06th Mar2020

‘Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution’ Review (Netflix)

by Xenia Grounds

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It’s hard to believe Pokemon is nearly 25 years old. It’s even harder to believe I’m older than this series (Not by much but still, that’s a good way to remind me of my age). It’s stating the obvious but Pokemon has taken the world by storm. It’s been a staple part of many childhoods and the kids who grew up with that original generation may have kids of their own now. When the first movie came out over twenty years ago, it was a real event. It was in cinemas, there was an official soundtrack with some of the biggest singers of the time on it (although the songs had nothing to do with the movie itself) and they tied in the movie with the original series. To celebrate Pokemon Day, we now have a CG remake so how does Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution hold up with more modern animation?

The story in this version is essentially the same. Using the DNA of legendary Pokemon, Mew, a team of scientists create its clone, Mewtwo. However, once Mewtwo quickly deducts that the humans who created him don’t care about him, he quickly goes on a rampage that ends with the lab being destroyed. Upon mastering his powerful psychic abilities with Team Rocket lead, Giovanni, but still dealing with existential angst and later being betrayed by Giovanni as well, Mewtwo declares revenge on the world which brings our protagonists (Ash, Misty and Brock) to an island with a few other trainers that starts a war between two kinds of living creatures: clones and originals.

For me, the best part of the movie was always Mewtwo. That doesn’t change here. Mewtwo is a great villain and the motivation behind his actions is completely understandable. He always had a good reason to be angry about human beings. I wish they had included more of his original lines in this version because they were very powerful like ‘I wasn’t born a Pokemon. I was created and my creators have used and betrayed me so I stand alone!’. It does a better job of dramatically showing his reasoning. In the beginning, Mewtwo’s identity crisis is only shown through two repeated lines: ‘Who am I? Where am I?’ which gets the point across but feels weaker because it doesn’t feel like that problem escalates for Mewtwo over the course of time.

What I consider to be a vast improvement is the handling of the story’s message. It’s a lot easier to see. In the original, there was a massive focus on anti-violence which ironically felt like the movie was beating you over the head with it because it went on for way longer than it should have. Especially with playing ‘Brother, my Brother’ in the background during a fight scene made the scene cheesy instead of tragic unlike here where the song is deliberately removed which makes the battle feel more harrowing. In Evolution, that anti-violence part is there but it’s more subtlety handled and is addressed with good pacing rather than dragged out. The message that the choices you make with your life is more important than how your life starts is a mature lesson for a kids movie but I can see kids learning that moral from Evolution.

If you grew up with the original movie then you’ll like a lot of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution just for the nostalgia. Seeing some of these scenes remade with gorgeous CG animation will probably make a lot of fans smile. The animation is definitely an improvement because it’s 3D and while it does lose some of the original charm, it’s visually stunning and Pokemon battles have never looked as good as they have here – at least in regards to animation.
Honestly, this movie is a mixed bag. Some of the updates are great and others are problematic. There are still problems but they were there in the original too. For example, after a while, the trainers don’t serve any real purpose and are just there as spectators as it basically becomes Mewtwo and Mew’s movie. Another issue concerns the deus ex machina at the climax which was also present in the original but in this version, there is no foreshadowing for it so it feels like it comes out of nowhere even more than it already did.

Do I recommend watching it? If you’re a fan then yes. If only so you can have your own opinion about it. This is not a movie for newcomers to the series. Personally, I didn’t mind it because I prefer the changes they make as it takes away some of the late 90s cheese that is cringeworthy in 2020; but the other side of the argument is it loses the charm and memorability because of it which I can also understand. Ultimately, your mileage might vary about this version but if you can judge Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution on its own merits then there’s still something for a Pokemon fan to enjoy.

Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is available on Netflix now.

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