The film's plot tells the story of how Satoshi and Pikachu came to know each other. Pikachu was not cooperative toward Satoshi, but Satoshi only wanted to be friends with Pikachu. On the day they set out from Masara Town, both of them saw a Ho-Oh flying and made a vow to someday go and meet it.
***This review will hold off on any major spoilers within the film. I will however touch on material that is present in the first (Red, Blue, Yellow, ext games) and second generation content since this film has elements of those within it.***
I was pretty excited to get the chance to see this film on the big screen. It had one showing at my local Cinemark and no matter the audience (mostly kids), I wanted to see it. Big shout out to Fathom Events for continuously offering anime films in the United States.
I would describe myself as a closet Pokemon fan. There are bits and pieces
of the TV shows (Pokemon Advanced, Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, Pokemon Sun and Moon, ext) and films (Pokemon Heroes, Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, ext) that I really enjoy. However, the main bit of content (especially the films) are just not for me. It is painfully easy to tell that the past 9 or so films including this one are full blown for the kids. No longer is there content present that appeal to both a younger and older audience; it is all for the younger generation.
The film opens with what is essentially episode one of the first anime. I wouldn't say it is a shot for shot recreation (it's been awhile since I've seen that episode) but it is pretty close. They dedicate around 10-15 minutes for this content. I quite liked the visual style since it was blending in the older character artwork style with updated backgrounds. It is, for the most part, a pretty nice looking film. There are some wtf animation moments to be found in the film but it wouldn't be a OLM film without that sort of thing. What occurs afterwards is a sort of montage of key moments within the first season's content leading up to the 3rd gym battle. After this event though (minus some other scenes regarding Pokemon Ash adds to his team) we dive completely into new content. THIS IS NOT A RECAP FILM and honestly I applaud their balls for trying to do what they tried to do. To be completely honest, I was really liking the first half of this film. It made me think that the current drought of meh Pokemon films was over. Unfortunately though the second half of the film just doesn't have any stopping power. They wanted to encapsulate the feeling of the first season while incorporating the values and key elements of the past 9 or so films. This combination however, did not work for me.
We are bombarded by two products trying to find space for each other; combining the new story present in the film (which is a run-of-the-mill Pokemon movie formula; there is a legendary Pokemon lets chase it!) with the older first season scenes so that the Pokemon on Ash's team have a backstory. The combination does not mend very well with each other and makes the film feel super empty. If they wanted to do a new story with the backdrop of Kanto, fine that could have been great. Trying to hit up the nostalgia with scenes from the original show though tramples on any sort of pacing.
But lets take a step back and look at our cast. We have of course Ash and Pikachu who for all intents and purposes are the same Ash and Pikachu we have seen for the past 20 or so years. Instead of Brock and Misty though we have two new companions that join up around 30 minutes into the film; Makoto and Souji. I don't have a real issue with these two new characters but they don't really feel all that unique. Both of them also have Pokemon that we are already familiar with, Lucario and Piplup. It felt like a bunch of business men met in a board room and discovered that if they took main series Pokemon (Lucario from his film and Piplup from Dawn's team) and put them into this film it would make the new characters seem...more relatable? I'm grasping at straws here; the new characters are fine they are just not at all standout worthy. I won't get into Ash's other Pokemon because it will give major hints to the TV show scenes that are present in the film. Just know that they are indeed Pokemon that Ash acquired in the show.
While we are at it lets briefly address the elephant in the room. I already mentioned that Piplup and Lucario are in the film (you can see them on the poster for this film so it's not a spoiler). For w/e reason there are a ton of other series Pokemon in Kanto. The legendary Pokemon that Ash is chasing are from the Silver/Gold generation, Ash's rival in this film has Pokemon from the Sun and Moon series; there is no sort of continuity present in this film. I guess...Kanto now has all the Pokemon? I'm not quite sure how I feel about this design choice.
Speaking of Ash's rival, he is another super generic “I'm the very best and have totally bad/evil characteristics so hate me but turn me good by the end of the film!” character to add to the trash bin. To make things worse...his name is Cross...and he has a cross pattern on the front part of his hair...*mega facepalm*. He treats his Pokemon like shit (which is how we are introduced to one of Ash's Pokemon), only says super edgy dialogue (calls weak Pokemon and Trainers trash; Gigguk might like this dude), and of course turns good by the end of the film. Just...I don't have anything more to say about this character.
That little spew helps us arrive at the main issue of the film; what is the point? Most of the Pokemon films have a clear and concise villain. While most of them are comically “bad guys”, they have a purpose and enough charm to make up for how generic their ambitions are. This film...doesn't have that? The rival just happens to trail the main cast all the way through the film like a weird stalker. When get to the end of the film, he has one line that is supposed to make him relevant to the plot but it is so out of left field and super Deus Ex Machina (and not the good kind). It just seems like a huge clusterfuck in order to make sense of all the elements coming together at the last second.
And that's the real shame in this film. It had two routes it could have gone on; reboot and recap the first season (something that is appealing to both older fans and possible new younger ones) or use the setting and time period of the first TV season and tell a new story. They decided to make both into one and it ended up not appealing to either crowd in my opinion. If it had been just one of those two options, I'm sure I would have liked the film. I was so ready to finally see a decent Pokemon film since the last one that I really enjoyed was Pokemon Ranger (which was back in 2006; long time without a decent Pokemon film). I'm sad to report that Pokemon: I Choose You joins the heaps of super meh Pokemon films.
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If we're going to be honest here, Pokémon needs no introduction, especially when it comes to the anime; a boy named Ash Ketchum gets a Pikachu - a yellow mouse - as a partner, leaves his hometown of Pallet Town, and travels the world while catching new Pokémon along the way, all while he remains ten years old. Well, what if we went all the way back to the beginning and started all over? Perhaps I'm the worst person to talk about Pokémon; I was 10 myself when I ended up being pulled along in the Pokémon craze, and by not looking back, I have
made some Pokémon-related memories that I will never regret, whether it's from the game, trading cards, or anime. When I found out about this franchise's twentieth movie, however, I was skeptical, thinking that Pokémon had just caught the "recap movie disease"; however, with each new trailer came a promise of a new experience born from something old instead, and I got more hyped (even though Misty and Brock were still missing). At last, I watched the movie in the theatres with all intent on tackling (heh, get it?) it in a review; I tried to watch it from a critic's point of view instead of a fangirl's....but man, was it hard!
Ladies and gentlemen, Pokémon Trainers all over, here is my review of "Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You!"
Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You starts the same way the Pokémon anime series did; Ash Ketchum wakes up late, all of the starter Pokémon are taken, he ends up getting a Pikachu, they don't get along well at first, they accidentally tick off a group of Spearow, Ash tries to protect Pikachu, Pikachu knocks all of the Spearow out with a Thunderbolt, Ash and Pikachu finally become friends, and they see a legendary bird Pokémon fly through the sky. Your childhood memories know the drill here....but here's where the story starts to diverge. As this legendary bird Pokémon - Ho-oh - flies away, it leaves Ash and Pikachu a rainbow-colored wing; the two then make a promise to each other to one day meet this Pokémon. After that, Ash travels through the Kanto region, collects Gym badges, and follows his dream to be a Pokémon Master, like he originally had been doing; however, an encounter with another legendary Pokémon, Entei, reminds him of his promise. Together with new traveling companions, Verity and Sorrel, Ash and Pikachu embark on a quest to reach Rainbow Mountain and encounter Ho-oh.
Okay, time to try to not fangirl.
May I first say that the story was masterfully executed? I personally would have liked to see some of Ash's Gym battles, as part of one was actually shown and it was differently executed from the series; however, with a limited amount of screen time and a different story to tell, I fully understand this decision. In regards to this "different story", it shared some key story elements with the series, but even with those integrated, the film stays on its own two legs through and through. Although it does start back when Ash is at square one in regards to being a Pokémon Trainer, the different direction the story took didn't affect his character development. In fact, I dare to say that this film dug deeper into his and Pikachu's characters than the series did and gave both of them great amounts of character development as a result.
Some of the other characters were likable, too, but they come with the one flaw I'd say this film has; they don't get fleshed out enough. Perhaps the biggest offenders of this are Ash's new traveling companions, Verity and Sorrel; while they are interesting characters with their own respective backstories, these backstories aren't fleshed out enough for the audience to really get to know them, and they are sadly left as mostly supporting characters. The infamous Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth return, but they are also reduced to supporting characters and don't get as much screen time as they did in the series; however, the scenes of them that we DID get were amusing and retained each of their personalities. Another new character, Cross, is the exact opposite of the ones I have mentioned; he does get enough screen time for his character to be fleshed out, but that doesn't mean he came off as likable. As a rival, he is definitely a powerful adversary who actually affected Ash emotionally, but at the same time, the various problems he ends up causing and the things he says just made me want to throw my bucket of popcorn at the screen.
What this Pokémon movie lacks in fleshing out most of its characters, however, is redeemed in its art. Instead of conforming to the new style of the Pokémon Sun and Moon series, the art style stays close to what the series was before then, which was a wise decision cinematically; with what kind of story it was trying to tell, using that rather goofy style would have made it look pretty ridiculous. However, even with that in mind, this is definitely the best-looking Pokémon movie I have ever seen; the animation was smooth and solid, the backgrounds were drawn in a beautiful fashion, and some shots were masterfully executed. Now, I don't care what other people say about Sarah Natochenny voicing Ash; all of the voice actors did a stellar job at their roles, and there was pure emotion in their performances, too. While I'm not always one to pay attention to background music, I definitely have to give this film's background music credit; the music always blended in perfectly with what was going on. Finally, the opening theme was an excellent remix of the first Pokémon theme song, and the ending theme.... OH, THE ENDING SONG. I wanted to stay at the theatre just to finish listening to it; it was that good!
Overall, Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You is definitely an excellent movie and a challenging one for a longtime Pokémon fan like myself to critique. I wouldn't recommend it to those who can't handle different stories and the fact that Misty and Brock are missing (although I do admit, it was slightly disheartening not to see them), but other than that, I'd recommend it to any Pokémon fan out there, even the ones who haven't watched the anime in forever. With this movie being watched and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being eagerly awaited, I can tell that it'll be harder to critique anything Pokémon-related from here on out, but with that being the case, maybe I should just let my inner fangirl out!
I am particularly impressed how the movie not only retells the original kanto journey, but also weaves back in a once-long-abandoned plot point with Ho-Oh. While weaving the new hotness with Marshadow in felt a bit forced in some aspects, the story had nice pacing and even had some tension at the climax that ultimately was resolved not with raw strength, but by the bond between Ash and Pikachu overcoming those odds. Overall, all that occurred worked quite well even if some of the older parts were abridged for the sake of moving the story along.
First off, Ash's
design seems more in line with his Gen V and Gen VI designs which is a nice change from the excessively cartoonish art style I've seen from his SM exploits. And the character designs of the supporting cast are definitely quite something as well. Secondly, I like how they played around with color and shadows, adding atmosphere and life (or lack thereof) to the film. Not breathtaking or anything, but it worked.
Not much to note here. Not too intrusive nor breathtaking persay, and yet evocative when it needed to be.
Besides Ash and Pikachu's obvious OTP-in-the-making, the other supporting cast actually kept my interest. His traveling companions, both from Sinnoh (Gen IV remake, anyone?), each have their own goals independent from Ash. The female one is determined to show her mother (who I am convinced is Cynthia) that she is worth something, and the male companion is a professor wannabe and seems to be quite knowledgeable in a few things as it is. Then you have the brutish 'rival' character who has Alolan pokemon and the conviction that might makes right in direct opposition to Ash's 'friendship is magic' policy. In any case, I would've loved to see more of these characters and learn their past as well as witness their continued growth in the future. Who knows if that'll happen though.
As for the pokemon, again, Pikachu is the center as a support to Ash. We finally learn why it doesn't like to be in its pokeball (which Ash had carried with him all through the film), and they take things a few steps further than they had ever done in the series with their relationship up to this point. As for the other pokemon, the butterfree plot thread becomes a side-story that kind of resolves itself with less investment than the original, whereas the Charmander sideplot comes full-circle in the best way possible. Then there's Marshadow, which again I feel they did kinda push in for...reasons. Maybe would've been better in its own movie, but I guess they saw an opportunity of sorts.
It was definitely worth watching. Most pokemon films are just a supplement to the anime, but this effort of retelling and revamping made the Kanto region seem a lot more vast and alive than the prior time around. Hopefully should we travel to it in USUM, it will live up to the hype...and the Pokemon Company can follow this up with something just as nice.
Even as Pokemon movies go, this one is little more than a bare faced affront to ones intelligence. Despite all of the clear positioning of this film as one harking back to the early days of Pokemon as was clearly evident in the artistic style and most obviously the plot. If you were hoping this was because the Pokemon company were trying to appeal to an older audience of fans who have been fans for years (similar to how they did for the X and Y anime) then either you are wrong for thinking that or the Pokemon company is just completely incompetent.
it didn't think my review would be like this - for the first 1/2 of the film it's actually far better than most other Pokemon films. However it quickly becomes evident that this is because it is effectively a mini anime episode and recap of prior stories as filler because the plot isn't close to being long enough for a film. The film is full of pointless filler - with team rocket appearing in the background, talking for a couple minutes then blasting off with no interaction with the characters or plot multiple times - assumedly just to fill time
Then we come to the ending. Like most Pokemon movies, this one treats the plot as an afterthought and a device for showing off the relevant legendaries (in this case Marshadow and Ho-Oh). However as it's ostensibly a kids show it's also completely essential that Ash does something Heroic in the ending and everything goes back to being fine. However in this case it just leads to the tightest knit group of Ex Machinas i've ever seen in fiction.
Again, I won't reveal too much, but suffice to say Ash vanishes without a trace in a valiant act of sacrifice. Sure would be sad if he magically reappeared out of another dimension or something - that would really make any emotional investment pointless as well as completely devaluing everything Ash gave up and sacrificed up to to that point. Oh wait, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS!
That's not the only instance either, earlier in the finally Marshadow suddenly acts completely out of character for no discernible reason with absolutely no motivation whatsoever. And I won't even get started on some of Pikachu's actions towards the end - which essentially boils down to 'Fuck you, internal consistency'.
It's really disappointing because early parts are quite good and in some (what I assume are) dream sequences are wonderfully directed - especially with the fantastic use of colour in them. Those fleeting scenes though barely if at all relevant to the 'narrative' are exceptional and deserve a lot of praise.
But overall, the film is a dumpster fire because of what it is. Make no mistake - this is not a film created to be a good film, it's a film designed to show off Marshadow as an advert for the Pokemon games. It really shouldn't be seen as anything else.