Cert: U/G
Length: 60 mins
Dir: Masamitsu Hidaka (Japanese Production), Michael Haigney, Anthony Salerno, Jason Bergfeld (US Adaptation)
Starring: Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ikue Otani, Adam Blaustein.

"Mewtwo Returns"This Japanese TV special (not a movie, despite the sub-title it's given in the English language version) made it to the US on video and DVD - but only the video managed to crawl over to the apparent leper colony that companies consider Europe to be. The video is devoid of the extra footage contained on the DVD - fifteen minutes of extra animation, detailing more of Mewtwo's origin, as seen in the original Japanese version of "Pokémon: The First Movie." Still, despite this, I was quite looking forward to viewing the movie, and was able to pick it up at a local store for a third of the price. It even came free with the eleventh volume of the video series collecting the TV episodes (containing "The Ninja-Poké Showdown," "The Poké Corral," and "The Kangaskhan Kid" - three godawful epsiodes which I never plan to watch again). But in the end up, I found myself quite sorely disappointed by it.

The animation quality is well above that of a normal Pokémon episode, and is quite close to the quality of the movies. It's animated by the same team who does the animation for the theme music of the various Johto series' - who, for some reason best known to their little Japanese selves, colour Jesse with purple hair, rather than her correct red. Beats me why they do it, but hey, at least they're consistent.

The movie begins with Mewtwo narrating a recap of his creation and the events of the first movie. Thankfully, the muffled distortion applied to his voice in the first movie is absent here, making him a lot easier to listen to. He and his clones of Pikachu and Meowth debate their existence, but as they do so, their location is pinpointed by the one man who still remembers that Mewtwo exists - Giovanni.

Then, after the opening sequence (which is very disappointingly free of any rendition of the Johto Champions theme song), we go into the normal setup of "our heroes" going on their way, heading for Purity Canyon, one of the Johto region's natural wonders. I notice here that both Brock and the narrator's voices have a decidedly higher pitch, which seems to continue for the entire movie. Spying on them are everyone's favourites, Team Rocket, but things don't stay calm for long, as a storm whips up, and the kids Domnio, Agent 009, the Black Tulipmiss the monthly bus to the canyon (which is then protected from the storm by a rationalising Mewtwo). They stay at the ranger station with Luna, one of those remarkably good-looking women who seem to populate the Pokémon world like nobody's business - but it's not long before trouble arrives.

Doctor Cullen from the Pokémon Institute and his assitant arrive, just as the Twerps plan to take the direct route out of the valley, over the mountain, atop which, unbeknowest to them, is Mewtwo's hideaway. Abrutply, Team Rocket attack, capture Pikachu and esacpe in their now-rocket-powered balloon, as Ash and co. give chase up the mountain - where the doctor's assistant is actually revealed to be Domino, aka the Black Tulip, aka Agent 009 of Team Rocket. TR's balloon crashes, and Pikachu meets up with his clone, and they spout rhetoric for a whole scene that is entirely too long. Mewtwo enters the scene - but then so does the Team Rocket combat squad, with Giovanni's helicopter at the forefront, preparing to launch an attack and re-capture Mewtwo. Meanwhile, Ash and co. discover the healing properties of the mountain's river water, in what quickly becomes a very unwelcome "we have to protect the environment" sub-plot.

Jesse and James are imprisoned by the clones, who split into two groups - those who wish to stay with Mewtwo, and those who, like the Pikachu clone, wish to fight. The Pokémon who elect to fight, however, are very quickly and Mewtwo and his Super-Cloneseasily captured by Giovanni, and Mewtwo finally decides to fight, first confronting Domino. However, he is forced to submit and enter a forcefield that negates his powers, rather than see the clones destroyed. Pikachu and his clone are healed by the waters of the lake, as the clones, Ash, Misty, Brock and their Pokemon are locked up. Giovanni sets about having a new lab built atop the mountain, but it's not long before unhappy wild Pokémon arrive to deal with the environment-wrecking Rockets, allowing the Twerps and co. to escape and free the weakened Mewtwo. Healed by the waters of the lake, Mewtwo opens up a can of psychic whoozie-whatzis, moving the lake beneath the mountain's surface and wiping the minds of Giovanni and the combat squad, though he allows the Ash and the gang, Jesse, James and Meowth to remember. Mewtwo lets the clones all go their own way, as Ash and co. and TR leave the mountain. The movie ends as Mewtwo looks out over a city, and narrator tells us of a tale of a mysterious Pokémon who only roams by moonlight.

First and foremost, the major problem with the movie is the lack of any actual ACTION. There's so little that's it's painful. Instead, it's just endless soliloquays and philosophising from Mewtwo, who's brimming over with angst. Now, normally, I wouldn't have anything against a nice bit of angst, but in this case it's totally unengaging angst that anyone who's read a "Spider-Man" comic in the last decade or so (or watched Digimon's BlackWarGreymon story, where it was done a lot better than this) will have heard all before. It's rather ironic, then, in that respect, as it makes Mewtwo - effectly the star of the Everyone is capturedmovie - the movie's main minus point. In "Pokémon: The First Movie," he was a great character (even if he WAS lacking in mystique) because he was so powerful and because he *fought.* Badassitude is *everything* when it comes to making a good villain, which Mewtwo most certainly was in the first movie. But in this movie, he's become a pacifist - and when you consider that the entire Pokémon franchise is BASED on FIGHTING, you know that's not the best thing to focus a movie on. The scene with Pikachu and his clone arguing as Meowth translates is particularly bad, filled with some of the worst "dramatic" dialogue to grace Pokémon.

It's after about twenty minutes into the film that you realise that's nothing's really going to *happen* in it. When Giovanni and the Team Rocket combat squad arrive, there's a lot of threatening about the possibility of some action actually occurring... but alas, no. It's just more posturing by Giovanni and Mewtwo - and additionally, this is the first time the kids have met Giovanni, but they don't seem to bat an eyelid.

Perhaps most annoying is the fact that when Mewtwo actually gets off his butt and DOES something, all we get to see is a big blue flash from a distance, then the screen fades to black. When we come back, Mewtwo has performed his big lake-moving mind-wipe stunt Mewtwo unconsciousoff-screen. One almost feels cheated.When I re-read the blurb on the back of the packaging, I laughed out loud. "An all-out battle seems certain... but..." Yes, that 'but' certainly belonged there, because an all-out battle was certainly not present in this film.

The dull and cliched "we must protect the environment" sub-plot is hugely unnecessary, and only results in more empty, needless scenes that could be filled with something interesting. It's very "Captain Planet," and they've covered the subject matter in single episodes before. It's just not needed here.

So, in summary, while it's got good intentions, and is obviously trying to movie beyond the basic Pokémon formula and tell a more meangingful story, all it suceeds in doing is creating a rather boring feature that drags along and could have been done a lot better. The voice actors do a good job with what they have, but the dull, sparse score doesn't help them along. Unless you're a serious hard-core Poké-fan, or specifically a fan of Mewtwo, I'd advise passing on this bland story.

Rating: 2 out of 5

All pictures, except video cover, courtesy of Bisafans.De