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Pokémon: The First Movie (4Kids Version)

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Pokémon: The First Movie (4Kids)

Pokemon Movie Poster.png

Not a good way to Americanize the first Pokémon movie, 4Kids...
Genre: Action
Directed By: Japanese:
Kunihiko Yuyama
Michael Haigney
Produced By: Japanese:
Choji Yoshikawa
Tomoyuki Igarashi
Takemoto Mori
English adaptation:
Norman J. Grossfeld
Written By: Japanese:
Takeshi Shudo
Norman J. Grossfeld
Michael Haigney
John Touhey
Based On: Pokémon by Satoshi Tajiri
Japanese - English
Rica Matsumoto - Veronica Taylor
Masachika Ichimura - Philip Bartlett
Ikue Otani
Mayumi Iizuka - Rachael Lillis
Yūji Ueda - Eric Stuart
Photography: Color
Cinematography: Hisao Shirai
Distributed By: Toho (Japan)
Warner Bros. (United States)
Release Date: July 18, 1998 (Japan)
November 10, 1999 (United States)
Runtime: 75 minutes (original version)
85 minutes (extended version)
Country: Japan
United States
Language: Japanese
Budget: Japanese: ¥350 million
English: $30 million
Box Office: Japan: ¥7.6 billion
North America: $85.7 million
Worldwide: $172.7 million (¥19 billion)
Franchise: Pokémon
Sequel: Pokémon The Movie 2000

Pokémon: The First Movie, also referred to as Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back and originally released in Japan as Pocket Monsters the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (Japanese: 劇場版ポケットモンスター ミュウツーの逆襲), 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 on February 27, 2020, to coincide with Pokémon Day.


When a group of scientists is offered funding into genetic research, they agree to try and clone the legendary Pokémon, Mew. The result is a success and Mewtwo is born. However, Mewtwo is bitter about his purpose in life and kills his masters. 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.

Bad Qualities

MODERATOR'S NOTE: The majority of these points only apply to the English-dubbed version produced by 4Kids Entertainment.

  1. The English-dubbed version removed almost all of the scenes from the Birth of Mewtwo prologue, which resulted in the English-language version being incredibly confusing for western audiences.
    • The English-dubbed version also 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. However, in the English version, it is now a generic, over-the-top, mustache-twirling villain, apparently just so children could have an antagonist to root against.
  2. Out-of-place licensed music; in particular, "Brother My Brother" by Blessid Union of Souls plays during the scene where the original Pokémon and their clones try to kill each other. The rest of the soundtrack is fine, but this is one example of using music that's out of place.
    • Not only that, but it doesn't fit the scene at all.
  3. 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 western audiences would relate with the film.
  4. The main issue with the film is its tone, being very dark with a lot of horrifying moments.
    • While there is nothing wrong with making the films darker compared to the TV shows, those that do include those moments (such as Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Pooh's Grand Adventure) are from shows that have genuine dark moments, and also the films never go over-board with these kinds of moments. In the case of Pokémon: The First Movie, however, Pokémon (at least during the original era) was an anime for younger audiences, so to have the film be this dark makes it very polarizing.
      • Yes, Pokémon (both the games and TV series) does have a few dark moments, but those are very few and far between.
  5. Before the film even starts, there's a mini-movie titled Pikachu's Vacation that plays before the actual film in which was also in the theatrical release; it cannot be skipped outside a DVD release of the film or with the patience to fast-forward it.
    • The mini-movie is also quite long in terms of length, so by the time the actual movie starts, you're most likely going to be too burnt out to even wanna watch it.
      • On that topic, it's also a huge "mood whiplash", seeing as Pikachu's Vacation is a very light-hearted short, while the film (as stated in BQ#4) is a very dark film.
    • And unfortunately, this trend of mini-movies before the main feature film will carry on to later Pokémon movies (with the exception of the fourth film were the mini-movie is after the main film) until the sixth Pokémon film.
  6. There's also the inclusion of out-of-place references to popular culture, with Ash and Brock even discussing the NFL's Minnesota Vikings in one scene.
  7. The ending has Mewtwo erase the memories of every main character; in other words, the film basically retconned itself out of existence.
  8. The fan-favorite character Togepi is poorly written out of the film mid-way through, as she hides in Misty's backpack when Mewtwo sends a barrage of Dark Pokéballs at the trainers and is not seen again until the ending.
    1. This also adds in Missed Potential, Togepi could have maybe been captured by Mewtwo and would have made for for some really intense moments, but that never happens.
  9. The English dub tries to shoehorn in a rather hypocritical message about how "fighting is wrong" in a franchise that is mainly about fighting, and it doesn't tie into anything that relates to Mewtwo or the cloned Pokémon.
  10. Near the end, Ash is seemingly killed and turned to stone by the combined energy attack of Mewtwo and Mew before the tears of the Pokémon revive him; not only is it very clichéd, but also comes across as a blatant "Deus ex Machina".
  11. Poor grasp of the Pokémon lore; for example, Ash's Pikachu defeats another trainer's Golem, a Pokémon that's a Rock/Ground-type, and that should immunize it to Electric-type attacks from its part Ground-typing.
  12. The "supporting" characters are paper-thin, and some of them do not even have names at all.
  13. There is a lot of shameless filler in this movie, as it kind of feels like an extended Pokémon anime episode rather than an actual script for a theatrical film.
  14. The added-in sound effects in the English dub are kind of annoying as well.

Good Qualities

  1. Impressive animation, complete with beautifully designed backgrounds.
  2. The Japanese and English soundtracks are impressive, as well as the voice acting in both the English and Japanese versions.
  3. The action scenes are impressive, and the ending is beautiful.
  4. Although the film is 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.
  5. While generic in the English version, Mewtwo is still a fantastic villain who has sympathy throughout the movie.
  6. The scene where Meowth and his clone are about to fight, only for them to stop and think about what they're doing, is well-written and a very touching moment.
  7. The film was released during Pokémon's first generation, though 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 a Marill.
  8. 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. The only reason they cut it out was because of executive meddling from Kids' WB.
  9. The aforementioned original Japanese version is much better than the English version.
    • The CGI movie counterpart is also a huge improvement.
  10. The sequels are a massive improvement over this film.



Pokémon: The First Movie received positive reviews in Japan, but the 4Kids dub received overwhelmingly negative reviews. The film 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." In 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.

Box office

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.


  • This was Veronica Taylor's favorite Pokémon movie.
  • When this film was first shown in theaters, Mewtwo's dialogue would only come from the front of the screening room when it was talking to itself without letting anyone hear what it was saying. When it would psychically project its thoughts for the human characters to hear, however, its 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.
  • Burger King promoted the movie by selling toy Pokémon along with a card inside a plastic container resembling a Pokéball with their kids' meals. The toys sparked a massive controversy when a 13-month-old girl from California suffocated to death after half of the Pokéball container became stuck over her mouth and nose, along with another incident where an 18-month-girl from Kansas nearly suffocated before her father was able to remove the container from her face. Following these incidents, Burger King issued a mass recall of the Pokéball containers and the parents of the 13-month-old girl started a website named "Pokémon Kills".[1]Burger King published a notice telling the parents to either throw away the Pokéball or return it to Burger King if their child was less than 5 years old. It was one of the most infamous toy recalls in history, and one of the most well-known Pokémon controversies alongside the "Electric Soldier Porygon" incident.
  • Three episodes of the Pokémon anime were originally intended to act as a prelude to the movie prior to its release in Japan. However, the aforementioned "Electric Soldier Porygon" incident led to the episodes being delayed to until after the movie had already been released.

External links



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