All the best things were created in the 90’s. Well, I’m always going to say that as I was born in the 90’s; It has nostalgia. With this in mind I’ve decided to start a new feature on the blog. With the power of hindsight I’m going to look back at the brilliant things from my childhood, and see if my years in the real world have jaded me and turned me against them. Oh, I’m not doing this alone either. I’ve dragged Ian into it too. With him being even more pessimistic than myself, I thought he’d be the right guy for the job. In our inaugural entry we are going to take a look at Pokemon the first movie. Because nothing else screams 90’s pop culture like Pokemon! In preparation for this both myself and Ian rewatched our cherished childhood film armed with a trusty notepad and a pen (or MacBook in Ian’s case; Matt note: I swear notepad and pen is always the way to go), and this my friends is what we came up with. Enjoy.
Matt: Seriously I loved this film. I remember being so hyped by it, then again most children where. I begged my mother to take me, and by begged I mean i actually begged. In the end she decided the only way to shut me up was to take me. I sat there for 71 minutes and loved every single second. For my mother though, it was the longest 4260 seconds of her life. But hey, she took me, and for that I am forever thankful. If i’m ever misfortunate enough to have children, then I’ll repay them the favour by taking them to see whatever crappy films they want. Now that i’m an adult, though I can see where she was coming from. Lets be honest, this isn’t a great film.
Ian: In order for a film to draw the audience in it needs an emotional opening, this usually comes in the form of a relatable character. Someone the audience can identify with and journey with as the story progresses. Unfortunately for Pokemon the First Movie, that character is the villain – Mewtwo. Mewtwo is a clone, made for the sole purpose of being the world’s most powerful Pokemon. He has the power of thought and free-will though. When his makers wish to conduct experiments on him he does the only sensible thing, kills them all and escapes. He just wants to be free. He is then helped by a noble stranger who teaches him how to harness and control his powers, until the stranger turns out to be the person who commissioned his making and demands to be his master. Mewtwo proceeds to kill him as well. So at the beginning of this 70 minute film we are shown a antagonist who we can relate to, someone who wants to be free and treated as an equal – regardless of how they came into this world. We can also empathise with why he does the horrible things he does, which makes it all the harder to root for the ‘true heroes’ later on in the film. It doesn’t help that the protagonists are slave drivers themselves who capture sentient beings and make them fight for their fun. Ash (the main good-guy) is even shown at the beginning of the film as someone who doesn’t want to do chores to help his friends but will more than happily allow his Pokemon to fight a complete stranger. Kids movies only work when the good/evil balance is black/white. This is every shade of grey.
Matt: Ian just hit the nail on the head here. This film opens in a confusing manner. I know it’s there to show us that there is a grey area between good and evil, but in a kids film that’s just too much. Plus I know it links in with the anime, with the whole super powerful metal Pokemon thing, but still it’s all a bit much. The film then moves on from its muddied morality and shows us Ash accepting an invitation to a meeting of the strongest trainers. Ash, really!? I know the show keeps telling us Ash is a strong trainer, but we rarely see him win anything. We are supposed to believe that his strength is in his empathy, but you’ve got to throw him a won once in awhile. In the context of this as a stand alone film though, I’ll let it slide. Once we get through this we are taken to a town in the middle of a storm. You see Mewtwo starts the storm so that only the strongest trainers will make it to his island, with all the boats being stopped. The strongest trainers and team rocket that is. In spite of them sucking they still make it. It is also at this point we are introduced to the idea of magic Pokemon tears. Bare that in mind, it gets important later.
Ian: There was one particular line that stood out to me. It was during the section where Mewtwo has taken all the Pokemon’s powers away so that they can only fight hand to hand in order to see whether clones are originals are indeed the stronger Pokemon. It’s a truly horrific scene, so grim it made Watership Down look cuddly (only kidding), but what ruined it was when Nurse Joy said “Pokemon aren’t meant to fight, not like this. What good can come out of it?”.
I’m sorry, but having enslaved animals fight with fists is bad but electrocuting each other is fine? There’s also the issue of Mewtwo seeing the good in people when he accidentally kills Ash. Again, he killed dozens of people at the beginning, people who are technically his parents don’t forget, yet one little animal enslaver gets killed and it’s all sad!? Plus due to some magic all the human’s memories get wiped so it may as well not have happened at all. The ending felt rushed, seriously rushed. The beginning is great, filled with really dark undertones about freedom and how destructive humans can be. The middle is passable with the same-old story about a true hero blah blah blah. And the ending is just awful, rushing through the final points so that the film is short enough so the kiddiewinks don’t get restless in the cinema. There’s my thoughts.
Matt: I think Ian has summed this up quite well. In the end the tears of Pokemon bring Ash back to life (see I told you that would get important). After that Mewtwo learns to not blame all the people and takes his clones away to create his utopia. The ending is quite the cop out. With that being said though, they needed to reset everything so to not affect the cannon of the TV show. To the adult me, the memory wipe is insulting, but to the child me it was awesome. All that I was thinking was that Ash will meet Mewtwo later in the show and suddenly remember everything. The child me was also really happy to get a rad promo card. Actually I got all three, because my Aunty ran the cinema, but that’s besides the point.
Overall this film is best left as a piece of nostalgia. As I said at the start this isn’t a good film, but it’s better than a Michael Bay film, and to that effect better than World War Z. In the end though this is a loss for adulthood and a victory for childhood.
By Matt Husselbury (@Messiah_MPH) & Ian Dutton
[further note: We didn’t review Pikachu’s vaction. One because I forgot all about it, and two because…no , I just forgot]