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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/21/00

Pokémon: The First Movie
Mewtwo Strikes Back

1999 (2000) - Warner Bros.

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Pokemon: The First Movie Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B+

Specs and Features

96 mins, G, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailer, feature-length commentary by English adaptation director Michael Haigney and producer Norman J. Grossfeld, production notes, Pikachu's Vacation minimovie, 2 Pokémon essays, sneak preview of the second Pokémon movie (note: Lord help us!), music video of M2M's Don't Say You Love Me, film-themed menu screens, scene access (23 chapters - 8 chapters for Pikachu's Vacation), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French, Closed Captioned

"You have been summoned to the ultimate Pokémon showdown!"

Where, oh where, do I begin? Pokémon: The First Movie is released on DVD. That should be enough information, but since I'm a DVD reviewer, I guess that means it's my duty to fully review this disc. There's just one problem though. IT'S POKÉMON! But that's OK. I can handle this - I think. There is just one other thing though. Because I'm writing this review under duress, I must unveil a new catch-phrase. Whenever something makes absolutely no sense in the sane universe, I will say "WHADAFRIK!?" Brace yourself. You're about to hear that phrase a good many times.

We'll begin with a little explanation. I will try to make this as understandable as possible to the Pokémon uninitiated, so bear with me. Ash Ketchum is a Pokémon trainer. In other words, he catches Pokémon (cute little creatures with special powers) and trains them. Then, his Pokémon fight other people's Pokémon. If you're a parent, you'll be reassured to know that the cute little creatures never die. When they lose a battle, they simply get exhausted and pass out. For those of you affiliated with PETA, you'll be happy to know that the Pokémon are not just slaves to be pitted against each other. The bond between a Pokémon and their trainer is like that of best friends. OK, everybody happy now? Good. Let's move on.

In this first film outing, we have Mewtwo. Mewtwo is a clone of Mew, a fabled and all-mighty Pokémon. Mewtwo quickly turns on his human creators and, with a bit of trickery, summons the greatest of Pokémon trainers to his island. Ash happens to be one of those great ones. The plot is revealed, but Mewtwo is too strong to be defeated, so all of the Pokémon get captured and cloned. The culmination of this little festival of fun is an epic battle between the "Poké-originals" and the clones. I won't ruin the ending for you (if it is at all possible to ruin something like this), but a happy ending with an overstated moral is what you'll walk away with. Children love this. My response is basically, Whadafrik!?

Believe me, though, when I tell you that my wrath is not as much with the movie but the treatment it got for DVD. Usually, we bash a disc when it comes up short on the extras or if the video and audio is poor. Not this time. You see, while a full-fledged campaign has failed to garner us a single Star Wars disc, this piece of cow dung got a feature-length commentary track! Whadafrik!? While Kubrick's masterpieces could look (a lot) better, this cartoon love-in looks great! Whadafrik!? A great piece of film in Hoosiers gets a god-awful new 5.1 mix, and Pokémon sounds wonderful and all-encompassing. I have to say this again. Whadafrik!? Do I sound frustrated? I am.

The details play out like this. The video transfer is full frame only (and thus is obviously not anamorphic). This is understandable given the target audience, and the disc looks solid. The colors are vibrant, and grain isn't really visible. In fact, the three-dimensional animation looks incredibly good. The story sucks and the characters are down right annoying, but the animation is great. The audio is good with a nice 5.1 transfer that really brings the emotional impact of the soundtrack home. It pains me to say this, but the music is entirely appropriate and effective.

The extras, however, are where this disc really shines. I'm beginning to experience massive headaches, just praising this disc, but I have to. Aside from the aforementioned commentary (why!?), there is a solid if forgettable music video, some bonus footage clips (which serve as promo material and nothing else), a preview of the sequel, and the mini-movie (Pikachu's Vacation). There's even a healthy dose of DVD-ROM material here, with virtual trading cards, Nintendo game guides and genre essays. The essays alone deserve a very robust Whadafrik!? Look, this disc is fabulous from top to bottom. I cannot deny that. What I can do is piss and moan about why THIS movie got picked for all of this.

In the end we have a bad movie that children will absolutely adore, with extras out the wahzoo that most kids will not even care about. In the meantime, so many great titles are either MIA or sitting on shelves with bad quality or no extras. I just can't get anything more out than Whadafrik!?

Brad Pilcher
[email protected]

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