Pokémon: The First Movie

MewTwo Strikes Back

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Details At A Glance

Category Anime Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.85:1 4x3 DD 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Michael Haigney (Director) & Norman Grossfeld (Producer)
Running Time 19:35 + 71:54 minutes Other Extras Featurette-The Story Of MewTwo's Origin (2:20)
Music Video-Don't Say You Love Me-M2M
Featurette-Ash's Journey (2:02)
Production Notes
DVD-ROM Extras: Web Site, Essays (2)
RSDL/Flipper Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Michael Haigney

Warner Home Video
Starring Veronica Taylor
Philip Bartlett
Rachael Lillis
Eric Stuart
Addie Blaustein
Ikue Otani
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Ralph Schuckett
John Loeffler

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio ?1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

Plot Synopsis

    There was a deafening silence amongst our DVD reviewers when Pokémon: The First Movie was offered for review. Presumably this had a lot to do with the demographic that this movie was targeted at, and the demographic that our DVD reviewers fit into, and the fact that they didn't quite match up. Accordingly, the thought-to-be-onerous duty of reviewing this title fell upon yours truly, and I can certainly tell you in advance that I was not at all looking forward to spending 92-odd minutes with Pokémon, a world-wide phenomenon that I had no understanding of, and had no interest in furthering my understanding of. It was with great surprise and delight, therefore, that I found myself actually liking this movie.

    Pokémon: The First Movie has been nicely targeting at the Pokémon-loving youth of today, as well as not forgetting the older folk that will inevitably be dragged along for the ride, usually unwillingly.

    Theatrically, and on this DVD, the movie is shown with a preceding short feature entitled Pikachu: The Movie-Pikachu's Vacation. In essence, this exists to introduce the neophyte viewer to the world of Pokémon and its characters and rules. Following this, the movie proper starts. A word to the uninitiated: Pokémon are role-playing creatures that human Pokémon trainers capture and train, pitting them in battle against other Pokémon. In essence, Pokémon is a role-playing game of sorts for 10 year olds.

    Ash is our hero. He is a 10-year-old Pokémon trainer who is invited to a Pokémon match to determine the best Pokémon trainer in the world. The invitation is issued by MewTwo, a genetically-engineered Pokémon created by the Bad GuysTM. MewTwo is extremely powerful and has a very nasty streak, and is seemingly invincible until the original Mew makes an appearance.

    Don't get me wrong. This is not a cinematic masterpiece. It is full of blatant product promotion, saccharine sweetness and moral messages that are rammed down your throat, and yet, somehow, I actually enjoyed it, despite my best intentions not to.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. This is in contradiction to what is stated on the packaging, which claims that this is a "1.85:1 Regular" transfer. It is hard to determine whether this transfer is full frame or Pan & Scan. Some shots appeared horizontally cropped, which would be consistent with a Pan & Scan transfer, whereas comparisons with some of the shots in the theatrical trailer on this DVD, which is 1.85:1, suggest that the theatrical presentation may have been cropped top and bottom. Either way, the presentation of this movie is not in the original theatrical aspect ratio, and that is definitely a bad thing.

    The transfer is quite sharp throughout, with the animation being rendered marvellously. Any and all details in the original image are clearly discernible. Some very minor grain appears in the background of some scenes, but this never becomes intrusive. Shadow detail is not an issue - whatever the animators intended you to see is seen. Nothing more and nothing less. There was no low level noise in the blacks.

    The colours were vibrantly rendered, with bright eye-popping colours being the order of the day except during the somewhat darker scenes at the start of the movie.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing was more-or-less non-existent, and film artefacts were conspicuous by their absence.

    This disc is a dual-layered DVD, but I could not detect a layer change in the main feature with two different DVD players, so it is reasonable to assume that the movie itself has been placed on one layer of the DVD and the extra features on the other layer.


    There are two audio tracks on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded. I listened to both soundtracks.

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, and matched up remarkably well with the lip movements of the characters, given that these movements were originally animated for Japanese dialogue.

    The score by Ralph Schuckett and John Loeffler is very effective in creating the appropriate mood for the on-screen action, and is present almost continuously, only interrupted on occasion for the insertion of a contemporary pop song which was also quite appropriate for the on-screen action. All-in-all, this is a very decent soundtrack indeed which is very enjoyable to listen to.

    The surround channels are remarkably well used for a children's animation title. The musical score goes a long way towards this by being present nearly continuously, and being mixed nicely into the rears, but a substantial number of sound effects and even the voice of MewTwo make their way into the rear channels. All-in-all, this is a remarkably immersive effort which belies expectations.

    The .1 channel was continually in use to support the music and the more dramatic special effects without ever calling attention to itself. It was very nicely integrated into the overall soundtrack.



Audio Commentary - Michael Haigney (Director) & Norman Grossfeld (Producer)

    This is a surprisingly good commentary track, and both Michael and Norman are clearly enjoying themselves. They manage to impart a great deal of information about the movie and its making and do this in a most entertaining way. This commentary track was a very pleasant surprise and a welcome inclusion on this DVD.

Featurette-The Story Of MewTwo's Origin

    This sequence fleshes out the start of the movie, and I wonder why it was not included in the movie itself.

Music Video-Don't Say You Love Me-M2M

Theatrical Trailer

Featurette-Ash's Journey

    This is more of a promotional piece for Pokémon than anything else.


    Labelled "Behind-The-Scenes", these are merely notes on the Pokémon phenomenon.

DVD-ROM Extras

    In addition to a mirror of the web site, there are two essays - one on Anime and one on the history of Video Games (From Pong to Pokémon). These actually make quite good reading, but are far too long to be included in the DVD-Video section of this disc.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     There is nothing compelling to prefer either version, though perhaps the Pokémon addicts out there will bemoan the lack of the Trading Card.


    Pokémon: The First Movie is a disc that I enjoyed far more than I expected to.

    The video is of very good quality.

    The audio quality is of very good quality.

    The extras are comprehensive and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
17th June 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Denon DVD-1500/Loewe Xemix 5006DD, using S-Video/RGB output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video/RGB input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer