***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.
Thanks for reading my review! If you liked my writing style, would like to see some other reviews, or just want to talk, please stop by my page!