Welcome to Pokemon Catch-Up! Usually each article focuses on an episode of the Pokemon Fast Track Viewing List, a concise list of Pokemon episodes that had a meaningful impact on Ash and his journeys.

Today, we’re going off the original track to look at the first Pokemon movie. If you didn’t know, PUCL has a movie club that already covered this movie. So for in-depth discussion of the movie, its quality, the plot, and so on, be sure to give it a listen. If you’re looking for a quick movie summary however, this is the right place. Since the movie is several times the length of a typical episode, I’m splitting up the coverage into three parts. It’s long-enough for that, trust me.

Today’s Movie: Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back

Synopsis

The movie intro tells us about life and how Pokemon and humans have searched for their meaning. In the background, we hear cryptic voices. This tale, the narrator tells us, is about the most powerful Pokemon ever.

We cut to an eye opening and looking out of some kind of tank at a handful of doctors. It looks like it’s a Pokemon and we hears inner dialogue. An alarm sounds, and the scientists are panicking. The Pokemon uses its psychic power to break out of the tank where it was suspended by wires and instead of running away, the scientists are fascinated by its power. A scientist gives us some exposition on the situation.

They’ve been trying to clone an improved Mew, the rarest of all Pokemon, and Mewtwo was the only surviving attempt.

The scientists have enhanced its Psychic powers. They congratulate each other and Mewtwo uses its powers to overthrow its given destiny: to be a test subject. The laboratory collapses under the attack and Mewtwo walks through the resulting fires, using some kind of energy blast to wipe the entire building off the face of the island.

Giovanni flies in on his helicopter to confront Mewtwo. He offers Mewtwo a partnership in order to conquer the world. He baits the Pokemon to join him and learn to control its powers.

We cut to a sequence where an elaborate armor encases Mewtwo, suppressing but focusing its powers.

Giovanni then summons Mewtwo to fight an Onix in his gym. Mewtwo throws the Pokemon across the wall in a split second without any effort. We then see Mewtwo lift a herd of Tauros for Team Rocket to capture. It even fights against Alakazam, bending its spoons. It stops Magneton’s electric attack and sends it back.

We cut to Mewtwo fighting off a Gary’s Nidoking and Arcanine. The Pokemon ponders its purpose and Giovanni answers that it was to serve him. The human promptly changes his deal with Mewtwo, telling it that it was a Pokemon and could never be equal to humans.

Mewtwo uses its anger to unleash its power. It destroys the base and flies straight into the air, losing its armor as it speeds up. Mewtwo then lands on the very same island where it was created.

Mewtwo vows to find his own purpose and destroy everyone in his way.

Phew, with the prologue done, our narrator turns to Ash, Brock, and Misty taking a break from their usual lives. They’re by the ocean, Brock is cooking, and it’s a beautiful day out.

That’s when a random trainer appears and challenges Ash to a battle. Ash jumps up from his tired stupor and calls out his bulbasaur. The opposing trainer sends out a Donphan. Wait, wait, that’s a Gen II Pokemon, isn’t it? We’re finally there, at the edge of entering Gen II, the Gold and Silver era.

Let’s step back a bit, the battle plays out as credits run and an alternative version of the usual Anime intro plays. Bulbasaur uses a Solar Beam, wait what? Ash sends out his Squirtle and the other trainer uses his Machamp. The two fight and Squirtle wins. Ash sends out his Pikachu to finish off the rest of his enemy’s Pokemon.

Note: I tried my best to estimate where this movie would fit into in the narrative of Catch Up. I’m a 100% sure that it fits in before the Pokemon League and after the last episode we reviewed. There aren’t any more Catch-Up episodes before the League so this seems like a good fit. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect!

We zoom out to see Team Rocket following and spying on Ash and his friends. The trio can’t stop admiring all the food that our heroes can eat.

And we zoom out once more to see someone sitting in a chair watching large monitors that have pictures of Ash on them. A woman approaches this person and calls him Master. She asks if she should send out an invitation to these trainers.

A Dragonite exits a tall tower and flies across the water toward our group. It lands and gives Ash an invitation from its carrier bag. The invitation is a card with a hologram of the woman we saw previously. She invites Ash, Misty, and Brock to take a ferry to the island and meet her master.

As the Dragonite tries to fly away, Team Rocket stops it and find Ash’s invitation.

We cut to the “Master” who lifts up his hand (and it turns out to be Mewtwo’s hand) and spins his fingers in a circular motion. This motion forms storm clouds, the wind picks up, and so does the roughness of the ocean. On another side of the world, Mew awakens.

Back at the port city, Ash, Misty, and Brock run through the rain toward the docks where they can board a ferry. Inside, there are lots of trainers eagerly waiting for a ferry to take them to the island. They, like Ash, got an invitation. The ferry was cancelled.

The Harbor Manager tells the trainers a story of a deadly storm that has the power to wipe out all but a few Pokemon and that this storm might be it. She also tells that the Pokemon’s sorrow, and their tears, will restore everyone back to life.

A water trainer steps up and boasts that he’ll swim to the island. Officer Jenny warns that if the trainer gets hurt, he won’t be helped because the Pokemon Center had shut down. Apparently, Nurse Joy is nowhere to be found.

Several trainers persist in their endeavor to reach the island. One trainer flies using his Pidgeot. Another trainer rides on the back of a Gyarados. The Harbor Manager and Jenny run after them but can’t catch up.

Our group of heroes reach the end of a dock but realize that their Pokemon won’t be able to cross the ocean. That’s when, very conveniently, two Vikings show up with a boat, ready to take Ash and his friends to the new island.

The Vikings are, of course, Team Rocket but our heroes don’t know that. They get on the boat and make their way out into the sea. Brock remarks that he didn’t know Vikings still existed and Ash cracks his iconic joke “They mostly live in Minnesota” — a line that forever made the USA (and American Football) canon in the Pokemon universe.

The boat rocks violently but Jessie and James keep up their efforts. Unfortunately, a large wave washes over them and Team Rocket’s disguises disappear. They try to say their motto but another wave crashes over them, pushing everyone under water.

Misty calls out her Staryu and they swim up to save Brock. Ash is already under water with his Squirtle. They band together and weather the rough waves, occasionally diving into the ocean.

They stay under water as long as possible and then head toward a light they see coming in from the surface. They find themselves right outside of the large storm. The starry sky right above them and the mysterious island not too far from them.

Meanwhile, Mew is flying over the storm and to the island. The island itself looks quite strange with thin natural pillars holding it up like a platform, and windmills dotting various parts of a main building that encompasses most of the island. Well here, just look at the picture.

As they swim closer, they find and climb up onto a dock. The mysterious woman from the invitation hologram greets them. Ash presents her with his invitation. Brock realizes that the woman is, in fact, the missing Nurse Joy! The woman replies that she’s always served her master on the island and leads them further into the istand.

Mew flies down and inspects the New Island, marveling at the wind mills.

Meanwhile, Ash and his friends climb up a long rocky stair way all the way to a tall room with a single massive door.

Note: The interior design of the main building within reminds me a lot of Alien or at least the movie Prometheus. This movie is ripe with amazing art and imagery. We get tons of different angles of the island which show every last bit of it, including a Pokemon arena open to the sky.

Through the door, they heroes find themselves in a large hall. Ash and his friends quickly find out that other trainers have made the journey, three to be exact. The lady from the invitation beckons them to release all of their Pokemon from their Pokeballs and the door slams shut behind them.

And that’s it for Part I! I originally intended to make this movie a 2-parter but it’s honestly very difficult to section it up like that. Unless the story gets a little sparse in the next half an hour of the movie, I don’t think I’ll split it only into 2 pieces.

The movie is slowly picking up and we’re finally done with majority of the exposition.

Trivia

  • Ash mentions a real-world place: Minnesota and alludes to their football team the Vikings (this joke isn’t translated into every dub of the movie)
  • There is a trainer that seems to easily fly through the storm; however, he never makes it to the island and is never referred to again.
  • There is an intro to the movie that was cut in the English version (check Youtube!) and it features a better introduction to who Mewtwo is and how it was created as well as the motivation behind his creation. I suggest you watch it. It’s called “Origin of Mewtwo”
  • Japanese story made Mewtwo out in a more favorable light while the English dub recast him as a very cruel villain. In fact, it’s almost an entirely different story
  • the movie was original conceived as the series finale.
  • the theatrical release of the movie had a giveaway of several Pokemon including an ancient Mew card