Last year, the Pokémon Company released a remake of the very first Pokémon movie in full CGI. First at a press screening at Anime Expo and then the following week in theaters across Japan. On Pokémon day this year, the movie finally hit Netflix. Netflix appears to have put some money into it because they call it an original movie. The movie is a collaboration with OLM and Sprite animations based in Los Angelos. Japanese animators worked on the movie part time over here. The Pokémon Company had expressed interest in creating a 3D animated movie for years despite 2020’s Pokémon Koko (a Tarzan inspired flick with time travel elements) going back to traditional animation. Netflix also does same for the other movie from the same studios; a CG Dragon Quest movie.
Despite many initial impressions of the animation being negative or making fun, the animation is absolutely beautiful. The Pokémon are vibrant; Arcanine in particular looks better than even his Detrctive Pikachu counterpart. Wigglytuff jiggles about as you would expect, Vulpix is adorable, Meowth is endearing, and Pidgeot is so cute that I think I’ve found a new favorite. The only place it looks weird is initially on the humans, although that wears away as you get used to it, and on Pikachu’s mouth, oddly enough. Everything else is great and with CG, there’s a better feeling for where things are placed in each scene. The environments are amazing and detailed. The CG does give off a video game cutscene feel, but this is a movie based on a video game, so for me, it added to the charm. You can really tell there’s a team of veterans here to guide the crew and it was a passion project versus the sterilized feeling of a lot of the Disney remakes of late.
Many of the old voices for side characters return where they can. 4kids contracts still keep Ash, Misty, Brock, and Team Rocket from reprising their roles. Dan Green as Mewtwo was fantastic. Considering I’ve been rewatching the original Yugioh show lately, I was impressed with his range as he was able to keep it distinct while also similar to the original Mewtwo. The owner of Pokebeach interviewed Hidenaga Katakami, producer on this movie and on Detective Pikachu. There’s another Pokémon movie that features Mewtwo, but they give it a female voice. Katakami revealed that the Pokémon company actually had to get the rights for the movie and thus this Mewtwo from the Takeshi Shudo’s estate. He was the writer of the original Mewtwo movie as well as many anime episodes from the first three seasons. An interesting fact that also confirmed a lot of fan suspicions.
Now that all those facts are out of the way, I’m sure you’re wondering if the movie is any good and how it compares to the original. Rest assured, the movie is exactly the film you know and loved and wore the VHS tape out of as a kid. Some scenes are even shot for shot while others are expanded upon or changed to fit the medium change. The script is a mix of the Japanese script and the American one. In Japan, Mewtwo was more philosophical and questioned his existence. There was also softer moments with the two Meowths. This is a much needed improvement as the Japanese script was more timeless. The two are similar enough that even if you didn’t know this, it wouldn’t change your enjoyment.
This movie amps everything up that we remember as a kid and expands them to match that memory. For example, when Ash and friends are traveling to the island to battle Mewtwo (Team Rocket musical interlude much better than any Minnesota Vikings joke), you feel the danger. You see many trainers attempting to make their way over and the waves feel dangerous, the trip feels almost hopeless, it adds just the right amount of tension that the original lacked. Also many Pokémon use attacks that didn’t exist in the original. It’s not an issue, just something I noticed because I’m a huge nerd.
The fighting feels more brutal and the emotional moments feel that much more. Especially since this version THANKFULLY axed the god awful brother my brother music. In fact this movie used the Japanese score which is much more fitting and knows when to let a moment be silent. And you’ll be delighted to know the original theme remix for the first movie is back. It is redone, but still just as nostalgic. They also ditch the tears of life speech that Miranda gives in the beginning which wasn’t present in Japanese. When Pikachu is trying to revive a stoned Ash, they let that scene go much longer and due to the now silence, you hear Pikachu sobbing and it’s tear jerking. My husband and I both teared up during it. It’s amazingly well done.
They flesh all the characters out more than the original, most likely to catch people up with their personalities. Brock even makes a reference to his jelly doughnuts which made me snort. I really enjoy them getting more screen time than the original and feeling more like actual characters in the movie itself.
And yes, Mew is even more adorable than before. I didn’t think that was possible, but they found a way.
This movie makes you feel like a kid again and does justice to your memories and nostalgia; something Disney could stand to learn. I really want to see remakes of the Lugia and Entei movies now in the same style. I’m so happy with how this movie was handled and with the changes made. Even if you aren’t nostalgic for the original movie, as long as you like Pokémon, you’ll have a good time. My husband never saw the original movie and was in love with this one. I highly recommend everyone checks this movie out. It’s a fun time. You won’t regret it.
Also someone the animation team really had the hots for Jesse because damn she’s animated so much better than any of the other humans.