If you follow my various articles here at Gayming Magazine, then you already know I’m a huge Pokemon fan. As with others in my age bracket, the first generation of Pokemon and their respective media – cards, toys, shows and movies – have a special place in my heart; so I was both excited and skeptical when I heard they were remaking Mewtwo Strikes Back, formerly known as Pokemon: The First Movie. The original 1998 movie was directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and although Yuyama returned to helm the new film with Motonori Sakakibara, there was a large part of me that felt like Mewtwo Strikes Back is a story that didn’t need to be tinkered and tampered with.
Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution screened in Japan during the summer of 2019 before hitting Netflix in most territories last week. The film serves as an origin story for Mewtwo, who begins the narrative by escaping from the lab he was bio-engineered in before falling into the clutches of Team Rocket leader Giovanni; who uses his power to battle and steal innocent Pokemon trainers’ beloved friends. Bewildered by the hostile world around him, Mewtwo becomes determined to showcase his superiority while simultaneously ending the bond between humans and Pokemon. After luring a number of talented trainers – including Ash, Misty and Brock – to an an island on the high seas, the competitors are horrified to find a batch of clones working at Mewtwo’s bidding. Ash then becomes charged with saving the world from the powerful Pokemon’s spite as well as strengthening the bonds between trainers and Pokemon like never before.
Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution contains very few differences from its predecessor, which was exactly what was promised when producers called it a “shot-for-shot remake.” There are subtle creative decisions that make certain scenes look different – like composition, appearances, background animation – but you’re mostly watching the same movie. It was a welcomed walk down memory lane, and I found myself rediscovering parts of the movie I had forgotten over time. Nurse Joy is missing? Did generation two Pokemon really show up in a film before they popped up in the video game? Did Brock have that Pokemon the whole time? It was nostalgic, yes, but also unnecessary. I would have experienced the same journey if I watched the original 1998 title.
What started to throw me off was the voices. Pikachu, Togepi and Mew are the same actors from the original, and everyone else was replaced for some reason. I should note, however, that the Japanese version contains many more repeat performers who were lost during the English dub. While it’s true that I couldn’t remember a chunk of the story material, the voices of these beloved characters are always stuck in my head. So, when I hear a voice that’s “similar” but not on the mark, I start to lose interest.
What threw me off next was the fact that Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution looks like an aborted Pixar movie. I hated the faces, as they are almost completely void of emotion and characterization. In my opinion, Ash, Misty and Brock look several years older than their given ages, and Jessie and James look much younger. The body movements of the human characters aren’t fluid nor realistic enough for a title with this level of CGI animation, and my god, could someone please turn the lights down. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution is far too bright and shiny. I know it’s a colorful world, but damn…
To put a cap on this review, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution succeeds in bringing back a piece of nostalgia from your childhood, but fails to feel like that important time and dream-like vision in your head. Its aesthetics aren’t pleasing to the eyes or ears at all, and you just can’t obtain the same emotional punch a second time around.