Pokémon: The First Movie
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|Pokémon: The First Movie|
Japanese film poster
|Hepburn||Gekijōban Poketto Monsutā: Myūtsū no Gyakushū|
|Literally||Pocket Monsters the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back|
|Directed by||Kunihiko Yuyama|
|Written by||Takeshi Shudo|
|Narrated by||Unshō Ishizuka|
|Music by||Shinji Miyazaki|
(US $30 million)
|Box office||$163.6 million|
Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, commonly referred to as Pokémon: The First Movie, originally released as Pocket Monsters the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (劇場版ポケットモンスター ミュウツーの逆襲 Gekijōban Poketto Monsutā: Myūtsū no Gyakushū), is a 1998 Japanese animated film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama, the chief director of the Pokémon television series. It is the first theatrical release in the Pokémon franchise.
It was first released in Japan on July 18, 1998. On July 8, 1999, a Complete Version (完全版 kanzenban) of the film was aired in Japanese television. In addition to an added prologue, the updated version included new animation and CGI graphics. The English-language adaptation, produced by Nintendo and 4Kids Entertainment and licensed by Warner Bros., was released in North America on November 10, 1999.
The film primarily consists of three segments: Pikachu's Vacation, a 21-minute feature focusing on the series mascot Pikachu; Origin of Mewtwo, the 10-minute prologue added to the Complete Version of the film; and Mewtwo Strikes Back, the main 75-minute film feature. Overseas, the prologue can only be seen as a bonus short in DVD versions of Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns.
Although Pokémon was extremely popular when the film was released, the English-language version received negative reviews from film critics. Despite the reviews, it was a box office success worldwide, topping the box office charts in its opening weekend, and eventually grossing US$163.6 million worldwide.
The Pokémon of Ash Ketchum, Misty, and Brock are sent to spend a day at a theme park built for Pokémon. Pikachu, Togepi, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle cross paths with a group of bullies consisting of a Raichu, Cubone, Marill, and a Snubbull. The two groups compete against each other in sports, but it leads to Ash’s Charizard getting its head stuck in a pipe. Pikachu, his friends, and the bullies work together and successfully free Charizard and rebuild the park, spending the rest of the day playing before parting ways when their trainers return.
Origin of Mewtwo
Scientist Dr. Fuji is hired by Giovanni, leader of Team Rocket, to utilize his expertise in cloning in order to create a living weapon based on an eyelash from legendary Pokémon Mew. Fuji is revealed to be allying with Giovanni as a means to fund his side project: the resurrection of his deceased daughter Amber. In a laboratory, the weapon eventually gains sentience and is named Mewtwo. Mewtwo befriends the salvaged consciousness of Amber, named Ambertwo, as well as the clones of other Pokemon in the laboratory. However, Mewtwo is left deeply traumatized after Ambertwo and the rest of the clones decompose and die. In order to stabilize him, Fuji tranquilizes Mewtwo, causing him to forget the time he spent with his friends.
Mewtwo Strikes Back
After Mewtwo fully matures and awakens from a long slumber in a laboratory on New Island, he learns of his origin as Mew's clone from Dr. Fuji. Infuriated that Fuji and his colleagues see him as nothing more than an experiment, he unleashes his psychic powers and destroys the laboratory. Giovanni, witnessing the carnage afar, approaches and convinces Mewtwo to work with him to hone his powers. However, after Mewtwo learns of his purpose to be a weapon for Giovanni's benefit, he escapes back to New Island where he plots revenge against humanity.
After Mewtwo rebuilds the laboratory and establishes base there, he invites several trainers with hologram messages to battle the world's greatest Pokémon trainer at New Island. Ash, Misty, and Brock receive a message and accept the invitation, but when they arrive at the port city, Old Shore Wharf, Mewtwo creates a storm, causing the boats on the wharf to be closed off for safety. As a result, Ash's group are picked up by Team Rocket disguised as Vikings on a boat. After the storm sinks their vessel in the middle of the ocean, Ash and his friends use their Pokémon instead to reach New Island.
Escorted into the island's palace by the woman who appeared on the hologram, Ash and the other trainers who were able to reach the island encounter Mewtwo. The woman is revealed to be a brainwashed Nurse Joy after she is released from Mewtwo's mind control. After describing his plot to use the storm to wipe out humanity and Pokémon loyal to humans, Mewtwo challenges the trainers using cloned Pokémon coincidentally modeled after the deceased friends from his childhood. Meanwhile, Team Rocket also reach New Island and explore its inner sanctum with a Mew innocuously following them. After Mewtwo's clones effortlessly defeat the challengers' Pokémon, he confiscates them and expands his clone army. Ash chases after his captured Pikachu down the cloning lab, where Team Rocket's Meowth is also cloned. Ash destroys the cloning machine, frees the captured Pokémon, and leads them to confront Mewtwo and his clones. Mew then reveals itself and Mewtwo challenges it in order to prove his superiority.
All of the Pokémon originals battle their clones save for a defiant Pikachu and Meowth, who makes peace with his own clone after realizing the senselessness of their fighting. Horrified at the pain and anguish felt on both sides of the battle, Ash puts himself in between a psychic blast caused by Mewtwo and Mew's fighting, leading to Ash to become petrified. Pikachu tries to revive Ash with its electricity but fails. However, the tears of the Pokémon, as per a legend mentioned earlier in the movie, are able to heal and revive Ash. Moved by Ash's sacrifice, Mewtwo realizes that he should not have to be judged by his origins but rather his choices in life. Departing with Mew and the clones, Mewtwo turns back time to just before the trainers leave Old Shore Wharf, and erases everyone's memories of the event.
Back in Old Shore Wharf, the now-restored Nurse Joy has returned to reopen the Pokémon Center to shelter the trainers. The storm outside clears up, Ash spotting Mew flying through the clouds and tells his friends of how he saw another legendary Pokémon the day he left Pallet Town. Meanwhile, Team Rocket find themselves stranded on New Island but enjoy their time there.
|Character name||Japanese voice actor||English voice actor|
|Ash Ketchum (Satoshi)||Rica Matsumoto||Veronica Taylor|
|Misty (Kasumi)||Mayumi Iizuka||Rachael Lillis|
|Brock (Takeshi)||Yūji Ueda||Eric Stuart|
|Narrator||Unshō Ishizuka||Ken Gates|
|Jessie (Musashi)||Megumi Hayashibara||Rachael Lillis|
|James (Kojirō)||Shin-ichiro Miki||Eric Stuart|
|Meowth (Nyarth)||Inuko Inuyama||Maddie Blaustein|
|Bulbasaur (Fushigidane)||Megumi Hayashibara||Tara Jayne|
|Charizard (Lizardon)||Shin-ichiro Miki|
|Squirtle (Zenigame)||Rikako Aikawa||Eric Stuart|
|Fergus (Umio)||Wataru Takagi||Jimmy Zoppi|
|Corey (Sorao)||Tōru Furuya||Ed Paul|
|Neesha (Sweet)||Aiko Satō||Lisa Ortiz|
|Miranda (Voyager)||Sachiko Kobayashi||Kayzie Rogers|
|Pirate Trainer||Raymond Johnson||Maddie Blaustein|
Fujiko Takimoto (young; radio drama)
Showtaro Morikubo (young; anime)
|Giovanni (Sakaki)||Hirotaka Suzuoki||Ed Paul|
|Officer Jenny (Junsar)||Chinami Nishimura||Lee Quick|
|Nurse Joy (Joi)||Ayako Shiraishi||Megan Hollingshead|
|Red||Yōsuke Akimoto||Philip Bartlett|
|Ambertwo (Aitwo)||Kyōko Hikami||Kerry Williams|
Characters that appear only in the radio drama
|Character name||Japanese voice actor|
|Doctor Fuji's wife||Shinobu Adachi|
|Pokémon Master||Katsuyuki Konishi|
|Madame Boss||Hiromi Tsuru|
Kunihiko Yuyama directed the original Japanese version of the film, while Choji Yoshikawa and Takeshi Shudo served as producer and script writer respectively. Shudo explained in his blog that Mewtwo being torn over his life purpose reflects the film's theme of existentialism. In the Japanese script, for instance, the moment Mewtwo realizes he has a right to be in the world just as much as any other living creature represents the central message of accepting one's existence. According to Shudo, certain episodes in the anime were intended to tie-in with the movie prior to its release in Japan and provide background behind the events in the film. However, the controversy surrounding the Dennō Senshi Porygon episode delayed the tie-in episodes, causing Shudo to expand the beginning of the movie and, thus, the length of the film.
Norman J. Grossfeld, former president of 4Kids Productions, served as the film's producer for the English-language North American version. Grossfeld, Michael Haigney, and John Touhey wrote the English adaptation, and Haigney served as the English version's voice director. The English script was heavily edited from the original Japanese one; along with various content edits, Mewtwo was portrayed more maliciously because Grossfeld felt American audiences needed to see a "clearly evil" villain rather than a morally ambiguous one. As such, the existentialist themes seen in the Japanese version were significantly toned-down.
The English version editors translated various Japanese texts, including those on signs and on buildings, into English. The Shogakukan Production Co. also altered various background from the original version of the film in order to enhance its presentation overseas. In the English dub, three Pokémon are referred to by the wrong name. Pidgeot was called Pidgeotto, Scyther was called Alakazam, and Sandslash was called Sandshrew. 4Kids said that they decided to leave the Alakazam and Sandshrew errors when they noticed it as something for the children watching to notice and because they felt it was plausible in context that Team Rocket could make a mistake.
Grossfeld also had new music re-recorded for the film's release, citing that it "would better reflect what American kids would respond to". John Loeffler of Rave Music produced the English-language music and composed the film score with Ralph Schuckett. Loeffler also collaborated with John Lissauer and Manny Corallo to produce the English-language "Pikachu's Vacation" score. Grossfeld also revealed that the English version of the film "combines the visual sense of the best Japanese animation with the musical sensibility of Western pop culture".
Toshihiro Ono, author of Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu, created a manga version of the film. Asked by editors to draw Mewtwo's birth, he received the source material to base the manga off of in April 1998 and finished the manga in May. In July of that year, a five episode radio drama titled The Birth of Mewtwo was broadcast over the five Sundays leading up to the premiere of the movie in Japan. Written by Takeshi Shudo, the drama delves into Mewtwo’s origin prior to the start of the film. It also explores the leadership of Team Rocket under Madame Boss, Giovanni's mother, and the last known whereabouts of Miyamoto (ミヤモト), Jesse's mother. Due to its mature themes, it was never dubbed in English. The drama eventually served the basis for the Origin of Mewtwo prologue that would appear in the Complete Version of the film. Since the drama was conceived a few months after the manga, the events depicted in the drama do not match up with the events portrayed in the manga. Ono has even stated that "there's not much connection between the manga and the movie".
In the United States, the first trailer was released in August 1999 and was shown before The Iron Giant and Mystery Men. The second trailer was released in the fall of 1999 and was attached to The Bachelor. In addition, select theaters gave away exclusive Pokémon trading cards, to capitalize on the success of the trading card game. The cards featured likenesses of Electabuzz, Pikachu, Mewtwo, and Dragonite, and were dispensed in random order for each week it was in that particular theater. The subsequent releases of Pokémon: The Movie 2000 and Pokémon 3: The Movie featured a similar marketing campaign. For the March, 2000 home video release of The First Movie, had TV, in-school, and internet ads with companies such as Clorox, Kraft and Zenith Electronics, a contest to win a trip to Japan, and a limited edition Mewtwo card (different from that used for the theatrical release) was packaged with the video.
The Japanese version of the film was first released by Toho on July 18, 1998. That following year, the English-dub of film was produced by 4Kids Entertainment and released by Warner Bros. under the Kids' WB banner in the United States on November 10, 1999. The film was theatrically re-released exclusively at Cinemark Theatres in the United States on October 29 and November 1, 2016. The re-release included the Pikachu's Vacation short film from the original release and was intended to commemorate Pokémon's 20th anniversary. For TV syndication, the movie was digitally remastered for high definition and aired in TV Tokyo, as well as in other stations, beginning May 3, 2013. The remastered version also aired in Cartoon Network in the United States on January 4, 2014.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film's English adaptation a 14% approval rating based on 79 reviews, with the consensus being: "Audiences other than children will find very little to entertain them". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 35 out of 100 based on 25 reviews, meaning "generally unfavorable reviews".
Anime News Network review called the main feature "contradictory", stating that "the anti-violent message that is pretty much crammed down our throats works directly against the entire point of the franchise" and criticized Pikachu's Summer Vacation for being "incoherent, pointless and fluffy". Patrick Butters, of The Washington Times, accused Pokémon: The First Movie of taking ideas from other films such as Star Wars and being "just another cog in the mighty Nintendo machine". Michael Wood, of the Coventry Evening Telegraph said that Pikachu's Summer Vacation "can only be described as a mind-numbingly tedious piece, with no discernible storyline and lots of trippy images and silly voices". Wood did note that the main feature had a "mildly intriguing premise", but said that the rest of the film "was like a martial arts movie without the thrills".
Reviews of the Japanese version have generally been more positive, and the film has been called a masterpiece by reviewers due to its emotional impact and exploration of ethical topics such as cloning and genetic modification. However, the philosophical themes were criticized being difficult to pick up on due to their complex presentation, especially for a film aimed at children.
In the U.S. box office, Pokémon: The First Movie was an instant commercial success, debuting at number one and earning $10.1 million on its Wednesday opening day. During its first weekend, it grossed $31 million and went on to generate a total of $50.8 million since its Wednesday launch in 3,043 theaters, averaging to about $10,199 per venue over the three-day span. It also held the record for being the animated feature with the highest opening weekend in November, which would be broken two weeks later by Toy Story 2. Despite a 59.72% drop in its second weekend to $12.5 million, the film made $67.4 million within 12 days. It closed on February 27, 2000, earning $85.7 million in North America, and $77.9 million in other territories. Worldwide, the film made $163.6 million, making it the highest-grossing anime film in the United States and the fourth highest-grossing animated film based on a television show worldwide. It was also the highest-grossing film based on a video game at the time, until 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Commercially, Takeshi Shudo states the film fared better overall in the U.S. than it did in its home country.
The movie was released one March 21, 2000 in Region 1 format (USA/Canada) on both VHS and DVD. The original DVD release with the snap case contained numerous features deleted from later reprints, such as the origin prologue and most importantly, the Pikachu's Vacation short film. Other options, such as Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, were also removed, leaving only the 2.0 stereo mix available, among other features.
The film was included in the Blu-ray compilation titled Pikachu Movie Premium 1998-2010 in Japan on November 28, 2012.
Viz Media has announced that a limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook containing the first three Pokémon films will be released on February 9, 2016, along with single releases on DVD (These are: Pokémon: The First Movie, Pokémon: The Movie 2000 and Pokémon 3: The Movie). In accommodation with the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise, a digitally remastered version of the film was released on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play on February 27, 2016.
Pokémon: The First Movie Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture is the soundtrack to the first Pokémon film in the United States, It was released on November 10, 1999, on Compact Disc and Compact Cassette. "Don't Say You Love Me" by M2M was released as a single from the album.
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