In cinemas for an extremely limited theatrical run, the 20th Pokémon movie takes us all the way back to the beginning, retelling the origin of how Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master bottler, and Pikachu, the world’s most powerful unevolved electric mouse came together.
Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town wakes late on the morning he is due to collect his Pokémon and set off on his journey. When he finally makes it to Professor Oak’s lab, he is disappointed to learn that the three starter Pokémon (Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander) have already been taken by trainers who were on time. When Oak reveals that he has one more Pokémon left, a feisty and uncooperative electric type named Pikachu, Ash has little choice but to accept and a legend begins. “Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You!” is a greatest hits remix of the Indigo League series, bringing in new Sun and Moon Pokémon and jettisoning a few beloved characters in favour of new ones. Aside from his many and varied Pocket Monsters, Ash Ketchum nearly rivals Doctor Who in his tendency to pick up, discard and replace companions and this time firm fan favourites Brock and Misty don’t get a look in. instead, we get new characters Sorrel and Verity, which wouldn’t be a problem were they not so obviously cyphers for Misty and Brock. Team Rocket are relegated to simply following the action around but remain in their unaltered trinity of Jesse, James and Meowth and our primary antagonist is a rival trainer called Cross, who’s far more malicious than Gary Oak ever was. Together, they’re all in pursuit of the legendary Pokémon Ho-oh, who appeared to Ash on his first day as a Pokémon trainer and provided him with the magical rainbow wing feather.
Despite the many changes, it’s still a Pokémon movie for long-time fans as well as newcomers brought in by later editions or Pokemon Go. Many of the plot points and references are lifted from the Indigo League series, albeit with a stronger emotional narrative and most of your favourite ‘mons at least get a cameo appearance. There is one notable exception, yet despite the absence of Eevee, the littlest Craggling pronounced herself more than satisfied with the movie. Her final score? An impressive and adamantly consistent 14 out of 10. It’s entertaining enough and there’s a nice moral undertone of the importance of being kind and nurturing [to the wild animals you trap and train to fight each other] but it runs out of steam towards the end as the deus ex machinas pile on top of each other to bring the story to some kind of conclusion although to be fair that’s kind of in keeping with the spirit and style of the series this movie spun off from.