Not The Very Best
Pokemon is the highest grossing media franchise in the world. Since it stormed the gaming world back in 1996, Pocket Monsters has gone on to become a worldwide phenomenon with numerous games, a popular anime and earning more than $64 billion in merchandising revenue. There seems to be no end to Pokemon’s grip on the world. What better time then to rehash the original film and give it the Saint Seiya treatment with a new, glossy CGI facade. In doing so, this film acts as a nostalgic reminder of how good and fun the anime film was while accentuating all the plot issues the first had with a lack of charm and emotion to cloud over these problems.
The story predominantly stays true to the original film, following the same path that one did with a few added bits of dialogue and changed scenes. Back in 1998 when the original film dropped, it came off the back of the hugely successful anime, which saw a continuation of Pokemon trainer Ash’s journey across the world to collect Pokemon and become the very best trainer. Here, the story throws you straight into the midst of the plot, with Dr Fuji creating the monstrous hybrid Pokemon creature Mewtwo, who reigns terror on the world by hosting his own Pokemon tournament.
From the gang collecting a mysterious egg and seeing it hatch into Togepi to seeing Charizard’s antics across the seasons as he refused to listen to Ash’s commands, all these moments made narrative sense for a crowd fresh off the anime going into that film. The problem here then comes from the target market for this material. Fans of the original will almost certainly see glaring issues with the aesthetic in this one – despite it looking gorgeous and really well presented at times – while newcomers will wonder quite what the relationship between these characters are. Especially given the aforementioned nods to the original anime.
Off the back of Saint Seiya’s recent CGI make-over, Pokemon attempts to do the same thing and although working slightly better than its serialized brother, the same faults can be found here too. Gone are the creative camera angles and clever lighting that help colours pop, gone are the close-up shots of faces and trademark anime cut-aways. In its place then are long, sweeping shots, camera angles pulled way back to show off how empty and lifeless scenes feel and a complete lack of emotion and heart.
It’s particularly evident with the soundtrack too, with a butchered main theme changed to fit with a more modern, auto-tuned perception of what pop music is and a lot of scenes lacking any sort of orchestral score. There are moments that have this but during the film’s crescendo – the iconic moment involving Pikachu and the rest of the Pokemon gathering together – the scenes lack the same heart the original film had that made these moments so powerful.
Pokemon remains the largest media property in the world and the success or failure of this film won’t even put a dent in the mammoth success this franchise has had. Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution feels like a cold, Frankenstein’s monster cooked up in Dr Fuji’s lab. It’s a film that lacks the same charm the original had and plays out more like a tech demo than a genuine enhancement or improvement on the original. The more nostalgic of fans may be a lot more forgiving of this but if you’re in the mood to watch the Mewtwo Pokemon film, do yourself a favour and just watch the original.