Welcome to the first installment of Pokemon Movies in Review, a weekly recap of the entire Pokemon Cinematic Universe. This week, we’re taking a look at Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back, which is, believe it or not, still the longest running title in any Pokemon movie. ’90s kids will have fond memories of dragging their parents to the theater to see Mewtwo Strikes Back and score this cute Ancient Mew promo card (did you know you can buy an NM Ancient Mew right now for under $ 20! ?) but if you haven’t revisited this classic since then it could be very different from what you remember.

I wasn’t aware of it, but the Japanese version of Mewtwo Strikes Back has a completely different start that changes the whole movie. The original version of the film begins with an expedition to an ancient forest to retrieve a DNA sample from the mythical Mew. Then, Mewtwo is created in a lab and we see the first moments of its existence. This baby Mewtwo floats in endless space, questioning the nature of his existence, when approached by four other clones: Charmandertwo, Bulbasaurtwo, Squirtletwo and a young girl named Ambertwo. It turns out the scientist leading the cloning initiative – which is funded by Team Rocket leader Giovanni – just wants to find a way to clone his deceased daughter, Amber.

Related: Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Is A Masterclass On Absurdism

Ambertwo befriends Mewtwo and helps him understand the world. She shows him the city where she grew up, teaches her about the sun and the moon, and does her best to answer her big questions about life and purpose. Suddenly something is wrong with the cloning process, and Ambertwo and the other Pokemon clones disappear. Distraught, Mewtwo begins to attack his powers, but scientists put him in stasis for two years.

mewtwo baby

From there, the film generally takes the same path in both versions, although a lot of the dialogue changes towards the end, which changes the themes of the film quite dramatically. American audiences didn’t see this intro until it was included as a special feature in the direct-to-video sequel Mewtwo Returns a few years later. Now, some versions of the film include this opening act, but the rest of the film remains consistent with the American film version.

After looking at both versions, I found the original Japanese version to be far superior. In the American version, Mewtwo is simply a power-hungry bully who wants to destroy the world to punish humanity for enslaving the Pokémon, but in the original version, he’s a much nicer character with very different motivations. After losing his only friend and escaping the lab, Mewtwo’s existential uncertainty and despair lead him to Giovanni, who promises to give him a purpose. From Giovanni, Mewtwo learns that his goal is to be the most powerful Pokemon ever created. In both versions, he’s mad at the humans for what they’ve done to him, but the original version portrays him in a much nicer light. In trying to restructure the film to have a clearer ‘good versus evil’ narrative, the American version has lost much of the depth of Mewtwo’s characters and dropped all of the really interesting themes its origin points to, like l ethics of cloning, genetics manipulation and existentialism.

The American version also tries to tie everything together with an anti-violence message that is not part of the original story at all. Meowth’s awareness that he and his clone shouldn’t be fighting because they probably have a lot in common falls flat when you consider that battles are a vital part of what Pokemon is. When the Pokémon and their clones are done fighting, the human characters realize that Pokémon shouldn’t be fighting, which really doesn’t make sense.

But the Japanese version gives them a better message, which fits the film’s themes and Mewtwo’s motivations much better. Instead of realizing that violence is bad, the bottom line is that clones and “real” Pokémon are equal and their lives are valuable just because they exist. That’s what moves Mewtwo, who realizes he doesn’t have to prove he’s the strongest to get a goal. Mewtwo finally realizes that his life has meaning and that his rigid understanding of Pokémon freedom and slavery was wrong. Now he is finally free to seek his own goal. It’s not a perfect resolution, but it’s a lot more nuanced than the American version.

As shallow as my childhood version may seem now, it will always have a special place in my heart. I remember the exact seat I was sitting in at the Mid Rivers Mall cinema when I saw Pokemon: The First Movie in 1999. I remember how excited I was to see the Pirate Trainer’s Donphan in battle during the credits, as well as Snubull and Marill during Pikachu’s vacation, as they were Gen 2 Pokémon that no one had ever seen before. I’ve seen new attacks that have never been seen before in games or anime, like Blastoise’s Rapid Spin and MewTwo’s Shadow Ball. Just seeing Ash and Pikachu on the big screen was so exciting it always makes me dizzy to think about it.

mewto baby 2

As an adult, I noticed a few moments that I missed as a kid. In the American version, when Team Rocket picks up Ash and his friends on the boat, Brock says he didn’t realize the Vikings still existed, to which Ash replies that most of them live in Minnesota. . It’s a cute throwaway joke, but it technically confirms the existence of the actual United States in the Pokemon universe, so it’s something.

In the end, it is still the emotional weight of the film’s great moments that carries him today. Pikachu is really the heart of the movie and you feel everything he feels throughout the movie. I was on the edge of my seat as Pikachu tried to run away from Mewtwo’s flying pokeballs, and when he desperately tried to revive Ash’s lifeless body at the end, it still choked me. I love “Brother My Brother,” the song that plays during The Big Battle, and I’ve always wanted Game Freak to introduce these clone Pokémon spotted in the games in some way or another. Maybe they’ll end up in Pokemon GO when Niantic runs out of new Pokemon to add.

Pokemon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back is an outstanding Pokemon movie, but it maybe even better now than it was then if you can get your hands on the original Japanese version. Next week we’ll be back to Pokemon: The Movie 2000, a movie one reviewer said you should avoid unless “a) your child refused to eat until you take him or her, or b) your house is being fumigated to kill a West Nile virus mosquito infestation. But, there’s Lugia, so how bad could that be?

Next: Ash To Talk About His Father For The First Time In Upcoming Pokemon Movie


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