Ahh great Pokemon films, how I’ve missed you! Not for years have you shown your head and truly made a claim for being top class. But once in a while, your franchise comes out with something so magnificent that it sucks all the drifters back in again.
Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You may have been released around 18 months, but… listen, I’ve been busy, ok? And the Pokemon films haven’t been the most magnificent recently, with duller entries like Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel, ALL of the Generation 5 films, and please don’t get me started on the disorganised clusterfuck that was Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. But I found this film on demand, and well… I decided to give it a go.
Like with my previous review, this film will be marked on a simple 100 point system, split into five sections: Graphics (how good did the characters and the backgrounds look), Plot (did the story make sense, was the pacing correct, was the story adequately), Score (how good was the music for the film, did it fit the themes of the film), Characters (Were all the characters relevant and likeable, were their intentions correctly signalled, were they effective in their roles), and Overall Impressions (What did i think of the film as a whole, did everything fit together nicely). Anyway, that’s enough babbling, let’s get reviewing!
When i first saw the updated graphics for the modern generation of Pokemon, oh how I laughed. But, i will admit i was wrong. Because when you see the character models and how they move in the film, it makes total sense. The characters are being drawn with detail that only Japanese artists seem to understand.
The scenery looks brilliant, and some of the scenes (such as the grey buildings crumbling) look fantastic. All the textures look realistic, and each character looks like they took time and effort to create.
The best graphics though came in Sorrel’s backstory, which i will expand on later on. The sight of the frozen Luxray was (no pun intended) absolutely chilling, but it was so beautifully done. Not many places to go with the scoring on this one.
The film is very much split into two acts. The first act is an updated and cut-down version of the first handful of anime episodes, following everyone’s favourite permanent child (other than Peter Pan and members of PETA) Ash Ketchum, who gets his first pokemon aged 10. If you don’t know what a pokemon is, err why are you here? Seriously, how did you get this far? Anyway, focus. I’m just going to go over the important details here, the specifics about the main characters is in the fourth section.
So Ash goes to get his first pokemon, but all the starters have gone (you would think Professor Oak would have measures in place for this), so Ash is instead stuck with an obnoxious Pikachu who won’t get in his Poke Ball and has to be dragged around (to begin with) with what rather resembles an electrical cord. However, a run-in with a flock of angry Spearow bonds them.
After a quite significant time skip, he goes to the Pokemon Centre to… get his ears blasted off by Pokemon’s resident MILF, Delia Ketchum. Talking of blasting off, Team Rocket are in disguises as they are wanted criminals. But they couldn’t have made their disguises any more obvious. It’s here that Ash meets his companions for the film: Sorrel (from Veilstone City, just needs a pair of glasses and a sister to be a spitting image for Max), and Verity (whoever came up with Verity clearly wanted Dawn in the film so badly but was told no so he gave us a partial clone).
From here they sneak up on an Entei (bad idea, also a throwback to Pokemon 3), Ash and Verity argue while Sorrel channels his inner Confucius while proving he watched the weather forecast), then Suicune appears in front of Verity (cool moment, kinda throwback to Pokemon 4), and Ash rescues a Charmander after it’s trainer Cross abandons it, saying there’s Charmanders like it all over the place (again, what was stopping Oak getting one?), leaving Ash to adopt it.
After hiding in a cave, Ash challenges Cross with Charmander (who has now evolved to Charmeleon), and gets pissy when he loses (so heroic!). After a weird alternate reality scene, they take the Rainbow Wing (which he obtained at the start of the film), and go to meet Ho-Oh.
They meet a mountain guide (who is almost certainly a much older Ash imo), and then go to use the Rainbow Wing, but instead have to battle Cross again. Charmeleon evolves (again, to Charizard), and Cross is defeated.
Marshadow then steals the wing (i have no idea why) and turns it dark, while using it to possess about 7000 pokemon which all suddenly happen to live on this remote mountain), causing Ash and co. to fight back.
Eventually Ash takes a hit for Pikachu and disappears, before Pikachu wards off the other pokemon with an electric move. Pikachu then picks Ash’s hat up and cries (throwback to Pokemon 1), somehow causing Ash to return. The important parts of the film end with Ash battling Ho-Oh, to no shown result.
So what do i think of it? I think the plot was generally very good, but the pacing was all over the place at times. Also the film felt like it really lagged in the middle. But I did like the plot other than that. The first half was a nice (if very compressed) throwback to the start of the anime, and the other act was an imaginative story revolving around the mischief of Marshadow). It was good. But far from perfect.
The opening to the film was a cover of the original Pokemon theme song, covered by Ben Dixon. And it was really good. Not quite as good as some other versions (X&Y), but I still love it.
The ending theme is what I really have to talk about though – the atmospheric I Choose You. The lyrics really make you feel like they were thinking of all of Ash’s companions when they wrote it. And the way that Haven Paschall performs it makes it emotional and tender (gee I really like reviewing films that make me cry don’t I?)
I’m not going to keep up the suspense, because the score was really good. And while it wasn’t my absolute favourite cover of the original song, I appreciate the fact they had another version recorded especially. Really very little to complain abut here.
This is where some marks might disappear. Start with Ash, because he is the best character in this. His journey in the film from unprepared rookie to a lionhearted warrior is truly perfect. I only wish they had more time in the film to expand that further.
Verity, as i said earlier on, was clearly a replacement for Dawn for whatever reason. She had a nice personality, and an interesting look, but I just wish they could have had her deviate a bit more from Dawn’s formula (has a Piplup, from Twinleaf Town, has a famous mother). But she’s still a sweet character and importantly, she wasn’t too screechy or whiny.
Sorrel was probably the weaker character, apart from one thing: his backstory. I alluded to a frozen Luxray earlier, and this is it: when he was younger, he and his Luxray got caught in a blizzard, with Luxray keeping him warm. When he came to, he was fine. Sadly however, Luxray had frozen to death. They really didn’t mess about there.
The saddest thing about that however, is that it meant nothing, because his confidence issues and wariness of Pokemon afterwards were never brought up again.
The villain was Cross. No, i don’t mean that he was quite grumpy, his name was ACTUALLY Cross. He transitioned during the film from an aggressive, egotistical dick to just the first two (hey, nobody’s perfect eh?), being determined to prove he’s stronger than anybody else. His line peddling of only being interested in “strong” pokemon provided a perfect foil to Ash as well, calling back to Ash’s best rival from the anime, Paul.
The characters are a mixed bag. There was lots of good about them, but there was also significant bad points for two of them. I just wish they’d shown consistency with Sorrel, and actually written Verity’s character… at all.
Pokemon: I Choose You was an excellent film. It was a movie which felt like it was greater than the sum of it’s parts. The film felt as long as it was, but that is no bad thing, as it was mostly entertaining throughout.
They especially did a great job of getting the emotion over to the point where you actually felt it yourself. I really enjoyed the film, and it’s between this and the equally atmospheric Pokemon 5 (Pokemon Heroes) in terms of my favourite Pokemon film.
Overall Score: 84/100
That’s all from me then. As usual if you want to check out my stories you can do that, my fanfiction name is Primal WolfBlood. I’m on Facebook and on Twitter (@PhiltheRenegade). Until next time, Viva La Revolution!
Written by Phil Robinson
(P.S. If you don’t know what a MILF is, ask your parents/older siblings/any irresponsible adult).