Pikachu beating himself up.
Picture: Netflix

Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Again—Evolution is a remake within the truest sense of the phrase. When you’ve seen the animated movie from 1998, Evolution’s story of a vengeful Mewtwo looking for to say its dominance over humanity and naturally born Pokémon will ring acquainted, because it kind of recreates each scene from the unique shot for shot.

Like Detective Pikachu, Evolution depends closely on nostalgia with a view to promote you on these drastically re-imagined visions of the Pokémon universe. However the place Detective Pikachu offered a sensible world through which flesh and blood folks walked alongside pocket monsters, Evolution exists in a considerably extra uncanny house that’s nearer to the 2D animated collection. Evolution’s fashion offers the film a lot of totally different alternatives to revisit basic scenes in ways in which, technically talking, are extra visually advanced and reflective of how CGI animation’s superior because the late ‘90s. However as a result of the 2 movie’s tales are successfully carbon copies, it’s tough to not evaluate them to at least one one other and see how, regardless of all of its fancy new strikes, Evolution can’t maintain a candle to the primary Mewtwo Strikes Again.

In each Mewtwo Strikes Again and Evolution, Ash Ketchum, his buddies, and quite a lot of different Pokémon trainers are all thrust right into a battle for his or her lives after all of them obtain mysterious hologram messages inviting them to take part in an unique battling contest on the distant New Island. Although the trainers all initially assume that the invites got here from an extravagant Pokémon coach trying to have a bit enjoyable, what they don’t know is that they’re really from Mewtwo—who, years beforehand, first emerged from the birthing tank the place he was genetically engineered by the mad scientist Dr. Fuji and Giovanni, the top of Group Rocket.

In comparison with newer Pokémon motion pictures set in different areas, Mewtwo Strikes Again (and Evolution by extension) featured a comparatively easy, simple story that served as one of many first main glimpses of the broader world past Kanto that the Pokémon anime had solely begun to trace at again within the ‘90s. Relatively than making an attempt to wow audiences with huge motion set items, the film as a substitute went the existential route because it chronicled Mewtwo’s battle to grasp his place on the earth as a cloned Pokémon, an idea that additional sophisticated the franchise’s already questionable premise a few world through which kids enslave monsters and pressure them to battle beneath the pretense of constructing friendships.

Physically powerful as Mewtwo is portrayed in Mewtwo Strikes Back, it’s the Pokémon’s seemingly human intellect and his ability to reflect on the circumstances of his life that made him such a compelling, fascinating villain when he was first introduced. Unlike most other Pokémon who go through life seldom questioning their societal roles, the nature of his existence is essentially all Mewtwo can think about—specifically the fact that he’s cloned from the DNA of Mew, one of the first Pokémon from whom all other species descended.

Mewtwo Strikes Again was in a position to convey Mewtwo’s simple otherworldliness just by giving the Pokémon way more display time than it ever loved within the animated collection, which allowed you to absorb the total scale of his sizable psychic powers. In each the anime and the collection, there was nothing fairly like seeing Mewtwo lording over a terrifying secret island layer the place he commanded a military of fellow cloned Pokémon. However as a result of the film’s animation fashion was so consistent with the collection’, you can simply learn it as being set in that acquainted world, which had the general impact of constructing issues really feel extra grand and fantastical. Mewtwo Strikes Again’s preventing scenes significantly shined as a result of, whereas they rang true to the anime collection in an aesthetic sense, the mixture of the film’s dynamic “digital camera” actions coupled with 2D animation tips made every thing simply really feel slick and fast-paced.

Evolution, by comparison, is an entirely CGI movie, and while it does a solid job of recreating various scenes, there’s something about its hyper-crisp visuals that feels decidedly cold and uncannily inorganic. While Evolution doesn’t try to convince you that it’s taking place in the real world, the whole of the movie feels as if it was put together with real-world physics in mind that clash with its cartoonish character models.

As Ash and Pikachu rush into battle, the wind blowing through their hair and fur is impressive, but something about it is amiss. While the movement feels “real,” at the same time, you’re staring at character designs with impossible proportions running around in environments that you could easily see as being small, hyper-detailed dioramas. In scenes like when the trainers all convene in a Pokémon center near New Island—which feels as if it were plucked out of a game like Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu—this isn’t so much of an issue. But by the time everyone meets Mewtwo for the confrontation he’s planned, everything from the lighting to the action itself feels just short of the intended mark.

Pikachu attempting to revive Ash by shocking him.
Image: Netflix

The added physical depth to Evolution’s style has the unintended consequence of making the movie’s action feel hollow and somewhat lifeless because there’s simply more information for your eye to perceive in any given shot. When Mewtwo channels his psychic powers into balls of concussive energy, or when Mew uses its own energy to create force fields, they’re rendered as translucent spheres that take up physical space, but here, they’re these shiny, jiggling bubbles that don’t make you think “oh, these Pokémon are about to fight.” Pokémon being flung through the air in the midst of battle move somewhat more slowly so that you can take in more of what’s going on around them, but this also strangely makes the models feel more like action figures being waved around by an invisible hand.

Like Mewtwo Strikes Back, Evolution culminates in a tragic moment in which Ash unwittingly sacrifices himself to end the fighting between the organic and cloned Pokémon, and it seems as if the young boy is fated to die as all of his friends and Pokémon tearfully look on. The Pokémon’s tears are what brings Ash back to life, but because Evolution never really manages to make it feel as if there’s a heart beating beneath its glossy visuals, his revival scene is far from moving—which, to be fair, was also somewhat true for people who weren’t children when they first saw Mewtwo Strikes Back.

This isn’t to say that there’s nothing redeeming about Evolution. Even though the movie’s visuals might not always be stellar, it’ll still be a potent shot of nostalgia for those who loved the original. It also speaks to the fact that the Pokémon Company is willing to play around with new approaches to storytelling as the Pokémon franchise continues to chug along. Let’s just hope that going forward, the company keeps in mind that there’s more to bringing good stories to life than simply splashing a new coat of paint on old classics.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.