RELEASED: July 4th 2019 / 27th February 2020
DISTRIBUTED BY: Toho
DIRECTED BY: Kunihiko Yuyama & Motonori Sakakibara
WRITTEN BY: Takeshi Shudo
PRODUCED BY: Yosuke Nagafuchi & Satoshi Shimohira
MUSIC BY: Shinji Miyazaki
STARRING: Sarah Natochenny, Ikue Ohtani, Michele Knotz, Bill Rogers, Carter Cathcart, Alyson Rosenfeld, Ted Lewis, Rodger Parsons, Billy Bob Thompson & Dan Green
It’s been twenty-four years since Pokémon Red & Green were first released, and to celebrate the birthday of Pocket Monsters, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution has been released worldwide as a ‘Netflix Original’.
Not really sure how Netflix can claim it’s an ‘original’ since they had nothing to do with the movie’s creation (and it’s a remake), but whatever.
Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, as mentioned, is a remake of Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, originally released in 1998, now rendered in CGI. The film follows Ash, Misty, Brock and their Pokémon as they’re invited to New Island by ‘the worlds most powerful Pokémon trainer’. Unbeknownst to them, this mysterious Pokémon trainer is actually Mewtwo, a clone of the Mythical Pokémon Mew, who plans to exact his revenge of humanity.
This film, bar a few changes, is pretty much an exact copy of the original movie, with redone visuals, but it’s been a long long time since I watched the original, so I couldn’t tell you what all the changes are off the top of my head. The things that stood out to me were the fact that new Pokémon attacks designed post-1998 (like Leaf Storm) have been added into battle sequences, making the movie a little more up to date with current canon, and also allowing for some more vibrancy in the battles.
When I first saw stills of this movie last year, I thought it looked rather dreadful. However, when seen in action, the film actually looks reasonably good (when compared to the classic anime at least). It’s colourful and engaging, and although some things look a little off (CGI Pikachu of all things just has something… wrong about it), for the most part, it will serve as a visual treat for Pokémon fans. The battles, with their updated visuals and move-sets, are particularly cool, if a little short (something that also bothered me about Detective Pikachu, if I’m honest) and the characters and creatures looks great in their new CGI forms.
However, the further into the film you get, the more the positives of the film begin to wear off. The most interesting parts of the movie are at the start; Ash and co. on their adventures, their struggle to get to New Island, just general relishing in the beauty of the Pokémon world. As the main plot kicks into high gear, it starts to become… rather dull. And I know, this is a movie for kids, but even so, I vaguely remember having similar opinions when I was a kid myself. While I appreciate the arc Mewtwo’s character goes through, and the messages it hopes to convey, it’s just all a bit boring.
Furthermore, the script is so-so, at best. A lot of the dialogue is redundant, with characters repeating something another character right next to them has just said, and the rest is seemingly written with little thought given to the wider universe.
Oh, what’s that Brock? That mysterious woman looks familiar? It’s probably because it’s Nurse Joy in disguise – a character who appears in every core Pokémon game, series and movie! (How was this guy a Gym Leader?)
Making things worse is the fact that the classic dialogue and the characters voices don’t seem to match their new looks. The animation, while interesting to look at, doesn’t always convey the same emotions and body language as what the characters are actually saying, and so there’s always an air of things being a bit off.
Similarly, the music is pretty bland, adding little weight to the already boring proceedings, while any attempts at levity come across as weird mistranslations.
In short, this film wasn’t that good in the nineties, and it still isn’t that good now, but luckily it’s surprisingly easy on the eyes.
If you’re looking for a modern Pokémon story that captures the magic and wonder of the Pokémon world, I’d suggest you just stick with Detective Pikachu.
All-in-all, I give Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution: