“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” stars Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, and Ken Watanabe. Released on May 10, 2019, the film is about a boy who teams up with a talking Pikachu to find his missing father.
The film is directed by Rob Letterman, who also directed films such as “Shark Tale”, “Monsters vs. Aliens”, and “Goosebumps”. It is based on the 2016 video game of the same name, and it is based on the media franchise created by Satoshi Tajiri. The world of Pokémon has been on everyone’s mind since its inception in 1995. From video games to trading cards to an ongoing anime series, these lovable, but powerful, creatures are everywhere, and it looks like they’re not going to disappear anytime soon. I was one of the people who grew up with Pokémon during my childhood. I even have the Pokémon Yellow game for the Game Boy as well as a couple of Pokémon films on VHS. It was a pretty amazing time for me, but as time went on, my love for Pokémon faded away and I moved on to something else. I never looked back. However, when I found out that they’re making a new Pokémon movie in live-action, I saw an opportunity to return to my childhood and possibly regain my love for Pokémon. So far, we’ve seen several Pokémon films that were animated, just like the anime series they’re based on, but a live-action film where real-life humans interact with CGI Pokémon was something of a game-changer for long-time Pokémon fans. Well, for modern audiences, it’s far from a game-changer since it’s another live-action film based on a video game. Making a great video game movie is a tough nut to crack for Hollywood, mostly because they’re struggling to make an adaptation that appeals to both video game nerds and modern filmgoers alike. In fact, the only video game adaptation we have that was both tolerable and entertaining, in my opinion, was last year’s “Rampage”, a film about giant mutant animals that wreck buildings. Based on the marketing that we’ve seen, it looks like that we might get a video game adaptation that will finally break the genre’s losing streak, but will it be able to impress people who are unfamiliar with the popular Japanese franchise?
The film is set in a fictional Earth where humans coexist with powerful creatures called Pokémon. One of the humans is Tim Goodman (Smith), a former Pokémon trainer who travels to Ryme City, a metropolis that has humans and Pokémon working side-by-side peacefully, after hearing about his father’s disappearance. There, he meets a Pikachu (Reynolds), a unique Pokémon that only Tim can understand, has amnesia, and has the voice of Deadpool. The story has them working together to find out what really happened to Tim’s father. Along the way, they discover a mysterious plot that will destroy the coexistence between humans and Pokémon. For fans of the long-running franchise, this film is a genuine gold mine. The world that was built for "Detective Pikachu" perfectly resembled the universe that was introduced in the anime and in the games, ranging from its adventurous tone to its glorifying futuristic-like setting. It's almost everything that a Pokémon fan could ever wanted from a live-action Pokemon film. For casual moviegoers, the film is a family-friendly buddy comedy that doesn't transcend its imaginative concept that much, but makes up for it by providing some charm and heart into its decent, yet predictable, plot. There were a couple of twists in the film that I saw coming a mile away and the emotional beats weren't as shocking as Pikachu's powers. However, the film's ability to make the characters and the world interesting and fun was enough to overcome its easy-to-spot flaws. The main highlights of “Detective Pikachu” were, without a single doubt in my mind, Ryan Reynolds as the title character and the visual designs for the Pokémon. Let’s start with Reynolds, who was an absolute show-stealer as Pikachu. Reynolds brought his own charismatic flair to the lovable yellow creature, and the result is as satisfying as catching a Pokémon. Not only did he deliver some pretty hilarious jokes from start to finish, but he also understood what made Pikachu a popular character for fans young and old. If you love Reynolds’ performance as Deadpool, I can bet that you’re going to love him in this. As for the rest of the cast, they had enough moments to make me care for their characters. Justice Smith was decent in his role as Tim. His acting got a little rough during the first 20 minutes, but as soon as his character laid his eyes on a talking Pokémon for the first time, he honestly got a little better, and he continued to get better as the film went on. Kathryn Newton played Lucy Stevens, a reporter who serves as an ally for Tim and Pikachu. There’s nothing too special about her character, but in terms of her acting, Newton was tolerable, nonetheless. The next thing I want to mention is the visuals, most notably the Pokémon. You can definitely tell that the visual artists had done their homework. They're exactly like their anime counterparts, but with realistic textures like fur and scales. The CGI Pokémon fit extremely well with the live-action environments without looking a bit too cartoony. Plus, they're downright adorable, especially Pikachu.
Overall, “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is super effective not just for fans of the global phenomenon, but for casual families as well. While it doesn’t do a whole lot to get non-fans interested, it’s still an entertaining and charming live-action adaptation that is powered by Reynolds’ performance, a tolerable, yet simplistic, plot, and its visual effects. Hopefully, with this type of reception, the folks at Hollywood will finally know how to make video game adaptations (or live-action adaptations of popular anime shows) that won’t send fans into immature frenzies. If you’re a fan of Pokémon or if you’re in a mood for some cuteness and laughs, it’s definitely worth watching, or in this case, catching.