In which nothing actually happens.
“Mew and Mewtwo.”
“And Mewtwo is made from Mew.”
I’m not going to explain Pokémon to you guys. There’s not a single person reading these words who isn’t aware of what the cultural phenomenon is about by now: it’s been well over twenty years and after the success of Sword and Shield last year, it’s not going away any time soon. Recently, however, the series has become somewhat more introspective, releasing a number of animated products not directly tied to the main continuity, such as Origins, which animated events from the original games. Additionally, since 2017 the movies have rebooted themselves, telling the story of main character Satoshi/ Ash as a newbie trainer, as a means to be more accessible to a wider audience.
This has been quite appealing, and something of a breath of fresh air from a series that was slowly stagnating in its storytelling. So it strikes me as strange that not only was the third in this new series animated entirely in CGI, but was otherwise just a shot-for-shot remake of a film that … well, actually could have done with a remake (and an update). It’s the movie about Ash (I grew up on the American names, sue me), Misty, Brock and Pikachu who are invited to a mysterious island for a Pokémon tournament, only for it to be revealed that this is the work of the lab-grown and extremely moody Mewtwo, who is cloning Pokémon for whatever reason.
I’m not going into detail. You know what the movie is. Everyone was talking about it in 1999, and Evolution doesn’t derivate from that story once. The biggest and most immediately update is the look: the CGI elements have been both praised and criticised, and I’m firmly on the former side. There’s a bit of a strange toy-like quality to the characters, similar to the Jump Force game that came out a couple of year ago, but I think it works, especially on the Pokémon themselves, who balance nicely between game sprite, anime mascot and real creature.
But that’s sort of it, really, when it comes to the meaningful changes. It’s a shame because a remake of The First Movie could be a chance to retell what could be an excellent morality story set in a world where Pokémon are both enslaved warriors but also best friends with their captors. Otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much of a purpose to making this. Frankly, the only benefit to it – outside of different visual elements – would be to enrich it with all the new lore that’s been added to franchise since 1999. To that end, the movie makes one reference to a Wingull of all things, and then promptly forgets everything else about its expanded universe.
I never liked Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. Maybe it’s the double use of colons, maybe it’s the eye-rolling in-your-face messages and tedious plot. Evolution fixes none of the issues it had, and in fact makes them worse by emphasising them. You could forgive the first film’s flaws for being the result of a relatively new franchise finding its feet, but it’s been over twenty years. Characters learning (and, thanks to time travel, unlearning almost immediately) their lesson that Pokémon shouldn’t fight (in a franchise entirely devoted to making Pokémon fight) rings even more hollow and passé in a world where Team Plasma devoted two games to fighting against Pokémon enslavement.
The First Movie has its defenders, and those who liked that film will probably enjoy this. I mean, it’s exactly the same movie in every single way but one. To anyone not already enamoured with the series, this isn’t going to be the movie to change your mind, which is a massive shame because as the first CG film and the first (second other than Detective Pikachu, both of which featuring Mewtwo as its villain) to be detached enough from the anime to stand on its own, it could have tried to appeal to newcomers. Instead it wastes its opportunity by doing nothing new. It’s called Evolution, but it’s pressing B the whole time.
Verdict: Despite its title, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution is nothing more than tedious repetition, but at least it looks pretty.
Overall entertainment: 5/10
Violence: Is bad, you guys
Sex: Not remotely enough/10
CGI Pokemon: 8/10
Nurse Joy: Looks familiar. Well, no shit.
Brock: Still eating ‘jelly doughnuts’, eh?
Biggest change: The pirate battle replaces Golem with Drowzee, so it could be properly affected by Pikachu’s lightning bolt. Was it worth it?
Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution (2019)
Also known as: ミュウツーの逆襲 EVOLUTION Mewtwo’s Counterattack Evolution
Directors: Kunihiko Yumaya, Motonori Sakakibara
Writer: Takeshi Shudo
Rika Matsumoto – Ash/Satoshi
Mayumi Iizuka – Kasumi/Misty
Yuji Ueda – Takeshi/Brock
Ikue Otani – Pikachu
Satomi Korogi – Togepi
Megumi Mayashibara – Musashi/Jessie
Shinichiro Miki – Kojiro/James
Inuko Inuyama – Nyarth/Mewoth
Masachika Ichimura – Mewtwo
Unsho Ishizuka – Narrator