Pokémon: The First Movie
|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|
|Produced by||Choji Yoshikawa
|Written by||Takeshi Shudō|
|Narrated by||Unshō Ishizuka|
|Music by||Shinji Miyazaki|
|Edited by||Toshio Henmi
(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 anime film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama, the chief director of the Pokémon television series. It is the first theatrical release in the Pokémon franchise.
The film primarily consists of three segments: Pikachu's Vacation, a 21-minute feature focusing on the series mascot Pikachu; Origin of Mewtwo, a 10-minute featurette that functions as a prologue to the main feature; and Mewtwo Strikes Back, the main 75 minute film feature. The featurette was added on for later releases and eventually dubbed as a special feature in the U.S. release of the TV special (that was released as a direct-to-video follow-up film sequel in the U.S.) Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns as The Uncut Story of Mewtwo's Origin.
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.
In an animated short called "Pikachu's Vacation", 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.
Mewtwo Strikes Back
A group of scientists obtain a fossilised eyelash of the legendary Pokémon, Mew, and clone it to create a supersoldier named Mewtwo. The project is successful as Mewtwo awakens, but upon learning the scientists plan to treat him as an experiment, Mewtwo unleashes his psychic powers and destroys the laboratory.
Giovanni, leader of Team Rocket and the project's benefactor, convinces Mewtwo to work with him to hone his powers. However, Mewtwo learns his purpose is to be a weapon for Giovanni's benefit and escapes back to New Island where he plots revenge against humanity. Several Pokémon trainers are invited to New Island to meet and battle the world's greatest Pokémon Master. Ash, Misty, and Brock accept the challenge, but when they arrive at the port city Old Shore Wharf, a powerful storm whips up, preventing the trainers from sailing to the island. However, several trainers use their Pokémon to travel across the sea. Ash's group are picked up by Team Rocket disguised as Vikings, but the storm sinks their boat, and they individually make it to New Island.
Escorted into the island's palace by the woman from the invitation, the trainers encounter Mewtwo, who releases the woman from his mind control; the woman is revealed to be a brainwashed Nurse Joy. Mewtwo plots to use the storm to wipe out humanity, leaving only wild and cloned Pokémon alive. Ash challenges Mewtwo's power, leading to a battle between the trainers' Pokémon and Mewtwo's clones who prove to be vastly superior in combat. Mewtwo captures all of the Pokémon to clone them, Ash chasing the captured Pikachu down into the rebuilt lab, where Team Rocket's Meowth is also cloned. Ash destroys the cloning machine, freeing the Pokémon, and leads them to confront Mewtwo. Mew appears and confronts Mewtwo.
All of the Pokémon battle save a defiant Pikachu, and Meowth, who makes peace with his own clone. Mew and Mewtwo's psychic battle wounds all of the Pokémon, forcing a desperate Ash to charge into the firing line of their attacks and is petrified by the blast. Pikachu tries to revive Ash with his thunderbolt but it fails. However, the tears of the Pokémon, as per a legend mentioned earlier in the film, 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 erases everyone's memories of the event.
Ash, Misty, and Brock find themselves back in Old Shore Wharf unsure how they got there. 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|
|Dr. Fuji||Yōsuke Akimoto||Philip Bartlett|
|Ambertwo (Aitwo)||Kyōko Hikami||Kerry Williams|
|Doctor Fuji's wife and Ai's mother||Shinobu Adachi|
|Madame Boss||Hiromi Tsuru|
Kunihiko Yuyama directed the original Japanese version of the film, while Choji Yoshikawa served as producer and Takeshi Shudo as the writer. 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 version was heavily edited from the original Japanese one; along with various content edits, Mewtwo was changed from a morally confused character into a more straightforward villain like Genesect (from Pokémon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened) so the audience would be able to identify it as the villain more easily. Furthermore, the moral message of the movie was changed from "all life is equal" to "fighting is wrong". The English version editors translated various Japanese texts, including those on signs and on buildings, into English. Shogakukan digitally altered the backgrounds for both the American English and Kanzenban versions. 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".
For the film's theatrical release, select theaters would give 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 2000 home video release of The First Movie, a limited edition Mewtwo card (different from that used for the theatrical release) was packaged with the video.
Toshihiro Ono, author of Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu, created a manga version of the film. He received the scripts and continuity in April 1998. The manga was released in May of that year. Ono's editors asked him to draw Mewtwo's birth, which was not included in the film. At a later point, the anime staff wrote the Origin of Mewtwo special, which does not match his story. Ono said that "there's not much connection between the manga and the movie".
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.
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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 England's 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".
Pokémon: The First Movie was an instant commercial success, debuting at number one on the U.S. box office charts and making $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.
The movie was digitally remastered for high definition and aired by TV Tokyo on May 3, 2013. It was also aired by other TV stations in Japan. It aired on Cartoon Network in the United States on January 4, 2014. The HD version came to Blu-ray on the Pikachu Movie Premium 1998-2010 box set in Japan on November 28, 2012.
Viz Media released a limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook containing the first three Pokémon films would be released on February 9, 2016, along with single releases on DVD. 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.
The film received a limited theatrical re-release, through select Cinemark theaters in the United States, on October 29 and November 1, 2016, to help celebrate Pokémon's 20th anniversary.
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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