Director: Rob Letterman Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe Running Time: 104 minutes
It’s 2000 and you’re nine and you’re waiting in line at the cinema for Pokémon: The First Movie. You’re loaded up on sugar and Burger King and immeasurable excitement. Pokémon is a global phenomenon in spite of how it baffles anyone who’s five years older than you or more, you’ve been freebasing a cocktail of video games, toys and cartoons for the last year or so and you think it’s the most amazing thing imaginable. As far as your nine year old understanding of art and culture goes, “: The Movie” of The Thing is the ultimate elevation, the crowning glory of entertainment and so you’re pretty sure this is going to be the biggest and best movie of all time. And imagine. It’s only the first one. You look at the poster and it has, like, every Pokémon on it. Incredible. Mewtwo and Mew square off in the centre and you can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when they finally fight. Your brother looks like you must look, like he’s about to explode from the excitement of it all. Your mother looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. Philistine. And then the screen opens up. And you go in.
It was fine?
…was it even fine?
You’re only nine and you are so ready and willing to love this movie and there were certainly fun bits, certainly moments where it seemed to be giving you exactly what you wanted, but now its over and all that anticipation and excitement has left you and there hasn’t really been anything left in its place. You don’t feel disappointed, exactly, but there is something nagging at you. Surely life isn’t so cynical that it would lure you into a cinema screen, distract you by having your favourite characters bounce around for two hours doing nothing of much importance, stick in a dumb, even contradictory moral at the end and shoo you out until they’re ready to show you The Next Movie? You may not have felt exactly like this in 2000. Or when you were nine. You may have felt like this at some stage though. Maybe even recently. We all get sold on the biggest and the best and the phenomenon and we all end up in that moment when the anticipation has departed. If you take these things too seriously you feel like you have to explain, in so many words, why something nagged at you or not, or your delight when the excitement pays off, or your sense of betrayal when it doesn’t. Before you know it you go into school one day and no one thinks Pokémon is cool anymore. Nobody gave you the heads up about this.
It’s 2019 and you spend your own money on movies that are only fine now so at least your mother is less disappointed. It turns out that life actually is so cynical, sometimes, but mostly you’re still pretty ready and willing to love movies. You’re the one who gets baffled by the weird things they try to sell kids these days, and then you see them announce a pretty baffling thing: a movie where Pikachu is a detective. And he talks. There’s a part of you, somewhere in the place where that anticipation and excitement used to be, that knows that it’s just a regular Pikachu with a stupid, cheap hat. He still embodies all the awful commercialism he did before.
But he’s got a new hat!