Pokémon is one of the most iconic franchises in history and while you may think it’s known best for video games, trading cards, and the immensely popular Pokémon Go app, the series has a long-running history on the big screen as well. Movies featuring these amazing creatures have been released on an almost yearly basis since 1998 and now the 20th anniversary of Pokémon has been celebrated with the best instalment of the franchise yet.
Taking us back to the very first episode of the TV series, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! retells Ash Ketchum’s origin story and expands on that by answering questions fans have had for the past 20 years or so. It also expands on the relationship between him and Pikachu, something which has been a focal point of Pokémon since the very beginning.
Produced by the team behind the popular Pokémon XY and Sun and Moon TV series, I Choose You! features some incredible animation and feels like a much-needed return to basics for a franchise which has expanded on a yearly basis ever since we were first introduced to it. What comes next promises to be extremely exciting as it feels like the door has been opened to a whole new wave of stories set in this world everybody will love.
So, with the movie returning to big screen this weekend, with many screenings on the 5th and 6th of November, we take a look at the key instalments of the franchise, how they changed the long-running series by introducing us to new Pokémon and places, and the impact they had on the characters and creatures who have become so beloved…
Pokémon: The First Movie
Back when there was only 151 Pokémon, The First Movie arrived in cinemas and introduced the idea of Pokémon created inside a laboratory. Mew and Mewtwo were both highly sought after in video game and trading card form at this stage so pitting them against one another was a must-see, as was Ash’s Pokémon going head to with cloned versions of themselves.
As the title makes clear, this was the first movie in the now long-running franchise and while it may not be up there with its predecessors in terms of visuals, it looked incredible at the time and it’s the story that really makes it stand out anyway. There’s just so much emotion in here that these amazing creatures finally felt real and were given some heart.
This may have only been the second instalment of the franchise but it was hugely different to what had come before and set the stage for some very different sorts of adventures for Ash Ketchum. Revolving around the Legendary Birds, this introduced a whole new side of the Pokémon Universe and the mythos was expanded in a very significant way here.
As a result, the door was opened to wave after wave of new, ancient Pokémon being revealed but this movie was released before things became too complicated for some fans. At the time, though, seeing the world expand like this was massively exciting and the tight story and strong visuals and characters ensured that this stands out as a classic chapter.
Don’t worry, we will be jumping ahead in the franchise soon but it’s vital to take a look at this often ignored third instalment first. Moving the action to the Johto region, it was this movie that first introduced the concept of an idea continent full of new, undiscovered Pokémon, something that had been used by the games and cards to expand past 150.
Interestingly, a big villain and epic action were put to one side here in preference of a more emotional story which used Ash’s mother as a major character and introduced to Molly, a young girl who had lost her father. While there were plenty of exciting moments here, Spell of the Unown made it clear that the Pokemon franchise could also focus on smaller stories.
Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai
As time passed, the Pokémon franchise got bigger and bigger. Where there were once just 151 creatures to catch, this world expanded exponentially in pretty much every medium. This movie was the first instalment in the Dialga and Palkia trilogy and revolves around Ash and his friends’ attempts to stop those two Pokémon from destroying space and time.
So, yeah, the stakes were incredibly high! The franchise has always been at its best when we get an unlikely alliance and that came in the form of our heroes being paired up with Darkrai, the nightmare Pokémon. Throw in some amusing supporting characters and a fun love triangle and this mystical adventure once again shook this world up in a big way.
Zoroark: Master of Illusions
One of the most recent instalments of the Pokémon franchise, this movie saw Ash and his friends travel to Crown City to watch the Pokémon Baccer World Cup. From there, they need to help get a Pokémon they’ve found back home to its mother while also avoiding the villainous Grings Kodai, one of the best bad guys who has ever shown up in these movies.
Throw in the fact that the Legendary Dogs reappear here and this was nostalgia heaven for longtime fans and a fun adventure featuring new faces for younger viewers. This is a sweet film with some amazing action sequences, a touching theme of family, and a redemption of sorts for quite a few Pokemon who didn’t necessarily get their due in past instalments.
Now Pokémon: I Choose You returns Ash and Pikachu to the big screen – it is released in UK cinemas on the 5th and 6th of November so click here to get your tickets now. Remember – Gotta Watch Them All….