Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is a retelling of the Pokémon anime's earliest season. There are a few scenes that will be familiar for older fans, but most of the movie concerns itself with an original plot.
This is for the best. Not every call back to the original show is bad; fighting off the flock of spearow, and saving Charmander both hit with their original emotional resonance. On the other hand, Team Rocket's presence is entirely superfluous. Their scenes do little to add to the movie beyond being something for already established fans to recognise.
Thankfully, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! doesn't shoehorn in too many characters from the original show. Brock, and Misty have been replaced by Verity, and Sorrel. Charmander's trainer, Damian, has been remade into Cross and he plays a bigger role in the movie than he did the series. These characters all get moments that explore their motivations, and the movie does enough to flesh them out as characters. The decision to include a fresh cast of supporting characters instead of old favourites is a wise one, as it allows the audience to enjoy the new characters whereas newer versions of familiar faces would have spent most of the movie competing with themselves.
While occasionally a scene will digress from the main plot, there is a narrative thread to link most of the movie together. This thread comes together in the pay-off but it doesn't always work in the details along the way. There is a scene in which Ash reacts to a setback in a way that doesn't feel true to the character. Even within the context of the movie, presenting a new version of Ash his reaction feels like too much of a leap to the situation, and the movie could have done a better job of explaining why Ash reacts in that fashion. This scene is saved by the quality of the scenes that followed and the way that it foreshadows events that take place later in the movie.
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! takes the essence of the original Pokémon anime, and repackages it. While the little nods to the series that inspired it are fun, the movie is at its best when it is using the themes of its predecessor to tell its own story rather than the moments which essentially sell fans more of the same with a fresh coat of paint. Some of the specific details of the plot fall flat, but it works as a whole. Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! succeeds in celebrating the history of the franchise and showing potential fans why they should check it out.
POKÉMON THE MOVIE: I CHOOSE YOU! / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: KUNIHIKO YUYAMA / SCREENPLAY: SHÔJI YONEMURA / STARRING: SARAH NATOCHENNY, IKUE OTANI, KATE BRISTOL, CARTER CATHCART, RODGER PARSONS, DAVID OLIVER NELSON, SUZY MYERS, BILLY BOB THOMPSON/ RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 12TH