When I first heard that Pokémon was re-booting/re-writing the origins of Ash and Pikachu I was a little taken aback. Like most of the kids from the 90s (yeah, I’m playing that card) Ash, Misty and Brock came to be friends and heroes to me. Hearing that they’d be written out and replaced was… upsetting. That being said, I Choose You delivered on every single aspect you’d expect from a Pokémon movie.
We’re introduced to our hero in a very familiar way, much of the opening sequence is similar to how it always was however with a few distinct but welcome changes. Ash meeting Pikachu is still an electrifying scene (I had to get at least one in…), however there’s no cringey Gary Oak and his gaggle of super models driving over the horizon. They’re 10 years old for Christ’s sake…
Anyway, the key moments you all remember from the original series have been re-envisioned and it works. Ash drags Pikachu along with a clothesline, saves him from some Spearow, they catch a Caterpie, Caterpie evolves fighting a Pinsir. Thankfully there’s no Metapod vs Metapod harden battle. Ash meets a Charmander stuck out in the rain and the Bye-Bye Butterfree moment is just as heartrenching as before.
Ash also sees Ho-oh who bestows upon him a Rainbow Wing. Considering its a feather I think the name is a little grandiose but I digress; The story follows the legend of the Rainbow Hero and how Ho-oh brought the three legendary dogs to life. I Choose You does a great job of integrating the old and new Pokémon seamlessly, which considering how broad the roster is that’s no mean feat.
The early throw backs to the original story are probably the most important scenes of the film, as without them Ash’s character wouldn’t be able to achieve something 20 years of TV and a collection of other movies failed to do; Growth. Ash starts out as a bumbling bright-eyed kid chasing his dream with lots of ideas but no real knowledge. Over the course of the movie our Rainbow Hero goes through the standard trials and tribulations and is almost a different person at the end. He’s still bright-eyed and idealistic, of course, but he’s more grounded and sincere than any of the dramatic speeches in the proceeding TV/Movies ever were (well except for Mewtwo’s speech in The First Movie).
Fans of the series will have seen Ash called some prophesied hero of some description so often that the terms have lost all meaning. Seeing him fulfil the original hero’s role as the Rainbow Hero does lend a sense of satisfaction undelivered before. What lets Ash down however are his new companions. They might as well not be there at all for the little they add to the story. Makoto and Souji are very much shoehorned in and along for the ride really. There’s no weight to their presence at all and the move to replace Brock and Misty will forever mystify me (pun not intended, honest).
Pokémon: I Choose You does a spectacular job of capturing the spirit of Pokémon across the 20 years it’s been around and yet again creating a cinematic experience that’s fun for all ages. The children present had a great time and the “adults” in the room seemed to have a good time too. Seasoned fans who were there the first time Ash set out appreciated all of the nods to the original… But…
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a Pokémon movie through and through BUT it’s not the original series. It doesn’t hold the same charm it used to, maybe that’s a product of age, people 20 years and up aren’t the target audience and it’s time to set that aside. However that’s not the worst thing… I Choose You violated something cherished by fans the world over…
They made Pikachu talk.
He doesn’t say much and what he does say doesn’t need to be vocalised at all. The whole point of Ash and Pikachu’s relationship is that their bond is unspoken. They pay a poor homagé to the most tender moment of the entire Pokémon series and then give Pikachu a voice. I’m glad it happened right at the end though because otherwise it would have turned me away completely.
That being said, the movie is aimed at a younger audience, as it should be and it delivers perfectly for them. It’s time for us 90s kids to move on and leave it for the newer generation of fans, the ones who grew up with Piplup rather than Squirtle. Kids who’s hearts were warmed by Incineroar rather than Charizard.
Pokémon: I Choose You does a lot of things right, it’s the perfect movie for young new fans looking to see their heroes on the big screen and for older fan it has plenty of hat tips to the originals to make you feel at home. It’s original enough to stand on it’s own two feet yet similar enough to the others to hold up the Pokémon banner with pride.