Welp, review thread or not, I might as well give my two cents now that I saw it. I didn't make too many notes while watching, but I'll do my best. Long post, incoming!
Yes, I still fully stand by my statements from early in the thread that this is a beautiful movie to look at. The environments alone are screensaver-worthy, a lot of shots should be framed and put on the wall. The detail on everything from the water to the clouds to the clothes to the fortress itself is oozing with detail. This alone is what will guarantee multiple viewings and a frame-by-frame analysis, as well as a dub. So much is lost by reading subs, this movie is eye-candy. Even the animation itself needs to be studied because of the body language of a lot of characters, Mewtwo especially. This is the most animated Mewtwo's ever been since Detective Pikachu, just every time he's on screen I loathed having to glance down to skim the subs or even get interrupted because it meant missing out on some subtle touches to his expressions.
In fact, to go back to Mewtwo's fortress, this is exactly why I supported this going CGI. There's an insane amount of detail to the design, and we almost have ourselves a tour of it down to the texture, pretty much, I literally want this model file to just study and scroll through. I love this castle, I always have, and that love became much deeper with this redesign down to the last paint-job. It's amazing that this is never touched upon again (especially in the sequel where guess all he does is carve out a simply table and chairs lmao), but we have ourselves an architect in the Pokémon world whose talents and precise attention to detail is going unnoticed. Like damn, Mewtwo, just throw on a human disguise and get out there to make your mark on the world. Design some really kick-ass theme parks or something.
The Pokémon do look really good (I've never wanted to hug a Pidgeot more, and omg Wigglytuff is so plush), but I have unfortunately been spoiled by Detective Pikachu and so it's kinda hard to distance myself from that. The human characters are hit or miss, for sure, but I can appreciate it. Some moments were weird because you can tell they were still trying to put on anime exaggerations, but it wasn't working with these models. If it was a bit more cartoony, particularly in the faces, I think they could've gotten it with no issues, but I suppose they didn't want to stray from them looking not Japanese. I know some folks here were saying they couldn't take a leering Ash too seriously, but he's ten, he still has some baby fat on him. You could still feel the anger coming off of him.
But of all the human models in this film, I just have to come out and say it that James is hot. They made him hot, I can't believe I almost went "woof" the moment I saw him. Jessie's hot, too
dat ass, but James is so good-looking, damn. Hold on, I need to regain my composure there, that never happens, I swear. *ahem*
In terms of favorite scenes, and if they improved upon them..... eh, I'm afraid nothing sticks out. Well, actually I really like the shot when they fly out of the water and saw the castle and the surrounding clouds for the first time. That was actually a cool shot, and that's why I'm kind of bummed by this camera. It needed to slow down, yes, I know they're showing off the 3D space, but it also should've been shot in different angles or positions, too, like in the laboratory for example. It's not like I want it to be an exact shot-for-shot remake with the camera, but there were shots that needed more oomph in terms of the camera angles, or to get some much-needed close-up shots or quick edits. I'm not sure where people are getting at by saying there's "padding", though. Yeah, I suppose because of the CGI, things feel "slower", like there's actual weight to them, but if anything, I thought it moved too fast in some areas, the beginning especially. I just wanted to take in the Amazon, dammit. The extended scenes in some places, especially the clone battles, I honestly enjoyed because it just meant seeing them be animated more. Mew I think was my favorite to watch in that regard, so floaty.
The Lapras boat scene got a chuckle out of me. Yeah, I miss the Vikings motif, but Team Rocket dancing in the back row was too good, and I just want an extension of that.
The battle with Mewtwo and his starter clones was neat. While I think them being one-shotted in the original hits home a lot harder, it's actually still nice to see them still get back up to fight back.
Bruteroot Bernard being slammed into the doorway and dropping like thirty feet or something (how tall's that entranceway, anyway?) was pretty brutal, actually. I was thinking about how unfortunate it is that they toned down the brutality from the original, but that one hurt.
Oh, and thank God Mewtwo and Mew didn't play bumper balls with each other. They still charged at each other and were psychically repelled, but they didn't look like they were about to play Super Monkey Ball rolling around in their hamster balls.
I'm honestly not a fan of the soundtrack, it's just kinda there. That said, "Inochi Aru Mono" was still beautiful to listen to, but the scene still played out too differently that the beats still kinda didn't hit. But when the stadium lights went out and Mewtwo and Mew flare up with psychic energy and hiss at each other (Mew freaking was hissing, like holyyyyyyy), and then Ash runs out and boom and like... yeah, there's no music. There's no sound, just Pikachu calling out Ash's name and trying to shock him back to life, just to cry and cry and cry oh my God they drew that one out. I'm actually kinda glad the Pokémon cries were muted, they must've realized Dewgong's cry is narmy and just wanted only Pikachu to cry. But now I'm wondering about what the dub might do with the soundtrack. My biggest wish was for "Tears of Life" to be trumped, to see if this was something that could have more impact to it, but I guess nothing will. Oh well, not that I'm complaining because I adore the dub soundtrack.
Ha, bet you didn't think I'd not gush on about Mewtwo, did you? Masachika Ichimura is still fantastic, it's really like he never stopped being his character. The movie is still Mewtwo's story, it's still about him hogging the spotlight like the prima donna he is and it's still him showing his disdain toward mankind for bringing him into a world he didn't ask to be born in. Which is why I think it's still a damn shame they didn't bring in the entirety of Mewtwo's origins because his beginning questions to Dr. Fuji still echoed from his long-lost childhood memory. Yes, it was there from the very beginning in 1998, but that's still a context that's eerily lost and confusing to those who aren't aware of his story. He was just born, what does he know about a mother, a father, of a God? He didn't know who he was, even still seemed to question his own existence to the very end, but yet he knows about birth like that? It's still something to make one's head spin, which fits Mewtwo's confusion, but still.
Anyway, I just loved watching Mewtwo, and I could stare at his CGI model all day. It's still kinda amusing to me how I've been a huge fan of this character for 20 years, now, but I still don't feel like I can understand him inside-and-out. I just have to marvel how he looks in different formats, and how I thought I'd have been used to a 3D model of Mewtwo by now thanks to video games, but I'm still not, and I love it. Mew, as well, but I swear there were a couple of scenes where Mew looked like Yoda. I don't know why, maybe I still have the Bad Lip Readings playing in my head, but Mew made me think of Yoda a couple of times and I was like "WHY". But I'll still hug and cuddle and squish and smush Mew, I just wanna play with those ears and paws and that tail. Holy cow, that tail had a mind of its own, just like a real cat's.
So with that said, why don't I think this is up there with the first film when it's still the same film? It's not because of nostalgia, I can promise you that, and it's not because I think the cel animation is too vintage to top. Is it a soulless cash-grab? Not really, they were really pushing how important it was that Pokémon was going fully CGI for the first time. They wanted to show just how far the series and technology has come that they could make these characters look more alive.
I think it still falls a little flat because the script should've been altered a bit to match this new style. It's not like it's not important, there's still a lesson to learn here. But I think it needed to be upgraded a bit or changed up some things, especially in Mewtwo's decision at the end to go "Meh, only I can learn this valuable lesson about one's life being as equal to another's. Humans can suck my dick." Perhaps it really should've followed the current AU set up with the 20th movie, so that while it still hit the same beats and still kept Mewtwo the same character, it still would've felt a bit more of a fresher take on the same tale. So even though I still liked how Mewtwo, Ash, Mew, and even Team Rocket were portrayed in this film, things should've gone differently. That first look we got at the CGI I thought was a sign that there was going to be somewhat of a change in how various scenes would play out (so like Mewtwo and Mew could've had their battle out near the ocean), but alas, like with all Pokémon movies, the teaser never has scenes that are in the final cut.
Anyhoo, I honestly want to see more Pokémon movies go CGI. I think them collaborating with Sprite helped a lot in how it looks, and I hope Motonori Sakakibara sticks around for future projects or gave them some pointers. I think if they do some slight tweaking on the humans, it'll look much better, but I'll take what I can get. This was a good effort, but I fear this movie may not have done well enough to call for more CGI. And that's a shame.