Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, commonly referred to as Pokémon: The First Movie, originally released as Pocket Monsters the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back! (劇場版ポケットモンスター ミュウツーの逆襲 Gekijōban Poketto Monsutā: Myūtsū no Gyakushū), is a 1998 Japanese anime film directed by Kunihiko Yuyama, the chief director of the Pokémon television series. It is the first theatrical release in the Pokémon franchise.
It was released in Japan on July 18, 1998. The English-language adaptation, produced by Nintendo and 4Kids Entertainment and licensed by Warner Bros., was released in North America on November 10, 1999.
The film primarily consists of three segments: Pikachu's Vacation, a 21-minute feature focusing on the series mascot Pikachu; Origin of Mewtwo, a 10-minute featurette that functions as a prologue to the main feature; and Mewtwo Strikes Back, the main 75-minute film feature. The featurette was added on for later releases and eventually dubbed as a special feature in the U.S. release of the TV special (released as a direct-to-video follow-up film sequel in the U.S.A.) Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns as The Uncut Story of Mewtwo's Origin.
Although Pokémon was extremely popular when the film was released, the English-language version received negative reviews from film critics. Despite the reviews, it was a box office success worldwide, topping the box office charts in its opening weekend and eventually grossing US$163.6 million worldwide.
A group of scientists obtains a fossilized eyelash of the legendary Pokémon, Mew, and clone it to create a supersoldier named Mewtwo. As Mewtwo awakens, the project is successful, but upon learning the scientists' plan to treat him as an experiment, Mewtwo unleashes his psychic powers and destroys the laboratory.
Giovanni, leader of Team Rocket and the project's benefactor, convinces Mewtwo to work with him to hone his powers. However, Mewtwo learns his purpose is to be a weapon for Giovanni's benefit and escapes back to New Island, where he plots revenge against humanity. Several Pokémon trainers are invited to New Island to meet and battle the world's greatest Pokémon Master. Ash, Misty, and Brock accept the challenge, but when they arrive at Old Shore Wharf's port city, a powerful storm whips up, preventing the trainers from sailing to the island. However, several trainers use their Pokémon to travel across the sea. Ash's group is picked up by Team Rocket disguised as Vikings, but the storm sinks their boat, and they individually make it to New Island.
Escorted into the island's palace by the woman from the invitation, the trainers encounter Mewtwo, who releases the woman from his mind control; the woman is revealed to be a brainwashed Nurse Joy. Mewtwo plots to use the storm to wipe out humanity, leaving only wild and cloned Pokémon alive. Ash challenges Mewtwo's power, leading to a battle between the trainers' Pokémon and Mewtwo's clones, who prove vastly superior in combat. Mewtwo captures all of the Pokémon to clone them, Ash chasing the captured Pikachu down into the rebuilt lab, where Team Rocket's Meowth is also cloned. Ash destroys the cloning machine, freeing the Pokémon, and leads them to confront Mewtwo. Mew appears and confronts Mewtwo.
All of the Pokémon battles save a defiant Pikachu and Meowth, who makes peace with his own clone. Mew and Mewtwo's psychic battle wounds all of the Pokémon, forcing a desperate Ash to charge into the firing line of their attacks and is petrified by the blast. Pikachu tries to revive Ash with his thunderbolt, but it fails. However, the tears of the Pokémon, as per a legend mentioned earlier in the film, heal and revive Ash. Moved by Ash's sacrifice, Mewtwo realizes that he should not have to be judged by his origins but rather his choices in life. Departing with Mew and the clones, Mewtwo erases everyone's memories of the event.
Ash, Misty, and Brock find themselves back in Old Shore Wharf, unsure how they got there. The storm outside clears up, Ash spotting Mew flying through the clouds and telling his friends how he saw another legendary Pokémon the day he left Pallet Town. Meanwhile, Team Rocket find themselves stranded on New Island but enjoy their time there.
|Character name||Japanese voice actor||English voice actor|
|Ash Ketchum (Satoshi)||Rica Matsumoto||Veronica Taylor|
|Misty (Kasumi)||Mayumi Iizuka||Rachael Lillis|
|Brock (Takeshi)||Yūji Ueda||Eric Stuart|
|Narrator||Unshō Ishizuka||Rodger Parsons|
|Jessie (Musashi)||Megumi Hayashibara||Rachael Lillis|
|James (Kojirō)||Shin-ichiro Miki||Eric Stuart|
|Meowth (Nyarth)||Inuko Inuyama||Maddie Blaustein|
|Bulbasaur (Fushigidane)||Megumi Hayashibara||Tara Jayne|
|Charizard (Lizardon)||Shin-ichiro Miki|
|Squirtle (Zenigame)||Rikako Aikawa||Eric Stuart|
|Fergus (Umio)||Wataru Takagi||James Carter Cathcart|
|Corey (Sorao)||Tōru Furuya||Ted Lewis|
|Neesha (Sweet)||Aiko Satō||Lisa Ortiz|
|Miranda (Voyager)||Sachiko Kobayashi||Kayzie Rogers|
|Pirate Trainer||Raymond Johnson||Maddie Blaustein|
Fujiko Takimoto (young; radio drama)
Showtaro Morikubo (young; anime)
|Giovanni (Sakaki)||Hirotaka Suzuoki||Ed Paul|
|Officer Jenny (Junsar)||Chinami Nishimura||Lee Quick|
|Nurse Joy (Joi)||Ayako Shiraishi||Megan Hollingshead|
|Dr. Fuji||Yōsuke Akimoto||Philip Bartlett|
|Ambertwo (Aitwo)||Kyōko Hikami||Kerry Williams|
|Doctor Fuji's wife and Ai's mother||Shinobu Adachi|
|Madame Boss||Hiromi Tsuru|
Kunihiko Yuyama directed the original Japanese version of the film, while Choji Yoshikawa served as producer and Takeshi Shudo as the writer. Norman J. Grossfeld, former president of 4Kids Productions, served as the film's producer for the English-language North American version. Grossfeld, Michael Haigney, and John Touhey wrote the English adaptation, and Haigney served as the English version's voice director. The English version was heavily edited from the original Japanese one; along with various content edits, Mewtwo was changed from a morally confused character into a more straightforward villain like Genesect (from Pokémon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened) so the audience would be able to identify it as the villain more easily. Furthermore, the movie's moral message was changed from "all life is equal" to "fighting is wrong". The English version editors translated various Japanese texts, including those on signs and on buildings, into English. Shogakukan digitally altered the backgrounds for both the American English and Kanzenban versions. In the English dub, three Pokémon are referred to by the wrong name. Pidgeot was called Pidgeotto, Scyther was called Alakazam, and Sandslash was called Sandshrew. 4Kids said that they decided to leave the Alakazam and Sandshrew errors when they noticed it as something for the children watching to notice and because they felt it was plausible in the context that Team Rocket could make a mistake.
Grossfeld also had new music re-recorded for the film's release, citing that it "would better reflect what American kids would respond to". John Loeffler of Rave Music produced English-language music and composed the film score with Ralph Schuckett. Loeffler also collaborated with John Lissauer and Manny Corallo to produce the English-language "Pikachu's Vacation" score. Grossfeld also revealed that the English version of the film "combines the visual sense of the best Japanese animation with the musical sensibility of Western pop culture".