Movie Review: Pokemon the Movie – I Choose You!

Posted by

Veteran Pokemon fans anticipated the release of the new Pokemon movie with cautious optimism. Helmed by longtime Poke-director Yuyama Kunihiko and Animation Chief Ichiishi Sayuri, The Pokemon Company billed Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You as a back-to-the-basics reboot, promising to springboard off the first season’s iconic moments. We daydreamed about a reimagined origin story for Ash and Pikachu–the home of our familiar childhood escapes, coated with a fresh coat of Oriental Light and Magic’s digital paint.

Indeed, the introductory battle whisks longtime addicts back to lazy days on childhood sofas–kids booting up their Game Boys, greeted by the warm ping of the Game Freak logo. Kunihiko lands a calculated nostalgia gut-punch by hearkening back to the genesis of many-a Poke-Journey.

pokecomp
A modest graphical upgrade.

However, as the movie progresses, one soon realizes any hope of a Pokemon love letter has devolved into a nostalgia-baiting Greatest Hits clip show. Those of us familiar with the original games and anime can close their eyes and mentally walk through the happenings of the movie’s first twelve minutes. A sarcastic person might think, “Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen next? Ash won’t be late to pick up his very first Pokemon, will he? He won’t get stuck with a cantankerous Pikachu, right? And, surely, he won’t get chased down by a flock of Spearow, sacrifice himself for Pikachu, who will then save the day and become BFFs with his new owner, right? Well, at least the Ho-Oh appearance is new. Oh, wait.” While a shot-for-shot remake of the first few episodes might appeal to some, the hollow execution gives the opening scenes an air of tedium.

Unfortunately, the stellar visuals from the inaugural Gengar/Blastoise fight all but disappear during the shows more static moments. The character models now lay flat against a plastic backdrop. In the spirit of fairness, the problem of CGI in anime goes beyond Pokemon. Yet OLM falls into a familiar trap, opting for a Frankenstein juxtaposition of poorly-textured digital models against two-dimensional fixtures.

Narratively, I Choose You struggles to find its footing. As we slog past the first few iconic Poke-moments, the movie suddenly restarts, veering into a training montage and an admittedly successful re-purposing of the original Japanese theme song. Then, the narrative jolts forward again, picking up after Ash’s gym battle with Erika in Celadon City. Hold on tight, we just fast-forwarded to Johto and Entei. The audience experiences whiplash, awakening from its nostalgiac fever dream, careening through a sensory salvo of battles and fanservice, and finally settling on a plot arc forty minutes in:

Ho-Oh (he lives at the end of the rainbow with all the leprechauns and pots of gold) excretes Rainbow Wings on humans he “particularly likes.” In other words, the Legendary Bird, just chilling over Viridian Forest, saw a scruffy ten-year-old and a Pikachu frying up a massive flock of Spearow and thought, “Hm, I like that kid. It’s about time somebody killed those things. Have yourself a feather!”

poke9
Ash Ketchum, the… Rainbow Hero.

Again, with the “chosen one” bit. The Pokemon Company cannot control its impulse to deify Ash, frequently portraying him as the Shaman of the Mother Pokemon Spirit—selected by the PokeGods to shepherd human and Poke-kind into nirvana (and attaining eternal ten-year-oldness in the process).

We meet some new characters, Verity and Sorrel (imposters standing in for Brock and Misty). The producers’ decision to cut out Ash’s original posse makes little sense. For one, their inclusion would have pleased older fans and fulfilled the company’s goal of introducing new audiences to the original story. Secondly, incorporating two random tag-a-longs requires character building—a luxury the film never affords them. Ultimately, Verity and Sorrel serve as little more than plot devices, manufactured for one-time-use–strangers who won’t travel with our hero to the new seasons of the show and won’t satisfy the old-school itch of veteran viewers. Incidentally, I must credit the production crew for creating my new favorite character, the Vaporeon Guy–a fellow who, like everyone else in the Pokemon Center, seems genuinely confused as to why his Pokemon are always teetering on the brink of death.

poke6
Nurse Joy! Please help! I was just making my monster slave maul another monster slave like I always do and now the stupid thing won’t breathe anymore!

Since the movie insists on ping-ponging between episode remakes and meandering subplots, a reviewer can only sit back and reflect on—

Things I witnessed in The Pokemon Movie: I Choose You!:

  • Entei saunters into the group’s camp and none of them appear all that surprised (despite everyone in Poke-Town having a conniption over his sudden appearance a few scenes earlier).
  • The world’s most hated trainer, the Charman-Douche (now Incin-Idiot) returns for his feature film debut, once again being a douche to Charmander (and Charmeleon, and Charizard).
comp2final
Perhaps the biggest change from the original.
  • Onix. They can’t take a joke and will hunt you down to the ends of the Pokemon Universe in response to even the slightest of offenses. The next movie will take place in a dystopian wasteland where humans live under the constant fear of their rock-snake overlords.
  • Ash’s toddler meltdown because he lost to Incin-Idiot. He slips into a demon-fueled Marshadow trance and emerges inside a nightmare world where, instead of embarking on an unsupervised trip across the country at ten-years-old, he heeds the will of the fascists and (brace yourself) goes to school.
poke11
A cruel twist of fate.
  • A Primeape encounter, a couple pointless Team Rocket gags, and a steamy Butterfree mating ritual (complete with the arbitrary Bye Bye Butterfree moment which adds nothing to the plot except “remember ‘Bye Bye Butterfree’? Great episode”).
  • Sorrel’s laughable revelation that “Trainers raise Pokemon, but Pokemon live their own lives.” Ironically, Incin-Idiot’s worldview better mirrors the logic of both the games and the show. Success in the Poke-world depends on leveling up and besting your Rival. Pokemon are simply tools to that end. They “live their own lives” in the wild and then trainers invade their habitats, injure them and/or paralyze, burn, freeze, poison, or put them in a coma so that they can imprison them inside small spherical prisons–only to release them when the trainer feels the need to trap one of the poor beast’s brothers or sister in another small spherical prison and then–
  • Oh my goodness, a Raikou!
poke12
Writer 1: Hey, we forgot about Raikou. Writer 2: Oh, shoot, you’re right. How much extra time do we have? Writer 1: ‘Bout two seconds. Writer 2: Perfect.

After a whirlwind of unrelated events, we reach the end of the film. Charman-Douche/Incin-Idiot confronts the chosen one after stalking him across an entire mountain range. He comes to exact his revenge for being cheated out of a major role in the original series and also to prove his utility as Exhibit A for the impending Poke-morality lesson. Spoiler Alert: friendship wins.

compfinal
Incin-idiot: Brute strength! Ash: No! Rainbow power!

The obligatory final battle impresses. OLM pulls out all the stops for an explosive, flame-drenched, Charizardian blitzkrieg (and one of the manliest attacks in the history of the show, courtesy of Incineroar’s crotch).

comp4b
A Freudian take on Pokemon battles.

The rest of the movie consists of a half-baked scenario in which Marshadow, the Julius Caesar of the Pokemon world, stands upon a high perch and looks down solemnly at the humans as they fight their zombified companions and come around to the whole “friendship is power” concept. Once tired of their silly games, Marshadow goes Super Saiyan in an attempt to end their pathetic lives. In the end, Ash and Pikachu prevail (after a brief stint in The Upside Down) and the Magic of the Rainbow gifts Pikachu with the ability to speak Japanese. What was this movie about again? Oh, right, Ho-Oh. He shows up too.

poke13
Plot twist: Ash has schizophrenia. Believes his Pokemon are talking to him.

Although mired by hit-or-miss CGI, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! consistently dazzles with some of the most highly polished action scenes since the show’s inception. However, the pieced together narrative and conspicuous absence of Brock and Misty cast a shadow over the transcendent battle sequences. The majority of the movie feasts on a buffet of tropes–a hodgepodge of iconic moments from the first season. The film is a watershed moment for the franchise, marking its final evolution into an unstoppable force of Poke-wankery and self-parody.

Rating: C

And, please remember:

~ Don’t Shoot the Messenger

 

 

All screenshots and promotional images are the property of Nintendo, Game Freak, The Pokemon Company, OLM, Viz Media, and 4Kids Entertainment. The AniMessenger does not claim ownership.
Advertisements

10 comments

  1. I have yet to watch this one but I really enjoyed reading this review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! It’s a shame that Brock and Misty weren’t in this movie, and I agree that the chosen one thing that’s been going on for Ash can be a bit much. That Ho-Oh line tho 😆👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Nurse Joy! Please help! I was just making my monster slave maul another monster slave like I always do and now the stupid thing won’t breathe anymore!”

    If I could give you about five OK-hand-sign emojis at this very moment, I wouldn’t think twice.

    As in my last comment, it seems liked you mocked this film WAAAAAAY too much for me to believe that, as a reader, you enjoyed it enough to think it at least average. I’d like to see more incorporation of what you found good of the piece so it doesn’t seem like a bait-and-switch feeling. And one last quick note: my squinting eyes barely noticed the link you provided in the last paragraph, concerning the “Watershed moment.” If you wanted people to notice it more clearly, I’d advise underlining it or something. Gray isn’t gonna be very noticeable against a bright white background.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! I will take your notes into consideration. A few quick replies–there weren’t many positives in the review because there weren’t many positives in the film. That being said, my reviews tend to lean on the side of sarcasm even if I like what I see, so expect that going forward. However, I have been thinking about doing away with letter/number-based review scores, so thanks for bringing that up!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha, I loved this! While the movie did play into nostalgia pretty well, I did find it an odd clash to try and make the movie cater towards old fans by retelling (more like reinventing…rip Misty and Brock

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s