Pokémon loves to celebrate the anniversary of Red and Green’s release in Japan in special ways, and Pokémon the 1st Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back holds a special place in the hearts of millions of Pokémon fans. Pokémon Day 2020 marked the global launch of Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution. Available on Netflix, this movie provided younger and newer fans an opportunity to experience the magic of the first feature-length Pokemon movie experience. Older fans got to relieve that magic and nostalgia. How does it hold up and was it worth the effort to go back to their roots rather than create something new?
When most people think about Pokemon, they think about the 2D art style that has been present throughout the Anime, Games, TCG, and other media. CGI has the potential to be impressive but it can also just as easily make the animation weird. Having experienced a taste of CGI Pokemon from Detective Pikachu last year, it did help with that transition. Overall, the CGI felt faithful to the familiar designs of Ash, Brock, Misty, Pikachu, and the rest of the human and Pokemon cast alike. Many Pokemon such as Rapidash benefited from the detail the CGI art style provided, and if anything it made Mewtwo look even more serious and Mew even cuter.
This adaptation of Mewtwo Strikes Back is more closely linked to the Japanese version. Errors such as Team Rocket referring to Scyther as Alakazam were removed, as well as “typical 4Kids humor” such as the infamous Minnesota Vikings reference. These differences were welcome as they more accurately reflected the gravity of the movie’s central points while still maintaining some aspects of humor (mainly through Team Rocket). A few other scenes and dialogue were added such as Brock analyzing Neesha’s team and proceeding to fall in love with her.
All of the original movie’s soundtrack was removed with the exception of a new cover of the classic Pokemon opening theme during Ash’s battle vs Raymond. The removal of “Brother, My Brother” during the battles between the clone and original Pokemon in favor of a lyricless but intense score was a controversial decision. The former song made these battles more emotionally intense, while this score provided a more serious intensity. The end credit song “Keep Evolving” was another emotional but more upbeat piece of music that captured a lot of the feelings this movie inspired very well.
In the aforementioned battle against Raymond, his Golem in the original movie was replaced with a Drowzee to correct the error in which Pikachu knocked out a Ground-type Pokemon with an Electric-type move. Charizard, Psyduck, and Vulpix appeared in more scenes such as during the picnic at the beginning of the movie. Mentions of Wingull (as well as an appearance in the credits) and the use of moves such as Energy Ball and Leaf Storm in the Venusaur showdown helped this movie live up to the word “Evolution” in its title by bringing in elements of later generations into a nostalgic favorite. These are just a few examples of the level of detail on display.
If you seek a completely new and unique Pokemon movie experience, you will be disappointed. That being said, there is enough new content, albeit in subtle amounts, to keep things interesting as the viewer relives the memory of the original movie. Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution shows that Pokemon can continue to move forward, or evolve, while still staying true to itself and the values of its earliest days. This movie is an enjoyable Pokemon experience and one that will make you laugh, cry and think. Whether it’s a familiar story or not, that sounds like a worthwhile movie experience.