The movie is 90% the same as the original. Some portions of the movie were a shot-for-shot remake, though many scenes played out differently.
The CGI was beautiful, unlike my first impressions when watching the trailers. I would say I was impressed with 90% of it. The only model that bothered me was Pikachu’s for some reason, especially its mouth. The human characters looked fine most of the time, though Misty’s eyes bothered me at times. Overall they did an excellent job — it didn’t feel like an animation experiment, but a film with veteran artists behind it.
The movie was a collaboration with OLM and Sprite Animation, a Los Angeles company. The Japanese directors of the film worked part-time in Los Angeles to bring this movie to fruition. They also revealed that they had wanted to make a CGI Pokemon movie for several years.
The movie uses the same voice actors as the original where possible. The subtitles were a fusion between the original Japanese script and how 4Kids translated some of the lines. The subtitles were mostly faithful to the original Japanese script.
Half of the original Japanese soundtrack was remade for this film, while the other half was completely new. Some of your favorite background pieces were remade, but others were replaced with unremarkable music that didn’t match the strength of the originals. The original opening and ending themes were remade with the original singers (Mezase Pokemon Master and Together with the Wind).
Before the film started, I spotted Hidenaga Katakami, one of the producers of the film (he also was a producer on Detective Pikachu). I called him over and asked him a bunch of questions since there were no interview opportunities. He revealed to me that The Pokemon Company had to get the rights to the movie from Takeshi Shudo’s estate (the original writer of the film). I also asked him if this is why the Mewtwo in the Genesect movie was different (to legally distinguish it from his). He said yes, thus confirming my long-standing theory!
Since he was the producer of the Detective Pikachu film, I also asked him if there would be more live action films. He said that The Pokemon Company was still trying to determine if they wanted to go in that direction. They want to take their time and see how audiences respond to the first film.
Separate from Anime Expo, I also spoke with a Legendary executive at a film festival a few weeks ago where one of my films was showing. He said that Legendary wasn’t yet sure if they want to make more live action Pokemon movies since Detective Pikachu didn’t make as much as they hoped. So it seems the future of the live action Pokemon franchise is still up in the air from both sides!
At the end of the film, the preview for next year’s Pokemon movie revealed it would be back to hand-drawn animation. The teaser featured Pikachu dropping onto a “Pokemon 2020” logo in his Sun & Moon art style.
Now for notes and changes:
- The Pokemon Company logo was updated. It features Pikachu running in Yellow version within a Gameboy, then jumping out of the Gameboy in its anime form, revealing The Pokemon Company logo.
- The lab Mewtwo is in has been redesigned – it’s much brighter and white. It’s not dark and mysterious like before. Mewtwo destroys it like before, but the destruction isn’t as directed as the humans — more at the building itself. The robot arms that constrained Mewtwo before are not present; the scientists try to use a force-field to restrain Mewtwo, which fails.
- Mewtwo’s armor was redesigned, as we already knew. However, unlike the original film, Giovanni is able to use it to physically constrict Mewtwo with a remote control. He does this when Mewtwo tries to escape from the Viridian City Gym, but Mewtwo breaks free, then the gym blows up like before.
- The character design of the sailor with the Donphan (Raymond) has been slightly redesigned. He now has a six-pack and different clothes and hair. He has the same American voice actor as the original Japanese dub (Raymond Johnson), but his “Oh my god!” line is no longer a shout. He just says it to himself. (This was his hilarious line in the original Japanese version.)
- Raymond’s Donphan uses different attacks, as does Ash’s Bulbasaur. Throughout the film there are new attacks the Pokemon use, some from different generations. One of Donphan’s attacks causes a fiery explosion.
- Raymond has a Drowzee instead of a Golem (for the small part where Pikachu shocks his Venomoth / Pinsir / and now Drowzee). Strangely this is the only Pokemon roster change in the whole film.
- When Mewtwo is watching Ash’s battle with Raymond and his Donphan via the Fearow camera, we now see Nurse Joy more clearly than in the original film. This is because she delivers exposition about each of the characters that was not in the original film, saying that Misty was the Gym Leader of Cerulean City and Brock was the Gym Leader of Pewter City. This is obviously so newer fans know who these two characters are, if they didn’t catch their episodes in the Sun & Moon series.
- Shinji Miyazaki wrote new background music for when Dragonite takes off. It seemed like half of the film’s original music was replaced with new compositions, as noted below.
- When Dragonite lands near Ash and crew, Charizard comes out of his Poke Ball to attack it for a short bit. This is to introduce Charizard’s disobedient personality to new fans.
- The original dub line about Jessie wiping out eight of Meowth’s nine lives with her cooking is gone. The subtitles used much of the original Japanese script, so most of 4Kids’ lines were deleted.
- The background Pokemon in the waiting room of the harbor are different than the original movie. We see Pokemon like Eevee, Slowpoke, and Bellsprout.
- Miranda (the harbor manager) has been redesigned and has longer hair. She also mentions Wingull, which is the only time in the movie when someone mentions a Pokemon from outside of Kanto.
- There is a new Trainer that tries to make it to New Island with his Scyther. Like the Fearow Trainer, he never makes it.
- The whole Team Rocket viking scene has been completely changed. They now arrive in a Lapras boat, in sailor attire, and sing a hilarious song. They also laugh like maniacs, which made the audience laugh several times. They make reference to “Cinnabar Straight” in their dialogue to make reference to other parts of Kanto. They pedal the boat through the storm, then kick its motor on. The boat flies into the sky, then plunges into the water, revealing their true identities to Ash and crew. The waves then overtake the boat and the scene resumes like originally with Misty sending out her Staryu.
- Staryu has his “hey-ya” voice again. In last year’s Zeraora movie, it had some weird wobbly sound effect, so I thought it would be worth mentioning that the OG voice is back.
- The background music of Ash and crew struggling underwater to get to New Island has been replaced with a new composition.
- Mew arrives to New Island a tad earlier than before. It plays on the windmills differently than before. Shinji Miyazaki keeps the original Mew theme.
- When Team Rocket is hanging off the railing outside the giant door of the banquet room (when Mew is hovering behind them), they’re now singing a song.
- When we meet the Trainers in the banquet hall, there’s new background music. Misty admires the male Trainer’s Tentacruel, then runs away and screams when Gyarados roars at her. Brock also hits on the female Trainer. Again, these little moments are to flesh-out the characters for new fans. Brock also makes reference to his “jelly-filled donuts” when hitting on the female Trainer, which caused the audience to laugh in an uproar.
- There is new music when Mewtwo’s clones emerge from their tanks.
- The English subtitles still refer to the nicknamed Pokemon as Shellshocker and Bruteroot. This means the subtitles are trying to use some of 4Kids’ writing.
- There is new music when the cloned Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise fight against the Trainers. Venusaur uses Energy Ball and Leaf Storm, which it didn’t originally. Venusaur also laughs at one point, which made the audience laugh.
- There is new music during the Mewtwo’s Poke Balls capture scene.
- We get a tiny extra scene with Misty hiding with Psyduck before Mewtwo captures it. Brock also gets a little scene where he’s pounding on the door to leave the banquet hall with Nurse Joy before Vulpix is captured. Again, giving Brock and Misty a little more attention.
- The robot arms are only in the scene where Ash breaks out of the cloning machine with Pikachu’s Poke Ball.
- The music where Ash walks out with the captured Pokemon to face their clones has been changed to something new (I was so sad about this one!).
- When Mew saves Ash with its bubble, it plays with Ash’s hat for a bit, then puts it back on him and adjusts it.
- Both Nurse Joy and Brock now know who Mew is. Brock says he’s read about it in a book. Nurse Joy says it’s a Mythical Pokemon. The franchise in general has been trying to make Mythical Pokemon and Legendary Pokemon more known among people in the Pokemon world, unlike in the old days. So this wasn’t a surprising change.
- We see more of Seadra and Dewgong fighting than in the original film. Pikachu is observing their fights against their clones before his clone shows up.
- The “sad” music when the clones and original Pokemon are beating up each other is the same as the original film, but has been redone and updated with a new woman singing it.
- When Meowth and his clone look up to the sky, we don’t get the dub-only line about “Maybe we should start looking at what’s the same instead of looking at what’s different.” They instead talk about the moon, like in the original Japanese script.
- When Mew and Mewtwo start fighting, the music used in the new film is from the part in the original film where Venusaur was fighting the female Trainer’s Venusaur.
- The whole Pikachu slapping scene plays out a bit differently and not so repetitively as before.
- Ash turns to shiny black stone instead of gray rock.
- The music used when the Pokemon are crying is different from the original film. The new film uses a track from the Victini movie, then shifts to a track from the Genesect movie, then shifts back to the original track from the original movie.
- The subtitles used Mewtwo’s line about “I see now the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant…” I don’t remember if that was in the original Japanese script, but they certainly used the exact same wording as the 4Kids script.
- After Ash and crew are transported back to the harbor, we see that Ash’s backpack has his hat symbol on it (<), like in the last few movies.
- When Ash and crew run outside the harbor to see Mew, we see Ken Sugimori’s artwork of Lapras literally pasted on to the harbor wall.
- After Ash and crew see Mew and walk away, we get the “World of Pokemon” music and narration.
- The credits feature paintings of Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock.
- After the credits end, we see Mewtwo flying with the clones to Mount Quena in the Johto region, as seen in Mewtwo Returns.
Have any questions? Ask me below!