June 16, 2012

Pokemon: The First Movie (1999)

IT FINALLY HAPPENED. You see it happen to other kids, but you think, “It’ll never happen to my son.” But it did.
Dash discovered Pokemon.
For years, he’s been obsessed with all things Kirby, and still is. But earlier this year, somebody, somewhere – some enabler at his school – introduced him to the world of Pokemon and all it encompasses. And boy, it encompasses a lot.
Forget that the world of Pokemon has dozens, nay hundreds of characters to remember, each possessing unique powers and strengths – the Pokemon also battle each other at the behest of their human “trainers” (mostly tweens and teenagers), sometimes resulting in the winner’s trainer acquiring the defeated Pokemon from the losing trainer. Their never-ending mantra (“Gotta catch ‘em all!”) is so important that the main trainer, whose Pokemon includes the popular and adorable Pikachu, is actually named Ash Ketchum (get it?).
So it was only a matter of time till we tracked down the elusive, out-of-print* Pokemon: The First Movie, which chronicles the rise of Mewtwo, a genetically enhanced Pokemon cloned by scientists from the DNA of Mew, the rarest and most powerful of all Pokemon. Unfortunately, Mewtwo resents his existence as a scientific experiment with no true birth or purpose. Under the guise of a major Pokemon tournament, he lures the most powerful Pokemon and their trainers to his remote island, where he plans to destroy them all with his own army of Pokemon clones.
Don’t dismiss watching Pokemon: The First Movie just because you’re afraid you’ll be lost in a sea of Pokemon rules, strengths, weaknesses, and powers. The film actually puts plot and action first, probably in an attempt to reach a broader audience and not have parents scratching their heads or checking their watches. In short, you don’t have to know how to play the game to enjoy the movie.                                
Mewtwo is a surprisingly deep and dark character for the often bright yet occasionally violent world of Pokemon. He uses his psychic powers for everything from communication to devastation to personal assaults (think Carrie meets Darth Vader). And his ongoing internal dialogue about his existence and purpose in life brings up some heavy philosophical questions that we may ask ourselves from time to time.
I actually found myself compelled to find out how in the world the “good” Pokemon – led by Ash, Pikachu, and a handful of other Pokemon and trainers – were going to defeat Mewtwo and his Pokemon clones. Plus, the whole “invitation to mysterious island to compete in battle” has a nice Enter The Dragon vibe that, as a major fan of that Bruce Lee classic, I can truly appreciate.
In a terse but entertaining 75 minutes, Pokemon: The First Movie gives us a menacing foe with more depth and internal conflict than many live-action movie villains, as well as positive messages on the importance of friendship, the pointlessness of fighting (which some say goes against the whole premise of Pokemon), and the belief that teamwork and loyalty are the true ways to live your life. Then there’s the ending that, while a bit deus ex machina, might have you shedding a tear if you’re not careful.
Fun facts:
  • For Pokemon: The Movie’s theatrical release, select theaters gave away exclusive Pokemon trading cards to ticketholders.
  • The film’s soundtrack, featuring a who’s-who of late ‘90s pop music (Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, N*Sync, Aaron Carter) reached #8 on the Billboard Top 200 in 1999.

What did Dash and Jack-Jack think? 
Since Dash is a more fervent follower of Pokemon than Jack-Jack, I expected him to have a more vested interest in the movie, and he did. He said it was “really good,” and I think I caught him getting emotionally involved during the ending. Jack-Jack could not be reached for comment (he was too tired to form an opinion).

Is it suitable for your kids? 
Pokemon: The First Movie is rated G, but there are a few scenes to consider when it comes to very young viewers: Mewtwo uses his psychic powers to blow up the lab where he was created, and it’s implied the scientists who created him are killed; some of the Pokemon battles, as well as the actions of Mewtwo, may be too intense for preschoolers and younger (explosions, electrocutions, biting, slapping, punching); and there is the apparent death of a major character.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it? 
While she may not seek out Pokemon: The First Movie, she might actually get caught up in it (based on the reasons above) if she gives it a chance.
It’s like looking in a mirror, only…not.

Pokemon: The First Movie 
* Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney 
* Screenwriter: Takeshi Shudo 
* Stars: Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Madeleine Blaustein, Ikue Ohtani, Ted Lewis, Michael Haigney, Jimmy Zoppi, Kayzie Rogers 
* MPAA Rating: G

* We found Pokemon: The First Movie in our local library system. If you’d rather not buy a used copy or pay a lot for a new one, try your library first. Sometimes they don’t realize the value or rarity of what they have.


James (SeattleDad) said...

I would never have thought to watch this one with Lukas, but it sounds like it might be decent.

Thanks for that.

And Happy Father's Day too.

Budd said...

This one was very good.

Neil Dunsmore said...

You know, this is actually my least favorite Pokemon film: first of all, unlike the others, it's extremely hypocritical with its message, especially with the characters forgetting it at the end thanks to Mewtwo. Secondly, the writing for the most part is... eh... Of course, Nostalgia will prevent me from hating it, but still.


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