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Everyone knows how good the Pokémon franchise is. There are some good parts (the main game series) and some bad parts (the anime, generally), but overall, it's a cool franchise. However, one part of Pokémon has always had controversy surrounding it—the movies. Some hate them, some love them, but (almost) everyone agrees that they are very unique and interesting.
With panelists Lady Salamence, jumpluff, Jellicent, and Layell, represented (respectfully) by Salamence, Jumpluff, Jellicent, and Sneasel, discussing different aspects of the movie, I have to warn you preemptively that there will be spoilers, and a lot of them. We will be discussing the first two movies, Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back, and Pokémon the Movie 2000 - The Power of One.
Mewtwo might have the most interesting rags-to-riches story ever. Born in a test tube and told he would be nothing more than a fighting machine (this may be what PETA got mad about...), he still manages to collect all the best trainers in the world (and Ash), trounce them beyond any doubt, kidnap their Pokémon (this may have also angered PETA), and clone them. Considering Mewtwo got very mad on realizing he was a 'mere' clone, it just goes to prove how evil Mewtwo is.
Interestingly, at the end of the movie, some Pokémon cried and apparently that can save lives, resulting in Mewtwo reconsidering his morals and flying off. While it may be the typical feel-good movie, I'm not the one to be discussing that. All in all, Mewtwo was a good antagonist, however contradictory that sounds.
Many Pokémon fans of today enjoy discussing the darker direction the franchise—mainly the RPG series—has taken, but true '90s kids will remember that the first film was genuinely disturbing, despite the cheese (some things never change). Compared to more recent installments and their gratuitous, blatant cutemon fanservice, Pokémon: The First Movie is almost bankrupt in charm; when we say 'cuteness explosions', we don't mean literally blowing things up. Even still, the movie attempts to compensate with wanton blasts—pitifully reminiscent of Michael Bay—and, while there are several touching moments for the observant, this melodramatically adolescent power fantasy is definitely one of the least cute movies in the series. Cuteness? CUTE THINGS HAVE GIRL GERMS! *mushroom cloud in the distance*
The cuteness highlight of this movie is Mew, the first in a line of legendary cash cows. Playful, innocent, and endearing, Mew's adorable-but-uneventful appearances are scattered like ad breaks, almost as if it were important to the plot. The best moments were when the inquisitive Pokémon stalked Team Rocket (to their pronounced confusion), when it outright giggled at Mewtwo, and pretty much any time it opened its mouth and meowed (imagine it with a ball of yarn!). There are other, largely unobserved cute parts, such as when Ash is introduced—Togepi and Pikachu can be seen chasing each other around in circles for a few seconds—and when the cloned and original Psyduck attempt to fight but completely fail in their confusion (Psy?). Even the humans weren't totally bereft; at one point, Jessie and James jump into each other's arms for the whole scene.
Still, perhaps any real sweetness came from the numerous demonstrations of Pikachu's unfailing loyalty. Pikachu's joyful reunion with Ash in the cloning lab almost provoked tears, as did its earnest attempts to avoid capture by Mewtwo. (At least Ash makes for a good meatshield.) As for the notorious crying scene, as elcheeso put it, 'Ugh, it was just so stupid, like they were fucking Care Bears and doing a Care Bear stare to bring Ash back to life because MAGICAL SADNESS POWERS STOP PSYCHIC.' Contrived, but their devotion truly shone through. Anyone who's ever Nuzlocked will tell you the bond between a Trainer and their Pokémon is unexpectedly heartbreaking, and in a movie where destiny and world domination are discussed without due traces of irony and a Pokémon detonates a laboratory (scientists included), moments like these constitute necessary relief.
I'll be completely honest here: I'm only watching these films for the action scenes. All of the brutal mon-on-mon action...so to that point, if things aren't bleeding or blowing up for longer than a minute, I'm fast forwarding. The first movie does not disappoint; Mewtwo is born and brings honor to the creeds of death and destruction. Within the first ten minutes, he blows up two buildings and trounces Gary Oak. Ash has his requisite battle with another trainer for the silliest of reason while the theme song plays. A new Pokémon in Donphan shows and that match is essentially a decent 'phan versus Bulbasaur fight which becomes a more humiliating curb stomp with Squirtle and Machamp, then Pikachu shocks three of his Pokémon straight to the Pokémon Center. A Pinsir, Venomoth, and a Golem—yes, that's right, the anime blatantly ignores all type rules.
For the most part, the battles are akin to having two of the same action figures battling each other for half an hour. Somehow the clones are more powerful, since they came out of their mechanical wombs literally five minutes ago. That, and Mew doesn't take much of the battles seriously—it's sort of a joke.
It's well known that Ash isn't the brightest kid out there, but his antics in the first Pokémon movie step it up a notch. First off, it's worth noting that Ash and friends wouldn't even be in this mess had he not hopped into a dinky wooden boat with a poorly disguised Team Rocket in what's literally described as "the worst storm ever." The storm itself is just a trap set by Mewtwo to steal powerful trainers' Pokémon. When Pikachu becomes its target, Ash actually jumps headfirst off a structure about 8 stories up to unsuccessfully try to save his friend, only surviving due to a pool of water that was deceptively deeper than it appeared. He then battles mechanical arms and, when they start to short circuit, bites them. I suppose he's no stranger to electrocution...
Those aren't the biggest reasons why Ash is an idiot, however. The main reason isn't even that Ash actually runs up and punches Mewtwo, almost getting murdered in the process. No, the greatest display of idiocy here is that Ash, upon seeing both Mew and Mewtwo simultaneously firing powerful attacks at one another, runs directly into both assaults. He doesn't just die—he gets turned to stone! He dies so hard that every Pokémon except Mew and Mewtwo stops what they're doing and just starts bawling; they straight-up cry him back to life. The audience doesn't know that Pokémon's tears can bring someone back to life. Ash sure as hell didn't know it. I don't think the writers even knew it until they got to that part and realized, "oh crap, we've finally made him too dumb."
Despite having an amazing name in Lawrence III, he is really lacking in the evil department. Sure, treating the world like a chess game and not giving a single care when he by mistake kidnaps a whole group of people is not something that gets you a net positive on a moral compass, but there is much to be desired. An evil genius with no backup plan once his ship crashes into a mountain is an evil genius who will fail inevitably.
His plans and ideas were great, capturing all the legendary birds with relative ease, but without the coup de grâce, he has nothing. What's worse, he just stands there when the coup de grâce is played on him; it makes for a saddening end, unless you were rooting for Ash. Who does that, though?
'But, Mrs. Ketchum, Ash just helped save the whole world!' 'Oh, he did, did he?! Well, I could have lost my whole world!' Kacaw! While the movie itself, unlike the short, disappointingly skimps on the raw adorable in favor of an hour straight of meaningless animated violence, it's important to remember that cuteness can come from unexpected places. The movie naturally ends on a heartwarming note, with the long-suffering Mrs. Ketchum showing up to scold her irresponsible son, and in the process letting him know just how important he is to her, even when he's not chasing the Dragon Balls. While perhaps excessively saccharine at times (although let's not set our standards too high), the scene is a great reminder to go hug your mom once in awhile.
It's a shame that pretty much no secondary Pokémon really get a share of the spotlight in this film, with most of them receiving little more than a sideways glimpse. The movie pretty much exclusively focuses on the legendary birds and eventually Lugia, which means nothing but elemental kamehamehas and unintelligible, viscerally distressing screeching. The few Pokémon who do get some attention are just plain creepy, like Delia Ketchum's Mr. Mime (one of the scariest Pokémon of all) and the hermit Slowking from the islands (even Ash is visibly alarmed by the talking Slowking, who has no concept of personal space and even inexplicably ruminates about his pantslessness in another scene). In short, there's nothing remotely resembling a cuteness explosion in this film, not even a cuteness spark, but there is something akin to the warm fuzzies at the very end. Thank heavens this is a flaw many of the later films have fixed.
The action scene in 2000 can be placed in two categories: boat scenes and bird scenes. That's all there is to it. We have all kinds of boats in this film: boats on the sea, boats on the rocks, and flying boats. Go to one island, fight bird, get orb, repeat; add in a villain who doesn't even own Pokémon (lame) and you're really just seeing a bunch of birds being assholes to each other whilst spewing fire, ice, and lightning attacks. Lugia also comes into the film really late; you'd almost call him Venom from Spider-Man 3. Also, there was so much potential for all these traveling Pokémon to completely join in and wreak all sorts of havoc, but no, they just stand there for moral support—it's a complete sham.
As the opening credits play and Ash releases Snorlax onto a small boat—almost capsizing it instantly—you know right from the start that our hero is not a clever lad. This film is a bit different, however; Ash is the chosen one, and as such, the fate of the world rests in his dumb little hands. Ash takes an instant liking to this title; instead of spending the night partying at the celebration held in his honor with the cute chick that's clearly flirting with him, he rushes off in the middle of the night to sail away once more on a tiny boat. Turns out that last "worst storm ever" wasn't so bad in comparison...
Throughout the entire movie, Ash doesn't seem to know what he's doing, though he's sure as hell determined to do it. Keep in mind, this is the kind of hero that charges into an electrical cage first and uses his Pokémon to break it second. After collecting two of the three orbs he needs, he seems to completely forget that he's the chosen one. Thankfully, the ancient prophets were smart enough to mention him directly by name. Most prophets are vague and use metaphors; these guys knew that if they weren't as clear as possible, the world would be doomed by Ash's idiocy. He eventually succeeds, though it's kind of hard not to when literally thousands of Pokémon, including Lugia, are gathered around to step in at the first signs of failure. Yes, the world depending on Ash sent such a feeling of doom through so many Pokémon that thousands of them from all over the region instantly rushed to the Orange Islands to ensure he couldn't mess it up. There is, quite rightfully, zero confidence in his competence. What a hero!
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