews for the series in the months to come, provided we find time to watch them.