Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!, 2017.
Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama.
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is an origin story highlighting Ash and Pikachu’s first meeting and their adventures as they search for the Legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh. The pair encounter familiar faces along the way, new characters including Trainers Verity and Sorrel, and even a mysterious new Mythical Pokémon, Marshadow. Challenges and epic Pokémon battles abound in this unique new story about the beginning of one of the most beloved friendships in popular culture.
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! may begin almost shot for shot from the animated series debut 20 years ago, but once the legendary Ho-Oh soars across the sky and the rainbow feather drops at Ash’s first sighting, the similarities phase into a parallel universe, of sorts, to what we remember…
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! throws you straight into the action with fast-paced battles, punctuated with a series of highlights, new adventures, and nostalgia punches, from Charmander’s heart-wrenching abandonment to Ash’s bond with Butterfree – mix all this in with the original theme song and your face will hurt from all the smiling. But wait. Who’s that? Brock and Misty have been swapped out for trainers Verity and Sorrel! and there goes Team Rocket, blasting off in a series of brief, but memorable cameos as a series of interludes. While this may initially seem disappointing, in the blend of old and new Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! manages to cater to a very broad audience, providing enough content for adult fans who began their Pokémon journey 20 years ago, to fresh-faced young ‘uns whose journey is beginning in the current generation. Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! successfully interweaves a long strand of events into a tightly knit time frame, which could have easily become convoluted – it had an RPG video game vibe to its structure, which suited it down to the ground, as it linked random events and encounters together on the road to the ‘main quest’.
The search for Ho-Oh could be considered a bit of a McGuffin, serving more as a means to guide you through the highlights of Ash and Pikachu ‘the early years’ and primarily seeks to illustrate one of televisions most iconic friendships. To that effect, it may leave you a little disappointed if you are expecting more than a showcase of the franchise and doesn’t quite achieve the emotional impact or depth of Pokémon the First Movie or Pokémon 2000. It came close and hit the mark much more frequently in the first half of the film, but there is one aspect of the final act which, when you see it, really pulls you out of the moment and created a unanimous air of confusion and stirred chuckles – rather than remaining heartfelt or touching. This was my only major issue with Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! and I imagine will be cause for debate once it has aired for all to see. For me, it felt unnecessary in what was otherwise a well crafted film, that had a solid foundation for the emotional impact it aimed for.
As a 20th anniversary celebration of the Pokémon anime, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is tailored for fans specifically – this isn’t something you should watch on a whim without any prior knowledge. While it may be enjoyable enough, the references and lore will most certainly be lost on the casual viewer. As a fan, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! comes recommended and certainly had myself and the rest of the audience as putty in its hands (for the most part). Being 17 years since I last watched the final cinematic Pokémon release, Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unknown, it reignited the excitement I felt all those years ago and to share that with other long-time fans made it a worthwhile experience.
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is full of melt-in-your-mouth cheese, but as you relive Ash and Pikachu’s first moments together those feels come rushing back and takes you on an adventure down memory lane.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★