Part 65: Side Notes #20: Pokemon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes BackSide Notes 20: Pokemon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back
Well this is it, the culmination of the anime, what the one year story was building towards and has been teased at for months, until finally, on July 18th 1998, the finale to Satoshi's journey across the Kanto region was complete.
Oh wait, that was the original plan, this is the first of NINETEEN MOVIES for the franchise juggernaut that is Pokemon. The one that literally everyone and their parents remember, the one where Mewtwo was the coolest thing ever, the one with all the NOT LIKE THIIIIIIS, the one where Ash freaking DIES and gets brought back to life by TEARS and, uh, well... none of that happens. Like seriously, this movie wasn't amazing before 4Kids butchered it into oblivion and for the very first entry into the theatrical world... this is not a good start. Thankfully things will improve and of course, things will get worse, but as it stands, the Pokemon movie, the supposed capstone to the anime series is, uh, pretty alright.
Okay, so what is the movie actually about? Well due to the Porygon incident, all the episodes of the regular show that would've set the scene for the movie were delayed until around late September and the two episodes where this movie took place between weren't until November. So there's was a hefty prologue put in so people would know what the fuck. And in order to understand Mewtwo's character, well better listen to the audio, or wait until the Birth of Mewtwo was shown in July 1999. So not exactly the best start, but come on, we know the story already: Mewtwo is created, wonders what he's about, gets made to fight, blows shit up, finds an island, builds a massive castle(?), asks a load of strong trainers to come to his island (and Ash), clones their Pokemon to create an army, TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD, fights Mew for a bit, is confounded by Ash's sacrifice, realizes he's a bit of a butt and gives a life lesson. Then wipes everyone's memory of the life lesson and fucks off to Johto. So yeah, pretty basic plot for a pretty basic movie.
The main thing about this movie is that it's the first one, it's the big event, the one everyone has been waiting for. It's something never before seen as part of the franchise and, well, is basically what it says on the tin. You would watch this movie as a fan and think it's the best thing ever, so the flaws don't really come up. But let's talk about the good stuff, well, Mewtwo. The subject matter for this movie is pretty dark and mature for its target audience and the character arc of Mewtwo is very well done, we see what he loses at a very young age, his confusion about his existence, the terrible things he's put through. He's not all sunshine and roses, he's a twisted Pokemon that kills and destroys, but at least he can repent and change his ways to better benefit him and those he has created. And the climactic fight at the end, overbearing PSA or not, does send a very powerful message about a desperate situation. And the fight between Mewtwo and Mew is pretty cool too.
Oh yeah, there's like human characters and shit. Yeah, this is where things fall a bit flat. Firstly, Ash is way, way, waaaaaay too early in his journey to be involved in this stuff, so it is a bit strange that he got invited to the island to begin with, but maybe Mewtwo was that impressed by Ash's battle against Donphan guy... uh, Raymond, since Pikachu did take out three of his Pokemon, including the Ground type Golem in one shot. Or maybe Mewtwo likes the strong picking on the weak, who knows. But yeah, Ash, Misty and Brock, along with all the trainers that make it to New Island are just kinda there. Sure Ash does stuff, but he's the protagonist, while everyone else just stands around and don't really do anything, even when their Pokemon are fighting in grueling hand to hand fighting.
The big thing that people remember is Ash's sacrifice. Not only is it pretty out of left field, it's also resolved pretty weakly and is mainly there for the shock value. And it has been confirmed, Ash didn't die, he was just petrified and the tears only restored him from that state. Even though the weird blue haired woman states earlier that Pokemon tears did bring the Pokemon lost in the storm back to life, but details details. And I think Amber said that tears are the lifeforce of Pokemon or something something foreshadowing, it doesn't make it less dumb.
And then the next thing people remember is the NOT LIKE THIIIIIIIS, which is definitely, completely dumb as hell, added on how Mew is portrayed as the good guy in comparison to Mewtwo as the bad guy. Mew states that the real Pokemon will never lose to the clones, whereas in the dub is says that force does not match up to the strength from the heart. It never says that the clones shouldn't exist, but that they can't surpass the originals. Still, fighting is wrong, etc etc. 4Kids only dubbed the movie (poorly) so it's still the fault of the Japanese writers that the movie is still fairly weak and has its flaws. Still, you can find all the changes 4Kids made here.
One of the more, ahem, interesting choices 4Kids made for the dub was the slew of weird, disjointed pop songs that played over the credits. Like five of the damn things while the Japanese credits had its usual ending theme. The only reason 4Kids did this was to put some really famous names on the front of the poster. And of course, there's "Brother, My Brother". It's such a dumb, 90s moment and it's completely and utterly out of place. But you just can't help but love it. It's something that they never really tried since and it's probably for the best, let's be honest. While 4Kids are all for replacing the Japanese soundtrack with similar sounding music, I'm sure the complaints would be even louder if they always replaced the music with crappy pop songs from the bands of yesteryear.
Overall, this film is a mixed bag, you knew what you were expecting going in and it does that perfectly, it at least tries some cool stuff and it was the first time they attempted this whole movie business, so obviously things will get better next movie, right? Eh, we'll see, but for now, watch this movie if you can, it's still a great watch for fans of the series and, well, a little nostalgia ain't too bad...