Reviews: Pokemon I Choose You

An original story or nostalgic throwback? This film can\'t decide.

So here’s what I imagine happened in the writers room:

Writer 1: Alright, we need to pitch ideas for the 20th anniversary movie. Any ideas?

Writer 2: What about going back to when Ash met Pikachu? Newer viewers won’t know how it started.

Writer 1: Great idea! Tell you what, let’s watch the first episode for inspiration.

[They put in the DVD and watch it]

Writer 1: Cool, we can adapt that into a film. But we need more.

Writer 2: Why not condense the rest of Ash’s journey into the film?

Writer 1: No, that’s pretty much Pokémon Origins. We need to do something different.

Writer 3: Did anything ever come of Ho-Oh showing up in the end?

Writer 2: I don’t think so.

Writer 1: Well, let’s write a new story about that! We’ll make it out-of-continuity, so we are free to do what we want. And we’ll incorporate elements from later seasons.

[They get to work creating a big, epic story about Ash searching for Ho-Oh. They storyboard scenes and start animating them.]

Writer 1: Bad news. Studio executives are saying there isn’t enough nostalgia. They want more references to the original. Quick: what are the nostalgic moments of Season 1?

Writer 2: Well, there was Charmander being abandoned…and Butterfree being let go…

Writer 1: Great! We’ll throw those in!

Writer 2: But shouldn’t we do more…

Writer 1: No time for that! We’ve invested so much into this Ho-Oh story. We’ll just have to find a way to fit these new scenes in. Oh, and where’s Team Rocket?

Writer 2: Umm...

Writer 1: Just make a few 20 second scenes and we’ll throw them where we can.

Writer 2: *Sigh* Whatever.

None of this may have actually happened, but it’s the feeling one gets when watching this movie. There seem to be two conflicting visions: an original story involving Ash seeking out Ho-oh and a 20th Anniversary nostalgia celebration. And this lack of cohesive vision really detracts from the movie.

There’s one sequence that encapsulates the movie in a nutshell. Ash and his new friends are walking through the woods when they find a pink Butterfree being attacked by a Fearow. Ash’s Butterfree saves it and the two Butterfree fly near each other for a few moments. Suddenly, we switch to a completely unrelated scene where Ash and friends talk about the Rainbow Wing and where to go next. Next scene, they climb up a mountain and when they get to the summit, they see a swarm of Butterfree and re-meet the pink one. Then Ash must instantly choose if he’s okay with letting Butterfree go off.

The result is mood whiplash as you transition between the two visions of this film. When the movie approaches its climax and focuses on the Ho-oh story, it’s actually pretty good. But in the lead up to it, this feels like a movie that can’t decide what it wants to be about. To be honest, I kind of wish this was a 1 hour TV special that stuck to the Ho-Oh story and saved the nostalgia for Pokémon Origins and the Sun & Moon reunion special.