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Pokemon: The First Movie

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Pokemon: The First Movie

Starring: Ikue Ootani, Veronica Taylor
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Rated: G
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genres: Animation, Kids

Review by UK Critic
2 stars out of 4

Pokémon are cartoon warrior pets that are stored in magical tennis balls and carried around by human masters. The characters began life in a Nintendo video game and then inspired an immensely popular card activity that is essentially a dressed-up version of Trump Cards. There's also a comic book and television show. It's a weird and soulless phenomenon, exclusively for people under the age of twelve, who seem less interested in the merchandise itself than its escalating monetary value.

The TV programme is the most detestable of these spin-offs; the Japanese style of animation makes the Pokémon look like mouldings of gelatinous goop, and the dialogue and voices are a reminder of such crude productions as "Speed Racer" and "Lost in Space". It was therefore with great reservations that I entered "Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Stikes Back". My mood was worsened by the preceding 20-minute short film, which played like a bad acid trip.

In the story, a genetically modified Pokémon named Mewtwo plans to lure the greatest living Pokémon to his island for a fight tournament, and then kill them and create improved clones. He's ever so subtle in revealing his plans: "I shall destroy you for consorting with humans, and then take over the world with a band of super-Pokémon!"

Most of the running time is taken up by long Pokémon battles. We also get so many meditations on the greatness of the Pokémon way that you'd think it was a real religion. The movie is an overlong advertisement; logos and brand names are all over the place, and the only function of the human characters is to collect more Pokémon. "The Simpsons" couldn't satirise this, because it's far too over the top already.

If we ignore how dangerous this kind of materialist brainwashing is for our children, we can possibly enjoy "Pokémon: The First Movie" as good cheesy fun. It's hard not to admire the courage of a film that actually has lines like "Now I realise we weren't put on this earth to fight each other!" and "I guess we've all learned an important lesson!" The voice-over narration seems to have come straight out of an infommercial. The Pokémon owners all speak with tones more phoney than those of the humans in the "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" cartoons. And one little Pokémon, a squeaky little thing called Pikachu, is actually rather cute in some tacky kind of way. He made me want to go home and cuddle my dog.

I'm not recommending "Pokémon: The First Movie" because I'm not sure how much of its so-bad-it's-good appeal is intentional, and besides, much of it is boring and repetitive. This is not a wonderful guilty pleasure in the tradition of "Mortal Kombat", although at times it does come close. Possibly my judgement has been coloured by my initial determination to hate the film, but I don't think so; I can admit that it's distinctive and lively, and will probably be eaten up by Pokémon fans. Right after they take their medication.

Copyright © 2000 UK Critic

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