Pokémon: The First Movie
Pokémon: The First Movie, also referred to as Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back and originally released as Pokémon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, is a 1998 Japanese anime film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama, the chief director of the Pokémon anime (who would later direct the long-running series of Pokémon films), based on both the anime and the video game franchise of the same name.
The film was released in Japan on July 18, 1998. The English-dubbed version, produced by 4Kids Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, was released in North America on November 12, 1999.
The film was remade as a computer-animated film titled Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, which was released exclusively in Japan on July 12, 2019; the film was also released worldwide (excluding Japan and Korea) on Netflix in February 27, 2020 to coincide with Pokémon Day.
When a group of scientists are offered funding into genetic research, they agree to try and clone the greatest-ever Pokémon, Mew. The end result is a success and Mewtwo is born. However, Mewtwo is bitter about his purpose in life and kills his masters. In order to become the greatest, he throws out an open challenge to the world to battle him and their Pokémon. Ash and his friends are one of the few groups of trainers who pass the first test and prepare for battle. However, they soon find out about further cloning and Mewtwo's ultimate plan for the Earth.
MODERATOR'S NOTE: The majority of these points only apply to the English-dubbed version produced by 4Kids Entertainment.
- The English-dubbed version removed all of the scenes from The Story of Mewtwo's Origin; this results in the English-language version being incredibly confusing for Americans.
- This English-dubbed version uses footage from the "Kanzenban" version, which included redone animation and turned specific hand-drawn objects and backgrounds into computer-generated imagery, which sometimes feels out-of-place.
- In the original Japanese version, Mewtwo was bitter, misunderstood and just trying to find a purpose in life, whereas in the English version he is now a generic, over-the-top, mustache-twirling villain, apparently just so children could have an antagonist to root against.
- Out-of-place music; in particular, "Brother My Brother" by Blessid Union of Souls plays in the fight scene between the original Pokémon and their clones. However, the rest of the soundtrack is fine, but this is one example of using music that's out of place.
- It shares a similar problem with other productions from 4Kids Entertainment in that nearly every character speaks as if they were raised in the United States, supposedly so American audiences would relate with the film.
- There is also an inclusion of out-of-place references to popular culture, with Ash and Brock discussing the NFL's Minnesota Vikings in one scene.
- The memories of every main character are erased at the end of the film; in other words, the film basically retconned itself out of existence, it turns out that this entire film was a waste of time.
- The English-dubbed version tries to shoehorn in a rather hypocritical message that "fighting is wrong" in a franchise that is mainly about fighting.
- In one scene near the end, Ash is petrified by the combined energy of Mewtwo and Mew before tears from the Pokémon revive him; not only is it quite cliché, but also comes across as a blatant deus ex machina.
- Poor grasp of the Pokémon lore; for example, Ash's Pikachu defeats another trainer's Golem, a Pokémon that is supposed to be a Rock/Ground-type and thus immune to Electric-type attacks.
- The "supporting" characters are paper-thin, and some of them do not even have names at all.
- Impressive animation, complete with beautifully-designed backgrounds.
- The Japanese and English soundtrack is impressive, and so is the voice acting in both the English and Japanese versions.
- The action scenes are impressive, and the ending is beautiful.
- Although the film is slightly dark, there are some funny moments, and the plot is surprisingly very good, even in the English version. As a result, the film is still phenomenal, despite the aforementioned issues.
- While generic in the English version, Mewtwo is still a fantastic villain who has sympathy throughout the movie.
- The scene where Meowth and his clone are about to fight, only for them to stop to think about what they're doing and understanding each other is a very touching moment.
- The film was released during Pokémon's first generation, though as would be the case with many of the subsequent films, a few Pokémon from the then in development second generation appear. In addition to Togepi, who had already been introduced in the anime at the time, the Pokémon trainer who challenges Ash at the beginning of the film starts the battle with a Donphan, which is quickly defeated by Ash's Bulbasaur. Also, in the film's accompanying short, Pikachu's Vacation, Ash's Pokémon are introduced to a Snubbull and Marill.
- Although the English dub removed some parts of Mewtwo's backstory, they were still translated into English and put as an extra in Mewtwo Returns uncut without any changes, and the only reason they cut it out was because of executive meddling from Kids WB.
- This was Veronica Taylor's favorite Pokémon movie.
- When this film was first shown in the movie theater, Mewtwo's dialogue would only come from the front of the screening room when he was talking to himself without letting anyone hear what he was saying; but when he would psychically project his thoughts for the human characters to hear him, his voice would come out from the surround sound speakers at the side of the room.
- This was the only Pokémon film to include a post-credits scene until Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us.
- There was some controversy when a 13-month-old girl suffocated and an 18-month-old girl nearly suffocated on a Burger King Pokéball, made to promote the film. Following this, Burger King recalled these balls, and the parents of the 13-month-old girl started a website named "Pokémon Kills".
Pokémon: The First Movie currently holds a 14% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus that reads "Audiences other than children will find very little to entertain them." Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film a two out of four stars and stated in his review "It's just a sound-and-light show, linked to the marketing push for Pokémon in general." On Roger Ebert & The Movies, Roger Ebert gave the film a thumbs down while guest critic Joyce Kulhawik gave the film a thumbs up. On Roger Ebert's Worst of 1999 program, guest critic Joel Siegel of Good Morning America deemed it as his worst film of 1999, while Ebert deemed Baby Geniuses as his worst film of 1999.
Pokémon: The First Movie opened at #1 on its opening weekend, with a domestic gross of $31,036,678. The film's domestic gross would later be $85,744,662. In foreign markets, the film made $77,900,000. Overall, it made $172,744,662 against its $30 million budget, making it a box office hit.