When the first trailer for Mewtwo Strikes Back: EVOLUTION, the CGI remake of the first Pokemon movie, dropped last year, I immediately loved it. The CGI animation style has proved polarizing among Pokémon fans, but I'm very intrigued by animation meant to mimic a traditional artist's style. Seeing CGI that very consciously models itself after Ken Sugimori's iconic art style for Pokemon intrigued me. (Relatedly, this is why I'm all in on the CGI animated Lupin the Third: The First. ANNOUNCE A U.S. RELEASE DATE, I BEG OF YOU!)
Mewtwo Strikes Back: EVOLUTION will be dropping on Netflix on February 27, but watching the official Netflix trailer got me thinking about the original movie. If you weren't there, it's difficult to accurately convey the scope of Pokémania that swept America in the late '90s and early aughts. I mean, they built a Pokémon Center in Rockefeller Plaza! When the movie dropped in American theaters in November of 1999, it was heralded by Burger King toys. We were in Pokéheaven.
But I remember all of that much more than I remember the film. So I thought it was high time to return to Kanto.
Before we begin, a point of order: T
he 4Kids dub that English-speaking fans remember is different from the original film. In the original film, Mewtwo is not trying to destroy the world; rather, he's trying to understand his place in the world but can only conceive of doing so by testing his might against other Pokémon. The 4Kids dub adds the destroying-the-world plot to make Mewtwo an obvious villain (because killing a bunch of scientists … wasn't … villainous enough?) and tries to Americanize the show. If you're a person too young to let the waves of nostalgia carry you through, you might want to see if you can get your hands on the original film. But I'm watching the 4Kids dub because bad dubbing sounds like my childhood.
1. Mewtwo Strikes Back starts the same way The Fellowship of the Ring does: beautiful nature imagery under a monologue. "I feel it in the water … type …"
2. Why did they try to clone a Psychic-type Pokémon and really soup it up? This wouldn't be happening if they were cloning Magikarp, I'm just saying.
3. You can tell these scientists are evil because Mew has cute little paws but Mewtwo has horrifying three-fingered ball hands.
4. After Mewtwo kills the scientists, Giovanni picks him up … and immediately gives him super-cool armor perfectly customized to his giant evil purple kangaroo proportions, meaning Giovanni has been planning this from the start. Very Hannibal of you, Giovanni.
5. Mewtwo bounces on Team Rocket because he needs to ~find himself~ and vows terrible retribution on anyone who messes with his ~journey of self-discovery~. Mewtwo's Instagram would be so inspiring and threatening.
6. The rest of the movie has been cleaned up for streaming, but the extremely '90s title cards still look like they came straight out of a bowling alley. Incredible.
7. I did not realize until this moment that I will only accept the Pokémon theme song if sung by Jason Paige. This smooth Billy Crawford cover isn't even that different and yet! My body rejects it!
8. This trainer is cheating! Three on three battles weren't added until Pokémon Black and White, buddy! Wait: MAYBE HE'S A TIME TRAVELER.
9. So Mewtwo builds his own gothic EuroDisney wonderland from the ground up, down to controlling the weather with his mind for maximum atmosphere, but the best way to invite trainers to his island is to send out Pete the Dragon with a messenger bag full of "check for yes or no" RSVP cards? BUDDY.
10. I'm sorry, these teenagers are backpacking across all of Kanto and Johto and none of them have an umbrella? It's amazing they've survived this long.
11. The storm is so bad that the ferry to Mewtwo's Island is canceled. When Officer Jenny is like, "Hey, Harbormaster, can you back me up on this?", the harbormaster begins spouting a PROPHECY about an ANCIENT STORM that killed so many PEOPLE that the Pokémon had to cry them back to LIFE! Officer Jenny is not being paid enough to deal with this.
12. Wait wait wait, the local Pokémon Center has been closed down for an entire month and none of these trainers loitering around town have noticed?
13. Kids, that "I didn't know Vikings still existed!" "They mostly live in Minnesota!" exchange was what passed for comedy in '90s anime dubs. They were … dark times …
14. How long do you have to put Pikachu in rice after he gets in water?
15. Oh my God, Mew, please stop messing around and being adorable, this is serious!
16. … Corey, that's a Pidgeot, not a Pidgeotto. Are … are you okay?
17. Mewtwo explains what's going on, and one kid is like "uh, a Pokémon can't be a Pokémon Master." This obviously violates the don't mess with Mewtwo's ~journey~ rule, so that kid is going to get roasted.
18. Team Rocket watches the video about how Mewtwo's Pokémon cloning machine works and finds that there's some stuff from the scientists still on that tape. You mean to tell me that Mewtwo, the world's most powerful Psychic Pokémon, didn't check that the tape he was recording on was blank?
19. "Sounds like a real Poken-stein." I think you mean Poken-stein's monster, Jessie.
20. The clone Pokémon are in little pods but emerge from those pods by sinking into the metal base and then emerge as if they are being birthed. This is some PG H.R. Giger stuff right here.
21. Everybody seems very anti-cloning, despite cloning occurring in nature in the Pokémon world. Does everybody just really hate Dittos?
22. One of the trainers nicknamed their Venusaur Broo Broo and oh no my feelings.
23. The only other girl trainer here is dressed like a fun Talbots mom.
24. Back in the clone room, Jessie and James are cuddling and listing off Pokémon as they see them, which sounds like a great date night idea.
25. Ash, punching Mewtwo isn't going to solve anything! Or, you know, work.
26. I completely forgot that Blessid Union of Souls, the people who brought us "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)," recorded a sad pop-rock ballad about brother being pitted against brother specifically for this movie to score Pokémon sadly fighting their clones. Incredible.
27. "Pokémon aren't meant to fight like this!" Nurse Joy protests. Did … did anybody tell her what Pokémon was about?
28. Oh, we're really going to double down on an anti-fighting message in a Pokémon movie by having everybody else join in? Really? This is all 4Kids, by the way. In the original, everybody just realizes that clones are people — er, Pokémon — too.
29. Meowth's clone is the one who comes up with the novel idea of just like … not fighting, proving that Meowth is probably the smartest character out of the main cast.
30. Also: Maddie Blaustein deserved a medal for making Meowth's line "But how can I trust you? You was born different!" remotely work. ONE OF THE GREATS.
31. Nurse Joy did not go to Pokémon Medical School for this!
32. In trying to stop the madness, Ash gets straight-up petrified, Hermione Granger-style, so all the Pokémon have to cry HP to fill his life meter back up.
33. WAIT I'M SORRY WAS TOGEPI JUST FINE CHILLING IN MISTY'S LITTLE KNAPSACK THE ENTIRE TIME? What's the matter, Pokémon, you didn't think we were ready to see a monster baby fight its own baby clone?
34. Now that the smoke has cleared, I think we can safely say it: Mewtwo's gap year went really weird.
35. Mewtwo and Mew decide to take all of the cloned Pokémon and just jet. "Thanks for helping me self-actualize, guys! I'm just going to wipe your memories so it's like this never happened byeee."
36. Wait, they're back at the pier waiting for the ferry with everybody else? Did Mewtwo also turn back time? HOW POWERFUL IS HE?