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September 28, 2015

VGFlicks: Pokémon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (Part 2)

Missed Part 1? Go read it here!

This boat just doesn't look safe.
One would think the journey is cut short by the mighty storm outside. How will Ash, Misty and Brock get to the mysterious island? Thankfully, a duo of Vikings appear on a wooden boat, with a cat as their figurehead, offering them a ride to the island. It’s friggin’ Team Rocket trying to snatch Pikachu again, but at least they’re helping move the plot forward, so Ash’s team embarks. Water or boredom; the choice is simple. That’s the age-old tabletop RPG dilemma; you know there’s something in the water just waiting to rip you, your comrades, and the ship apart, but it’s either that or the adventurers just sit on their asses and the journey comes to a halt. And frankly, I doubt seeing Ash and Co. play Monopoly in the public area while waiting for the storm to calm down would make for an interesting film. If the main conflict is that Togepi is chewing on a hotel piece from one of Ash’s properties…

Okay, enough with the silly tangent.

Truly a lair to inspire the greatest
bastards in all of fiction.
So, the trio bites hook, line and sinker in Team Rocket’s plan, but it fails rather quickly after a large wave hits the boat and causes their disguises to fall off. But the bad guys don’t have time to recite their motto as a second wave strikes, sending everyone into the water. Ash, Brock and Misty get out of this alive using their trusty Water-type Pokémon, and reach the island, where it’s unusually calm in comparison to everywhere else. Also, wow, what an island. This place could give most spy film villains a run for their money.

This place looks suspicious.
"There is no reason to feel any suspicion."
They are welcomed on the docks by that woman from the holographic invitation card. To say her acting is a bit wooden is like saying a Snorlax is just a bit overweight. Brock immediately recognizes the woman as the Nurse Joy who went missing in the nearby town. Well, he’s better than I am. To me, it could have been just about any of the other 40+ Nurse Joys in the Pokémon world. Ash, Misty and Brock are permitted inside the lair the hideout the respectable creepy-looking good-looking mansion of the “Strongest Trainer in the world”. What nobody knows, however, is that another guest has arrived; a flying pink kitten…

As they enter the main room, our protagonists see that only three other Trainers fought the storm to get to the island. Our heroes are asked to release their Pokémon from their balls, and then the doors close in what is totally not some conspicuous CGI, I swear.

He's standing in the light, that doesn't mean he's good.
The brainwashed Nurse Joy announces the arrival of the greatest Pokémon master, and Mewtwo descends. Of course, the most hotheaded no-name Trainer in the room calls bullcrap on a Pokémon being a Trainer, and attacks with his own Gyarados; for those who don’t know, if any, Gyarados was one of the most badass Pokémon in the first Generation, stronger than most species. And yet, Mewtwo defeats that power beast by deflecting its Hyper Beam attack and throwing it back to sender. That’s when the Psychic Pokémon releases his control on Nurse Joy. As she regains consciousness, her acting also seems to recover. That’s a good thing. I hate speaking to monotonous automatons. It turns out that Mewtwo, for some reason, needed an expert on Pokémon physiology. Huh, so he just kidnapped the nearest Nurse he could find? I suppose Prof Oak would have been a pain, always asking Mewtwo his name and whether he’s a boy or a girl.

Another little montage from a panning shot.
Wow, this machine is creepy.
And of course, Team Rocket has reached the island as well. Because those guys survive everything. It’s the contractual comic relief immunity. They just can’t die as long as we can still extract a laugh out of their antics. They sneak into the place, while being spied on by Mew, and reach a room taken straight out of H.R. Geiger’s mind… Well, the rare child-friendly parts of it, anyway. They also see the fully-evolved forms of the Kanto starter Pokémon, in stasis tubes. Oh, well, that’s just great. First Mewtwo angsts because he’s a clone, kills people because he’s a tool, so now he clones Pokémon? You wanna bet he’ll treat them as tools, too? Urgh, hypocrisy. It’s only funny when I do it. After Jessie activates a computer, Meowth gets picked up by a claw and saved in the nick of time from a machine, where his DNA is extracted from a few of his hairs. And a Meowth clone appears in another stasis tube.

Geez, this machine works fast!

And oh yeah, just in case it wasn’t made clear that Mewtwo has gone bonkers, he has chosen to destroy the rest of the world with his storm, because why not? And of course, that includes all of the Pokémon. Urgh… This sounds totally like some insane megalomaniac’s plan to cause a genocide in order to make reality his idea of a perfect world, am I right? And as I’ve proven in a long piece of rambling, this plan will just lead to trouble.

When Ash and the other Trainers choose to do a Pokémon battle against Mewtwo, the Psychic Pokémon awakens his clones in the lower floor. The mighty Venusaur, Charizard and Blastoise come out of their stasis tubes and head to the main room. So wait, they were basically born in their final forms? Huh. What’s your next magic trick, Mewtwo? A baby Nidoqueen? (No, really. Google it.)

The clones show up in the main room, where Mewtwo explains that he cloned the final forms of the Kanto starters, and as a result, made them stronger than the originals. So, clones, huh?

…Yeah, that sums up my thoughts.

On the other side of the stadium, the human Trainers
and their Pokémon. But if I did montages for all the
panning shots in this film, I'd waste a whole day.
After which Mewtwo reveals a stadium just outside of the main room. The bastard, it was planned all along! Sigh. I miss the days where he was just an almighty Pokémon staying alone in his cave, without any plans to destroy humans and stuff. And hey, what a coincidence! Three of the six human Trainers on the island have a fully-evolved Starter, too! And they each have a different one!

The fighting starts. Each Starter against its cloned equivalent! First is Venusaur, who gets the beating of its life. Then it’s Blastoise, who also gets defeated quick. Man, these Pokémon suck! They can dish out damage but they can’t take a hit! That’s ridiculous. Even Ash’s Charizard gets beaten up! Though, to be fair, he lasts longer than the other two… Claiming victory, Mewtwo unleashes black Pokéballs, which steal the losing starters from their human trainers.

I should just smack that Pokéball away and go “Nuh-uh! Don’t be a thief!” It works fine for the NPC Trainers in the games…

Ash tries to talk to Mewtwo, but he gets flung away like he’s nothing. Which… he kinda is. That’s when Mewtwo summons a whole lot of black, eyed Pokéballs that proceed to catch every other human-trained Pokémon in the room. As chaos reigns around the stadium, Ash shows some semblance of a brain and puts back two of his Pokémon inside their Pokéballs… but then some black Pokéballs come by and zap the regular Pokéballs inside themselves.

Allow me to repeat that: The black, eyed Pokéballs can catch regular Pokéballs.

Joke 1: Pokéballception.
Joke 2: Keep it up, Mewtwo, and you’ll have a neat collection of Russian Balls.
Joke 3: Can you also catch a Leaf Stone for me?
Joke 4: Well, it sure took a brass pair of Poké-balls to do that…
Joke 5: The Balls Have Eyes, the Pokémon version of The Hills Have Eyes.
Joke 6: I heard some gang in Orre was interested in developing something similar. Bullcrapballs. Oh, wait, I meant Snag Balls.

Now that the jokes are done, here’s the truth: This is excruciatingly stupid! And nonsensical! I… I just don’t know what to say. I have no comment on how stupid it is that flying, eyed balls can catch Pokémon even if they belong to another AND if they’re still in their Pokéballs! And if Mewtwo could do that, why did he allow the trainers to get their Pokémon out? The Kanto starters, I can understand, he wanted to prove that his clones were stronger. But the others?

Pikachu! You can do it, avoid all these balls!

Urgh, let’s move on before I get a headache. Pikachu is the last one to get caught, and Ash manages to follow the Pokéballs into a tunnel leading to the cloning room below.

Willing to jump into danger to save his Pikachu!
Meanwhile, Jessie, James and Meowth look at all the Pokéballs coming through, and see silhouettes of the Pokémon on the screen. They’re such major idiots that they mistake a Scyther for an Alakazam. Just the thought that they’re playing “Who’s That Pokémon” should be a tipoff that they’re not exactly bright. …I mean, I have nothing against this bit from the episodes, but when the characters themselves screw up, that’s no good sign. Ash appears on the conveyor belt and saves Pikachu while doing a lot of damage to the machine. But it’s too late; Mewtwo's plan is set in motion. The clone Pokémon all come out of the stasis tubes. It’s a small army of critters making its way towards the battlefield. But since Ash wrecked the machine while saving his Pikachu, the originals are set free as well.

I can't make a joke here. This shot is awesome. That is all.
We cut back to the stadium. A wall gets blown up in the background, the clones come in and stand on Mewtwo’s side. Moments later, Ash walks out of the smoke, with all the original Pokémon following him, like an army. And looking more badass than ever. In fact, I’m not sure our young protagonist has ever looked this badass again. Maybe I should watch the other films. …Nah, I don’t have time. Though, that moment is so perfect it’s hard to believe it wasn’t staged. I can just imagine Ash saying: “Alright guys, we gotta do this, so we’re gonna do this right! When I come out of the fog, you follow me at my pace, and you all look as determined as I am! We’ll show that Mewtwo that we mean business!”

But of course, this moment has to be ruined when, after trying to get some reason into Mewtwo with words and failing, Ash tries another course of action. Let’s see if you know the character. What does Ash do?
A) He sends all of the original Pokémon at Mewtwo, hoping to overload him.
B) He tries to talk with Mewtwo again, and again, and does some actual effort to understand the psychic Pokémon’s wounded soul.
C) He invents the Dark type all by himself and beats Mewtwo, who cannot harm Pokémon of that type.
D) He rams into Mewtwo, fist first.

If you answered D, congratulations! You’re probably as embarrassed as I am.

For trying to get into good ol’ fisticuffs with Mewtwo, Ash gets thrown way high, on a statue above the battlefield. Silly Ash, Fighting-type attacks do little against Psychic-type Pokémon! But our hero is saved in the nick of time by a pink bubble. That’s Mew, coming to save the day! If this keeps up, Ash will have a Pokédex detailing all the species that saved him from mortal danger, rather than a Pokédex detailing all the Pokémon he caught. And Mew sure seems to find this whole thing funny. Some could make the argument that Mew is sort of an airhead. I’d rather say that he’s like a very young child, with a short attention span. But since Mewtwo is a Pokémon of a lot of words, and Mew can only go “Mioooo”, there’s not much in there for a serious discussion about nature versus nurture, so Mewtwo decides to skip directly to the battle.

The battle isn’t long, and it seems that Mewtwo is winning, until Mew finally deals him some heavy damage. But instead of resuming the fight, Mew decides to weigh in on the question, and thanks to Meowth, we find out what he’s saying: that the true strength of Pokémon doesn’t reside in their power, but in their heart. With a viewpoint like this, it’s kinda hard to root for Mewtwo. And yet, in the original Japanese dub, Mew had a much more divisive idea: That the clones, by virtue of being born in an unnatural way, were the lesser ones and, thus, that they should totally lose in the ensuing fight to the death between each original Pokémon and its clone counterpart. Yes, a fight to the death. Mew was alright with the idea of killing the clones. When every other battle in the Pokémon universe just had the vanquished Pokémon faint. That’s reaching a whole new level of violence.

Mewtwo decides he has heard enough, so he blocks all of the Pokémon’s special abilities and declares the mass fight between the originals and their clones… begun!

And that’s where I have to end for today. See you in Part 3 this Friday!