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Review: “Pokemon: I Choose You”

Pokemon I Choose You

Pokemon I Choose YouIt’s been over 20 years since Pokemon first hit the U.S. from Nintendo via the videogame and TV show. Pokemon: I Choose You, the 20th Pokemon movie, is a perfect homage to the very beginnings of all things Pokemon and Ash and Pikachu’s journey through the Pokemon world. At first, it seems the basic plot of the movie follows a loose re-imagination of the first season of the Pokemon TV series. Once again, we see Ash getting up late and meeting his partner Pikachu from Professor Ash. Their first impressions of each other are replicated perfectly with Pikachu’s apprehensiveness toward Ash and adamant refusal to get in a pokeball. Of course, electric shocks for everyone ensue as usual. In the span of the movie, we also see edited versions of Ash’s story arcs with Caterpie/Metapod/Butterfree as well as Charmander/Charmeleon/Charizard (although without Charmeleon’s/Charizard’s later apathy toward Ash).

From the plot description, one would think the movie would be unnecessarily repetitive for those who know the first season of Pokemon, but there are significant differences. Mixed in with the first 150 Pokemon that make up the Kalos region, there are a few Pokemon from the later seasons/regions, including the later legendary Pokemon. This is where the story deviates from just a retelling of the first season of Pokemon. Along the way, Ash and Pikachu see the legendary Pokemon Ho-Oh fly overhead and drop one of its glowing rainbow feathers down for Ash to catch, inspiring both Ash and Pikachu to one day meet Ho-Oh in person. Later at a Pokemon Center, Ash and several other trainers hear that Entei, another legendary Pokemon, is wandering in the woods nearby, so naturally, everyone rushes out to try and see if they can find Entei including Ash and Pikachu. While on the hunt for Entei, Ash and Pikachu meet, instead of Misty and Brock, a girl named Verity with her partner Piplup, and an aspiring Pokemon professor named Sorrel and his partner Lucario. After finding Entei and failing to battle it, a sudden rain storm forces all to seek shelter in a nearby cave including Entei. To pass the time waiting out the rain in the cave, Ash brings up seeing Ho-Oh earlier and shows everyone the rainbow feather he got from it. Sorrel tells Ash there’s a legend attached to the rainbow feather that Ho-Oh only gives one of its feathers to a ‘rainbow hero’ who is destined to battle Ho-Oh. Ash and his new friends decide to seek out Ho-Oh together with help of the rainbow feather, but Ash’s new friends aren’t the only ones who see Ash’s rainbow feather and its potential as other eyes, besides Team Rocket, lurk in the shadows.

Pokemon I Choose YouLooking back on the first season of Pokemon, you can see how rough the animation looks compared to today, so seeing the ‘remake’ of the first season in the movie really isn’t so bad. I admit I kind of missed Misty and Brock, though. Team Rocket is present, but only in fleeting blasting off scenes. If you stay through the end credits, you’ll also get glimpses of all of Ash’s friends over the last 20+ years, including Misty and Brock, as well as some cute epilogue scenes. What really makes this movie a must-see though is one very poignant scene between Ash and Pikachu in the climax battle scene. I cringed and almost cried when I saw it, and I’m not one to cry while watching movies. If you’ve followed Ash and Pikachu for all 20+ years, it would be very hard for you NOT to tear up for that scene. It will definitely pull at the heart strings.

For an homage re-imagining and re-telling movie, there are plenty of deviations to keep even the most devout Pokemon fan interested and entertained in the story though. While it would have been nice to see Ash have a reunion with all his past friends, I guess that story is for another time.

Pokemon the Movie airs on Disney XD on November 25, 2017, at 10:00 AM with an encore at 6:00 PM (all times ET/PT).