It was a successful science experiment gone horribly wrong. When a team of scientists discovers the DNA of the ancient Pokémon Mew, they harnessed the potential within it in an attempt to create the ultimate living weapon. With advanced cloning techniques and resources provided to them by Team Rocket crime syndicate leader Giovanni, the scientists succeed in creating the powerful psychic Pokémon, Mewtwo.
Pokemon: Mewtwo no Gyakushuu reveals the terrifying power of Mewtwo as he learns that not only was he created to be an experiment, but also to be a tool for Giovanni’s sinister dealings. Breaking free of his control, Mewtwo creates his own island fortress and reconstructs the cloning technology that gave life to him.
Under the guise of being a master Pokémon trainer, Mewtwo lures the best trainers in the world to his base. Among these trainers are Ash Ketchum, his loyal Pokémon Pikachu, and their friends Brock and Misty. United together, human and Pokémon alike, they must not only discover the hidden secret of Mewtwo's plans, but stand against his terrifying might. If they fail, Mewtwo’s vengeance will not only lead to tyranny over all the Pokemon, but also the extinction of the human race.
This was my favorite movie as a child, and it always made me sad to watch it every time, so watching it again having gone through the self-discovery of adolescence made me realize why it was so impacting.
The reason why Ash is always able to win is because he's friends with his Pokémon. The whole series is an allegory on how you're supposed to treat your fellow man, using the relationship between Pokémon and their trainers as a parallel for the relationship between human beings.
Mewtwo's hatred for mankind stems from their lack of compassion - he was basically used. He was given life, and then
treated as less-than-life - a tool to be used for human purposes, rather than a living being with a living will and a purpose. He has no purpose of his own, he didn't know he was, so he lashed out against all of humanity, and against the Pokémon he felt were being used by their masters.
Mew is his foil, as Mew is everything that Mewtwo is, minus the hatred. Mew loves mankind because he knows that they're just another form of life on the planet. He eliminates the antipathy between humans and Pokémon by realizing that they're all the same. Pokémon and their trainers can be friends, but can also walk their own paths, just like all humans in real life.
Mewtwo makes his own purpose in life the destruction of life itself, but realizes that isn't the way things are supposed to be. The reality of friendship "slaps him in the face" as he sees all the Pokémon weeping over the petrification of a human being who only wanted to protect his friends.
Pikachu is the Pokémon embodiment of friendship. The relationship between Ash and Pikachu is the entire central theme of Pokémon: friendship prevails over selfishness. Pikachu's will is so similar to that of Ash's that he refuses to fight the other Pikachu (essentially, refuses to fight another living being to prove to the other Pikachu that the fighting is pointless - even Meowth, who's supposed to be one of the "bad guys" knows better than to fight like that), even as it continues to slap him over and over again.
The most saddening part of the movie as a child was when Pikachu just kept taking the hits without retaliating. As an adult, I understand why that was so heartbreaking: Because that's the way many people in the world are, just fighting each other to prove that their purpose means anything, instead of just banding together in friendship.
We've been so deadened as a society that we think that that is "cheesy," and "children's material." No. Fuck that - I've been through the ringer in life, and I can still come back around and see the value in a story like this. It's a parallel to life, and I believe the creators would be very sad to know that audiences are taking it with a grain of salt instead of realizing the true message behind their work (instead of just writing it off as "kiddie stuff").
I know that many adults don't want to hear it, but "kiddie stuff" is codeword for "things that are important in life, but I don't want to think about them anymore." You have to think about them. "This is life," as Nurse Joy herself puts it.
Also, the dub did dumb down some of the deeper parts of the message for American consumption, but that's America's own damned fault for thinking that our children can't handle being exposed to a little bit of truth for an hour and 15 minutes of their lives.
If you're an adult, and you find yourself calling this movie "stupid," you should try looking beyond the medium and look to the message. You could find that you're a bitter Mewtwo, and two stubborn and hurt to see it. The human condition.
I've watched the Japanese version of the movie and that's my main impetus for this review. Most of us watched either the 4kids version as kids or a localization based on the English version. I have a bone to pick with that. I don't want to make this into a 4kids hate article, but they fucked up.
4kids have cut out 15 minutes of the movie, removed part of Mewtwo's monologue simply because he mentioned 'God' and distorted the message movie was trying to give. Mewtwo also wasn't portrayed as the spawn pf Satan in the original version, but a misguided villain. He was given motives
and backstory. Mew has as well been subjected to character change; in Japanese version, he doesn't want to start the fight, but certainly thinks of clones as lesser beings.
So, what does this have to do with reviewing the movie? Everything. The point is that unlike the English version, which feels like a relic from the 90s, Japanese one makes hell of a kids movie. It isn't plagued by false moral messages (fighting is wrong anyone?). Mewtwo is a being estranged from love and misunderstands the nature of life, like some kind of a distorted Nietzschean overman. That's not my pretentiousness, the overtones and philosophical implications in the dialogue are there.
Art and animation are great and blend CGI in perfectly. Music is very good and voice acting is pretty good. Although the movie is very dark and semi-complex, it's targeted audience are kids. For a kids cartoon, it's great. Even an adult can extract something from it and there are certain symbols and references in art design everywhere in the movie, which should keep adults from getting bored.
This was a movie that broke the box office records for an animated feature at the time. Of course, records have come a long way since then, but this was still a fun movie.
STORY - As a kids' movie for a kids' show, the themes in Mewtwo Strikes Back are actually quite impressive. The morality of cloning and genetic modification/enhancement is a very real debate that ripples through the scientific community now and again, and it's interesting to see that idea translated into a Pokemon movie. Thus, as far as its target audience goes, the core plot of this First Movie is definitely doing something
uncommon. The arrangement of the story around this central theme is a little more normal as it retains many typical elements from the anime series.
CHARACTERS - Let's skip over the normal cast of the series because I'm going to assume you already know there isn't a lot going on there. Now, Mewtwo is a fun character -- his monologue presented at the beginning of the movie and the constant destruction he finds himself in is a great way to start the foundations of his character. His feelings are very logical and easy to understand while offering possibilities beyond what's obvious. His repeated question of "What is my purpose?" highlights the deepest theme of the movie well, and I find it very exciting that the rest of the movie is based around the fact that he creates a purpose for himself, since no one else is able to provide him with one. If you take a step back and go through Mewtwo's train of thought, it's really not that riveting or different from what you would expect, but when you remember again that this is a movie directed towards a younger audience, I think the philosophical and moral implications of those kinds of questions and actions is very potent, thus making for a great movie character.
Mew and Mewtwo's clones pretty much make up the rest of the movie-exclusive characters. The simplicity of Mew was a great foil to the complexity of Mewtwo, though I still wonder if they could have been more clear about Mew's intentions because certainly she had some. The rest of the clones were rather generic, bending easily to the whims of the movie's message with no real personality of their own. That's perfectly forgivable though; after all, kids' movies need morals.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - Honestly, there wasn't much notably different from a normal Pokemon episode. Maybe things were animated a bit more smoothly, but other than that, just average.
MUSIC - I'm actually rather fond of most of the music in this movie. It was great that they used the full version of the normal TV introduction (whether in English or Japanese). There are some pretty epic tracks played during Mewtwo's reign of terror, and many of the movie's other background tracks are reminiscent of melodies also found in the series. Mew's innocent little theme also comes to mind as a pretty fun and memorable tune.
VOICE ACTING - I've seen this movie in English, Japanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin. I'll just talk about the first two though, lol. The English dub... well, I'm sure you already have your own opinions about Ash and the gang, but I liked Mewtwo's voice. It suited him very well. And so did Mew's! But I guess that really isn't that impressive. I liked the Japanese better mostly because I like the main cast better. Especially memorable is the opening scene with Ash and his friends, during which he's challenged to a random Pokemon battle. The Japanese version offers some brilliant Engrish that just can't be rivaled: "OH MY GODDDDDD!!!"
OVERALL - Pokemon the First Movie is my favorite Pokemon movie (keeping in mind I've only seen the first three). Sure, it's definitely a film aimed for the younger audience, but even for an older audience, as long as you can bring yourself to swallow some of the corny bits, I think it retains a lot of merits. Cloning and genetics is always an interesting subject, anyway.
It is time I take a short reprieve from reviewing actually acclaimed anime and go back to my little niche on this site, reviewing old CRAP!
The first Pokemon movie brings to the big screen what was easily the most interesting sub-plot of the 1st generation of pokemon games, the creation of Mewtwo. The game and anime adaptation leave many hints and clues that foreshadow events in the movie and built up anticipation. In the original games on Cinnebar Island, there is a building that is filled with documents about attempts to clone Mew and create an all powerful Pokemon for Team Rocket. Throughout the game,
you run into Team Rocket committing various crimes that only make sense when you consider that their goal was controlling Mewtwo. The reason that Team Rocket invaded Silph Co? They wanted the master ball to capture Mewtwo. The reason they invaded Lavender Town and want a pare of goggles that allow people to see ghosts? They want to capture ghost pokemon, because ghosts are effective against psychic types like Mewtwo. When you finally capture Mewtwo in gen 1, he was the most unfairly OP Pokemon in any game of the franchise! Since Psychic type was already unfairly strong in gen 1, Mewtwo was basically unstoppable with the move Psychic able to 1-shot everything in the game! The anime even shows a preview of Mewtwo by having him beat the living shit out of Gary Motherfucking Oak! This is the guy that won 10 gym badges in Kanto and at age 10 had a team of cheerleaders and a corvette! By having Gary basically job to Mewtwo, this built up his status to insane levels of hype in the eyes of young anime fans, myself included!
I must first mention that there is a huge difference between the Japanese version and the English version brought to you by our friends at 4kids! The Japanese version features a 10 minute origin for Mewtwo that not only establishes his motives much more clearly, but even sets up the seemingly random and bullshit Pokemon crying scene at the movie's end. Not only that, but from an objective and purely artistic viewpoint...it is by FAR the best part of the entire movie! How did 4kids handle the scene? The motherfuckers cut it from the movie! They even dubbed it into English and had it all ready to go, but they left it out because...I guess because it was sad? I honestly have no idea.
A scientist is working for Team Rocket's leader Geovanni and attempting to create a more powerful clone of Mew that will be strong enough to conquer the world. However, the scientist is only interested in using some of the money Team Rocket has given him to try bring his deceased daughter back to life. As an inside reference to Japanese audiences, the scientist is drawn to look exactly like the scientist Tenma from the original Astro Boy, who was also trying to resurrect his child with science. Mewtwo communicates telepathically with the comatose clone girl and she tells him that he can talk unlike other Pokemon and stands equal with humans. She herself doesn't know if she is a human or Pokemon, but dismisses this question as ultimately irrelevant because all life is precious. However, the girl's body is unstable and she begins to dissolve. This is emotionally devastating to Mewtwo, but her last words to Mewtwo are begging him not to cry and instead to cherish life while he has it. She also mentions the power within the tears of Pokemon, since they are special creatures. The girl then tragically dies along with all the other attempts at making clone Pokemon, leaving Mewtwo completely isolated and filled with a deep sadness and loneliness.
Now to begin the story where the English version actually starts. Mewtwo is born in a lab and is disgusted that humans are treating him as a mere lab rat and experiment despite his intelligence being above theirs. Mewtwo kills all of the scientists in a rage, but then meets Geovanni, who initially offers a partnership and insinuates that he will treat Mewtwo as an equal. However, after showing a training montage of Mewtwo's time at Geovanni's Gym, it becomes apparant to Mewtwo that Geovanni isn't any better than the scientists. Mewtwo decides to blow up the gym and return to the island where he was born. Once back on the island, Mewtwo develops a nefarious scheme to capture the world's strongest pokemon and create an army of clones. Then he will wipe out all human life along with any pokemon that don't bow before him as the God of all Pokemon. The movie then cuts to our favorite complete loser Ash, who wins a trainer battle by 1-hitting a Donphan with a grass move and using a thunderbolt to defeat ground types. Yet after almost 20 years he can't even make it to the finals of the League Championship, let alone win! Ash receives an invitation by Mewtwo to go to his island since Mewtwo considered Ash a strong enough trainer to want clones of his pokemon. Wait, I thought Mewtwo was supposed to be intelligent! Without any hesitation and despite an ominous storm brewing, our idiot hero sets out to the island with Team Rocket, whom OF COURSE he somehow fails to recognize! Mewtwo makes clones of all the pokemanz and these clones battle against their natural born counterparts. Ash of course fails to stop Mewtwo, but after getting killed trying to stop Mewtwo from fighting Mew, the pokemon start crying and this brings Ash back to life. Mewtwo then realizes the folly of his ways and buggers off! Of course, Mewtwo decided to erase everyone's memories so that Ash will stay ignorant and never learn anything...EVER! The End
Although anime movies always look much better than series and especially longrunning series, I have to give the Pokemon Movie some credit. For 1998, this actually looked really good and even today this movie looks awesome compared to many anime airing in 2016. The entire movie looks WAY better than any episode of Dragonball Super!
Once again, there is a big difference between the Japanese OST and the 4kids version. Honestly, neither are amazing, but not bad either. The music definitely takes a backseat to the animation in this movie.
Considering this was a children's movie based on a videogame and a rather mediocre anime, it actually wasn't too bad! The animation is excellent relative to other anime of its time, the battles are the most brutally intense of anything Pokemon has ever done, and the original Japanese version featured heart touching scene was actually sort of....good! The story borrows heavily from Frankenstein and although any level of profundity is blatantly stolen from there, that still isn't too bad considering this is Pokemon we are dealing with! I wish Digimon had the brains to borrow from classic Victorian Gothic literature instead of just being shit! If you are Pokemon fan, but perhaps grew up with Gen 4 and aren't old enough to remember this movie, I would actually recommend checking it out. You could certainly do worse.
The human mind can only take so much before it just snaps like a twig. When that happens people can have different reactions, from breaking down and crying to going on a killing spree. One bad day can be the tipping point that forever changes a person for better or for worse.
Look at the top ten most successful anime at the American box office and its... almost all Pokemon, other toy/card game show adaptations, and Studio Ghibli films. But what other anime films have managed to make money in their limited releases?