Plot: Ash Ketchum is about to turn ten years old, which means he can choose his first Pokemon and begin his career as a trainer. But thanks to his excitement, he overslept and once he arrives at Professor Oak’s to claim his first Pokemon, all of the starter ones have been taken. But there is one left, a troublesome Pikachu that refuses to even go inside its pokeball, let alone take orders from a trainer. Ash heads out with Pikachu, but as expected, his Pokemon doesn’t listen to him and this leaves Ash frustrated, as he was so excited to be a trainer. An encounter with a Fearow pulls Pikachu into a battle, which then turns into Ash and Pikachu running from an entire flock of birds out to teach them a lesson. But Ash protects his Pokemon and in the process, wins over Pikachu and the two forge a strong friendship. Now that he has a Pokemon willing to battle, can he live his dream and become a true Pokemon master?
Entertainment Value: Released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, I Choose You takes us back to how the entire series began, as Ash begins his journey to become the greatest Pokemon master to ever live. As this retells Ash’s origin story, there is a lot of familiar ground covered, but the movie never feels like a retread and manages to keep things fresh. While some of the key narrative elements remain the same, a lot has also been changed and updated, which ensures fans have a lot of new content to soak in. Ash encounters Ho-Oh, who serves as the movie’s main legendary Pokemon and a crucial part of the narrative. I was pleased that I Choose You gives us what feels like a complete tale, not just an introduction to hook viewers into the franchise. A lot of ground is covered and while some of it feels rushed, like evolutions and Ash’s arc with Caterpie, it all works well enough. Even if this was your first Pokemon exposure, the story makes sense, but obviously fans of the franchise will be more at home. I had a lot of fun with this movie and I think it balanced nostalgia with fresh blood quite well, so anyone interested in Pokemon should give it a chance.
This feels like a movie too, with big set pieces and some beautiful visuals that put a fresh coat of paint on these familiar elements. The character designs remain faithful to what has been established for the most part, so all the Pokemon look as they should, just a little more polished than before. The Ho-Oh scenes look especially cool, as the rainbow light bathes the screen. The swarm of birds chasing Ash and Pikachu is an example of the improved visuals, as that scene looks much more intense here than in the original show, but keeps the overall feel the same. I kind of wish Team Rocket would have had more of a presence, but they’re just a fun of series of cameos and have no real involvement in the narrative. The jokes are about what you’d expect, silly and slapstick at times, but fun and what the series has always been like. Some wild lines come through, such as when a rival trainer informs Ash that people who believe in friendship are trash, which is just an outlandish moment. The pace is brisk throughout, pushing a lot of story at a fast clip, but again, never feels that rushed. I think this is one that will please both fans and newcomers, which is no simple task.