Arriving on Netflix for “Pokémon Day,” “Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back — Evolution,” the 22nd feature in the franchise, is a talkier remake of “The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back.” That film grossed $86 million in its 1999 American theatrical release, still a record for a Japanese animated feature.
In the new film, scientists working for the sinister Team Rocket clone the formidable title character from a fossil so their boss Giovanni can weaponize the artificial creature. But Mewtwo shatters its fetters and the laboratory in a violent rejection of Giovanni’s plot — and all humans.
As they do in so many of the features, irrepressible Pokémon Master-in-training Ash Ketchum and Pikachu convince the hostile, staggeringly powerful Mewtwo that friendship between humans and Pokémon is a good thing. The Pokémon battles and declarations of affection provide what fans expect, but after 20 years, it all feels very familiar.
It’s not clear why the filmmakers switched from drawn animation to CG for the new film. Ash and his friends Brock and Misty have the disturbing, plastic look of badly rendered skin. As Pikachu and other Pokémon have been made into countless toys, it’s easier to accept three-dimensional versions of them. But the realistic fire burning at the tip of Charizard’s tail feels unnecessary, and the cartoony characters look out of place amid the hyper-real water, lightning, explosions and other special effects.
The previous feature, “Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us” (2018), offered an original and relevant story. ”Mewtwo Strikes Back” feels like poké-business as usual.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Available on Netflix