Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
I wanna be the very best
Like no one ever was.
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause…
At this point you should be completing the rest of the epic theme song opening to the Pokémon show in your head. If you’re not, then this is most definitely a rocky start. “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” similarly didn’t have the warmest reception to pundits when this film was first announced. If you’re a OG Gen1 90’s kid like myself than the realization that the very first live action Pokémon movie we were getting was based off a Pikachu game that is a big departure from the Trading Card game and show was shocking. Then; the first trailer was released, and it totally won you over with a unique look at a realized Pokémon world that knocked your socks off and brought back all the feels right in your jellies.
Whether you were a fan of the trading card game, the animated series, or just the Nintendo video games; Pokémon was a massive cultural touchstone to many of us and just a few years ago with the debut of the super popular “Pokémon: Go!” mobile game we have been transformed into the Pokémon trainers and Poke-lovers we all were as kids.
This is a story about Tim (Justice Smith); a young man a little stuck in his life who learns his estranged father has mysteriously died. When he travels to Ryme City, a unique human-Pokémon utopia to take care of his dad’s affairs, his father’s Pokémon Partner and wildly hilarious Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) informs him not all is what it seems revolving his father’s death. More peculiar, this Pikachu can talk, and Tim is the only person able to hear him. The two reluctantly set off on a Buddy-Cop journey through the city sniffing out the clues and stumbling upon an even more nefarious plan at work that could change he entire world that only Tim and Pikachu can stop.
The beginning of this film is a super inviting and vibrant world we lovers of the property could only imagine. It’s a tangible and livable world filled with a lot of what we already have except has wild and domesticated Pokémon existing there too. There’s a good explainer video in the 1st act that delivers a lot of exposition on the world but outside of the Poke-isms you would you’d be looking for if you’re a super fan are more of Easter eggs as opposed to a narrative delivery you’d find in the script.
The visual effects really must be commended for bringing to life astonishingly different creatures from the earth types to the fire types and many others. Pikachu’s design is incredible. The color distinction and realism in his fur is impeccable and is noticeably the most detailed throughout the film. Even in motion we don’t lose the textured style or effect to his look. In fact, all the furred and feathered Pokémon throughout the movie are done quite well. In my first watch there was something about Charizard that didn’t feel right, but in my 2nd viewing I was able to appreciate the grain and contrast to this imagining compared to others. There are some Pokémon unfortunately are just too difficult to translate. Bulbasaur’s, and Squirtle’s, and many other slicker looking creatures were too bright and glossy and appeared more cartoonish. The VFX aren’t so much uneven as they are paid more close attention to with the characters we’re narratively focusing on.
The trailer like I mentioned earlier was a big surprise. There was an edge to it and the story we’re sold on, is essentially a boy and his dog tale on a journey to find something. It’s a classic story we all recognize but was amplified by a Noir tone that seems so appropriate. The tone however, is what shifts a little too often. The 1st act very much seems like a PG rated Blade Runner movie, but then quickly shifts into some more hoakie and juvenile tones and plot structure which reminded me…
Kolby, you’re watching a kid’s movie!
I can’t explain why or how I forgot. I got so wrapped up in this impressive trailer and the heaps of nostalgia I was living in that it slipped my mind that the film I was watching is not for a 30-year-old man, but maybe a 10-year-old boy… or girl.
Im not trying to start a gender war here, lol.
But honestly, that was ok. Once my expectations were adjusted I was able to appreciate this movie for what it was instead of what I wanted it to be. The performances became more palatable whether fair or not because of this too. It can’t go without saying how important the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith is. Their comedic timing is great and both performances offer something very important to the story and the audience. This isn’t a new feat for Reynolds, but a much-needed mature brand of comedy to keep the late 20’s early 30’s crowd in the theater entertained while the plot services more of a digestible story to the younger folks.
The world building in the beginning of the film once again sets the stage for a lot of ground to be covered. While this is far from a Pokémon Trainer, story we get enough to lay the ground work for spinoffs and sequels that may be able to deliver on the potential this property has.
If you’re a 90’s kid like me this film will bowl you over with nostalgia and be pretty fun ride for what it is. If you didn’t grow up a fan they’re may not be too much here for you as the script is needing a punch up on the plot and overcoming a very cliché mustache twirling kid’s movie villain, you see coming from a mile away. With some CG on some Pokémon that’s not as polished and a Ryan Reynolds you’ve definitely heard before, Detective Pikachu scratches the surface on something greater, but on its own is a fine movie to take the little ones to.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 6/10
Directors: Rob Letterman
Writer: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill NIghy, Ken Watanabe
Run Time: 104 mins