Pokemon Movie 1: Mewtwo Strikes Back
On a remote island staffed by henchmen of the nefarious Giovanni, a clone of an extinct Pokemon is being bioengineered to be used as a force able to conquer the world. However, when the Pokemon, Mewtwo, proves too powerful for those attempting to control it, he decides that he would conquer the world instead. And Ash, Misty, and the gang are lured into a trap that may prove deadly.
Cartoon villains always want to do one of two things: conquer the world, or destroy it. Apart from the fact that Mewtwo is, in fact, a Pokemon, he is otherwise fully in the mold of every nemesis before him.
If the plot had been a bit less predictable, Mewtwo's Counterattack may have been a vastly more entertaining movie. Instead, we get an overlong TV episode that, while certainly watchable, dissolves into a overwrought war allegory with a sentimentally kitschy ending that will prove unsatisfying for anyone older than, oh, puberty.
Until then, though, the movie is at least bearable. The main characters, as well as the omnipresent Team Rocket, are their usual entertaining selves, and a few incredibly amusing jokes are scattered throughout the dialogue. Of course, the American dub often likes to pretend that the Pokemon universe exists in the real world, mentioning real-life landmarks, though the backgrounds and cities are totally fictitious (unlike Digimon, which is quite plainly set in recognizable locales). One thing I didn't like about the dub was Mewtwo's voice, which, in the original Japanese, was properly menacing, but in the dub, sounded more like a bad takeoff on Tim Curry, with a God complex.
Visually, this movie is better than a television episode, though the cartoony backgrounds will hardly win any awards. Still, the animation itself is nothing to complain about at all. The individual Pokemon fights themselves are adequate, but fall into repetition late in the movie, which actually makes sense considering the plot.
What of the plot? Well, if Mewtwo were actually a more interesting villain, the plot may have been much stronger. However, his simplistic goals are just what you'd expect from a Pokemon "born yesterday", and the overidealistic, mawkish ending, which included a pacifistic soliloquy by Meowth (ACK!), was just plain bad. A tearjerker indeed, but not perhaps for the right reasons.
To make things worse, the American release has the ending swiftly followed by twenty-second clips of various unrelated songs, whose entire purpose is apparently so the American merchandisers could sell soundtrack CDs. We knew the merchandising was going haywire, but GEEZ, couldn't they have made it a bit less blatant? And the music during the movie is similarly marred by randomly chosen American music ... I couldn't have been less happy about it.
Though most of the movie capitalizes on the charm and personality of the Pokemon, the overidealistic nature of the show tends to preclude any sort of serious plot from succeeding. Fine for children and Pokemon fans, but I tend to prefer a bit more subtlety in my morality lessons, thank you very much.
Better than Pikachu's Summer Vacation, worse than the actual show. Fine for those who have never seen an anime movie before. If you hate overdoses of cute critters, stupid villains, or heavy-handed preaching a la Captain Planet, feel free to pull a Brave Sir Robin and bravely run away. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: A few redshirts (surprise!) and one major character death. Considering that no major characters are missing in the following season, I wouldn't expect this one to be permanent. Some Pokemon violence (moralized, too!), but no language, no sex. Lots of hypocrisy though: remember that the movie makes a point of hammering home why senseless violence is bad, and then proceeds to sell more merchandise so your Pokemon can fight some more!
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, raw Japanese; 35mm theatrical print, English dub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Pokemon Movie 1: Mewtwo Strikes Back © 1998 Nintendo / Creatures / Game Freak
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