"Parental Discernment Required"
What You Need To Know:
POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE features Ash, a young Pokemon trainer who maintains a small group of Pokemon or pocket monsters, a race of sometimes cuddly creatures with special powers who enjoy battling one another in a kind of martial arts contest. Ash goes to a mysterious island and attends an ultimate Pokemon competition. There, an angry Pokemon clone named Mewtwo creates a massive battle between Pokemons and their clones. Only when the hero sacrifices himself and is revived by tears of love and sadness does the story come to a conclusion.
It is difficult to understand why children would like Pokemon so much. Ash’s cuddly Pokemon buddy Pikachu speaks just like a teletubby, and many of the other Pokemon similarly grunt and giggle. Mewtwo is a poorly drawn villain. Ash only has marginal charm. The biggest danger of Pokemon is the magical role-playing trading cards with their themes of special powers and even occult psychic abilities. Morally, this movie portrays some good values, including love, friendship, self-sacrifice, teamwork, & turning the other cheek. The Pokemon phenomenon will continue as long as it is profitable. Strong, wise parents should provide balance and truth to counteract its dangers
(OO, FR, BB, C, VVV) Occult worldview purporting manipulative, magical & psychic powers with implied prayers to ancient false religion & many moral moments including love, friendship, self-sacrifice, teamwork, & even turning the other cheek; no foul language; extensive cartoon action violence including chases, threats of violence, falls, crashes, near drowning, characters thrown against walls, hand-to-hand combat, some characters throw electrical bolts, & explosions; no sex; no nudity but a shapely female character wears a midriff bearing shirt; no alcohol use; and, no smoking.
In 1998, POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE was a national sensation in Japan to become the fourth biggest all time grossing hit over there. Now, a year later, it is being released in America. As the top-rated children’s cartoon on TV, with Warner Bros. backing it and a mammoth licensing program encompassing 1,000-plus products behind it, this movie is well poised to be a hit in America. The estimated earnings for all things Pokemon to date is $6 billion.
Many Christian parents have taken a cautious position on the phenomenon known as Pokemon trading cards which can involve magical role-playing. Now, parents and schools are getting fed up with the addictive nature of card trading. Even so, the Pokemon phenomena is still chugging quickly along, with little signs of stopping.
Animation from Japan (called anime) used to be appreciated in America by a very small audience. Now, with the concurrent release of PRINCESS MONONOKE, anime is getting more mainstream attention. However, POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE may leave a distasteful flavor in animation fans’ mouths. The art and story leave a lot to be desired. No matter, however, because fans of the show will be happy to see their favorite critters in action, although some may be disappointed that the movie is more serious than the TV show and lacks some of the show’s clever humor.
The movie begins with a short called PIKACHU’S VACTATION. This short involves a lot of Pokemon (short for “pocket monsters”) chasing each other around on a little mountain resort. No story exists at all except one Pokemon gets his head stuck in a hole, and the audience cheers while the other Pokemon extract the captured beast.
The real movie opens with a mystical, adult introduction featuring a misguided Pokemon which has been cloned by a group of misguided scientists. Then, the story introduces the audience to Ash, the human hero of the cartoon series. Ash is a young Pokemon trainer who maintains a small group of Pokemon. While having a picnic lunch, he is challenged to a Pokemon battle by another trainer. The two trainers release different Pokemon. They engage in a sort of toned-down chicken fight while being coached by their trainers. The best-trained and best-coached Pokemon win.
Ash and many other Pokemon trainers are then invited to attend an ultimate Pokemon competition, to be held on an island many miles out to sea. A storm prevents most from attending, but no matter, it was all a test to see which trainers were the bravest and most cunning. Only those who have the resources to cross the sea are allowed in the competition. However, the host turns out to be none other than Mewtwo, the angry clone of the opening sequence. Mewtwo is the clone of a rare Pokemon with psychic, telekinetic powers called Mew. Mewtwo wishes to use his power to capture all the Pokemon and create his own strain of angry, super-clones who then will destroy all the other Pokemon and humans to create a brand new world. Mewtwo mistakenly thinks the non-cloned Pokemon are merely slaves to their human trainers.
Ash and the other benevolent Pokemon trainers cannot stop Mewtwo’s powers. Mewtew creates the angry super-clones, culminating in a massive battle between the original Pokemon and their more-powerful clone brothers. It is only when a hero sacrifices himself and is revived by tears of love and sadness that the story comes to a conclusion.
Apart from the battles, it is difficult to understand why children would like Pokemon so much. For instance, Pikachu speaks like a teletubby, and many of the other Pokemon similarly grunt and giggle. Also, Mewtwo is a poorly-conceived character who looks more like a weird kangaroo than a menacing villain. Apart from stopping this silly antagonist, the movie had little story. Ash only has marginal charm and, except for two human trainers named Jesse and James who play a sort of comic foil, all the other trainers bear little personality or life. Ash and his cuddly Pokemon buddy Pikachu are the only characters depicted with real care.
As noted before, the biggest danger of Pokemon is with the magical role-playing trading cards. The worst problem is that the Pokemon have “special” powers which children are encouraged to use in real life, instead of relying on the power of God that comes from accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and being born again by the Holy Spirit. Some of these powers are described as “psychic” powers, which the show’s marketing also encourages children to imitate. This is, of course, occultism.
Thus, POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE basically serves as another reinforcement to “catch” all the cards so that you can become a more powerful Pokemon trainer. Before the screening in Atlanta, in fact, children were popping out of their seats, making deals and opening up new packs of trading cards. Like any other form of televised entertainment, such activity can become habit-forming, turning your children’s hearts away from God, Jesus Christ and the Bible.
Thematically, however, this movie portrays some good values along the way. The psychically powerful Mewtwo has his comeuppance, with self-sacrifice and love saving the day. Although Mewtwo’s villainy is eventually redeemed, he still retains his psychic powers. There is even a resurrection scene in this movie, where (without giving away the ending) tears of love revive a dead body. Love and pain over loss is always a good idea, but shed tears never brought anyone back to life. Also, the movie seems to say that healthy competition for sport is O.K., but, when the sport turns into real fighting, then that is an evil which must be stopped. Despite this positive message, it is hard to distinguish Mewtwo’s power struggle with the power struggle that the Pokemon trainers have in the show’s competitive fighting and that the children have every day in real life with the trading cards.
Already, a sequel is in the works for next summer. The good news is that this craze will eventually peter out. However, what parents may not realize is that they have the power to stop it by refusing to dole out cash to their children. It is not wise to complain about what you permit. Thus, Pokemon will continue as long as it is profitable. Strong, wise parents can provide balance and truth to its dangers. POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE, alone, will not irreparably damage your child. Yet, a standard of truth and responsibility must be upheld so that this and future fads won’t yield a spirit of pagan craziness, obsession and sin.