Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Pokemon: The First Movie

posted by rkumar
Lowest Recommended Age:Preschool
Violence/Scariness:A lot of G-rated battles, child appears dead
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters, but sexist treatment of girls
Movie Release Date:1999
DVD Release Date:1999

Human scientists have figured out a way to create a bigger and stronger clone of the most powerful Pokemon ever, Mew. The result is a sort of Maxi-Mew called Mewtwo. Mewtwo decides to go after that goal of all movie bad guys worth their salt, total world domination, by capturing and cloning all the Pokemons.

Mewtwo lures the best Pokemon masters to his island for the ultimate battle. He points out – and here I have to side with him – that the Pokemons are slaves to the humans. Then each of the Pokemons has to fight its clone in a sort of existential crisis. This was very appealing to the little boy in front of me, who chanted happily, “Two Pikachus, two Jigglypuff, two Bublasaur…” like a Pokemon Noah. Then it all ends happily – if hypocritically, with everyone in favor of cooperation instead of fighting. (NOTE: The movie is preceded by a strange short movie about a Pokemon trip to an amusement park.)

Anyone who has ever seen the TV series, played the game, or bought the cards knows what to expect here. Every generation of children has some hideously annoying cartoon series to provide parents with much agonizing and many, many buying opportunities. The characters usually undergo some transformation or make use of a secret to attain power. This theme is endlessly interesting to kids who can feel overwhelmed by a world built on a scale that is often too large for them.

Kids, especially those ages 6-10, also love to memorize and sort endless facts, whether about Pokemons, dinosaurs, cars, or Beanie Babies. It gives them a sense of mastery, especially because they can do so much better than adults. And it becomes an important part of their social development, creating a shared language with their friends. This can be particularly meaningful for kids who are insecure about talking to other children.

Still, excruciating as it can be for parents to endure, it may be worthwhile for kids to see the movie. If it makes it any easier, remember that before too long, this will be over and by the time the next one comes along your children will be past that stage.

  • Toby Clark

    “Mewtwo lures the best Pokemon masters to his island for the ultimate battle. He points out – and here I have to side with him – that the Pokemons are slaves to the humans.”
    I strongly disagree on this point. Admittedly it’s more evident in the TV series than in this movie, but the trainers we sympathise with (including Team Rocket on occasion) are generally the ones who make the most effort at genuine friendship with their Pokemon. The most unlikeable characters, such as Gary, Paul and Giovanni (the one who uses Mewtwo in his gym before he escapes), are the ones more likely to treat their pokemon as tools to be exploited if they’re powerful enough, and to discard them if they’re not. I recommend having a look at the early episodes of the anime, especially the first two, where Ash struggles to gain Pikachu’s trust and loyalty, and episodes 10 11 and 12 where he captures the Kanto starters (the first Pokemon offered at the start of the Red and Blue games). The episode Pikachu’s Goodbye is another demonstration of Ash’s attitude to Pokemon.
    That being said, I acknowledge that it is easy to sympathise with Mewtwo when his history of explotation by Dr. Fuji and Giovanni are taken into account. But this is intentional, and is apparently a lot more evident in the Japanese version, although I haven’t seen it yet.
    I agree about the “Fighting is wrong” message, but I don’t think it’s that hypocritical because they at least try to distinguish between battling for sport and the fight to the death that Mewtwo is forcing. Again, these script problems apparently don’t come from the Japanese version, which is why I’m keen to track down a copy.

  • Nell Minow

    Toby, I defer to your far greater expertise!

  • Mike

    um…what was sexist about it?

  • Nell Minow

    Um, why don’t girls get to be Pokemon champions?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    I don’t remember that being the case in this movie, and it definitely isn’t in the games or the anime. Each region has at least three female gym leaders out of eight gyns (although some gyms in later games have multiple leaders), the Elite Four has one or two female trainers in each game, and the Sinnoh Regional Champion is Cynthia (up until Lucas or Dawn defeats her), who also appears in a cameo in Unova as the strongest trainer. That’s not going into the fact that in the anime every region’s police department and health services are almost entirely staffed by women from one of two families. I would also point out Neesha, one of the few trainers in this movie who made it through the storm, whose Blastoise was defeated just as quickly as Corey’s Venusaur, and Misty, who is significantly more experienced a trainer that Ash at this point (one of the Kanto Gym Leaders in the games and eventually in the anime), albeit less ambitious.

    So yeah, I’m not really sure what you’re basing that on either.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    “why don’t girls get to be Pokemon champions?”

    I apologise for the ensuing wall of text, but what are you basing this on? In the games and the anime, at least three out of each region’s 8-11 gym leaders are women, as are one or two of each game’s Elite Four and the Sinnoh Regional Champion Cynthia, who also appears as a Bonus Boss in Pokemon Black/White. Then there’s the fact that every region’s police department and health services are almost entirely staffed by women from one of two families. All of the handheld Pokemon games since Crystal have had an optional female player character. And in this movie, I would point out Misty, who is considerably more experienced a trainer than Ash (being one of a family of Gym Leaders) if less ambitious; and Neesha, one of the few trainers to make it through the storm, and whose Blastoise was defeated no less quickly than Corey’s Venusaur.

    • Nell Minow

      I appreciate that, Toby, but I was reviewing the movie, within its own four corners. I’m glad to know that the movie’s lack of female champions is not continued into the other formats! And I always appreciate you expertise, the more detail the better.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    “I appreciate that, Toby, but I was reviewing the movie, within its own four corneers. I’m glad to know that the movie’s lack of female champions is not continued into the other formats!”

    Well, yeah, I don’t expect you to do massive amounts of research for every franchise you come across. Even I had to recheck on the exact stats for much of that last comment (and this one).

    But my main problem is your misapplication of “Champion.” In the games it designates anyone who has beaten the Elite Four and the previous Champion. In the anime it’s the same except one has to win a regional tournement, such as the Indigo League Competition or the Silver Conference, to qualify. By either of those definitions, there are no male champions in the movie either. The highest ranking trainer in the movie is Giovanni, who as far as I know has never been ranked higher than Gym Leader (and he resigned from that position thanks to the events of this movie anyway), just as Brock and Misty were. In addition, Brock is no longer a competitive trainer whereas Misty has since returned to her Gym. Also, Misty would beat both Brock and probably Giovanni easily thanks to elemental advantages. (Water beats rock and ground).

    And yes, I get that these are details that non-fans in the audience aren’t expected to be familiar with. But even if I only take the movie into account, I just don’t see evidence of discrmination, especially when there’s an excellent counter-example in Neesha, who is shown to be a good enough trainer that her party are all fully evolved, and is brave enough to risk going through the storm on the back of a 5’7″ Dewgong.

    I agree that this movie has a lot of problems (incompetent translators, for starters:, but sexism is not one of them, and the worst I can accuse it of in this area is pushing Neesha (along with Corey and Fergus) into the background in favour of the regular cast after the first hour.

    • Nell Minow

      I appreciate the insight and background, Toby, thanks!

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