While comic book movies are big critical and box office hits today, that was not always the case. It began in 1998 with the release of “Blade,” a movie that was flawed but still fun and enjoyable. “Blade” gave comic books their first step towards major success. Two years later, the first X-Men film was released to both critical and box office acclaim, expanding on the foundation set by “Blade.”
Similar to comic book movies in the ’90s, video game adaptations have always been critical and box office failures, usually due to lack of understanding and respect from the filmmakers adapting the property. But I feel that last year’s Tomb Raider reboot had the potential to pave the way for good video game movies, like “Blade” did with comic book adaptations. And now video game movies finally have their X-Men.
“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” is an urban fantasy detective film based on Nintendo’s series of Pokemon games, specifically the “Detective Pikachu” game that was made for the Nintendo 3DS back in 2016. It tells the story of a young man named Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who lives in a world populated with creatures called Pokemon that humans use to do tasks and fight other Pokemon. When Tim’s detective father is reported dead, he goes to his father’s apartment where he finds a lightning-type Pokemon called Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who he is able to talk to. The two of them then decide to team up to find out what really happened to Tim’s father along with what he was investigating when he went missing.
If you are a huge Pokemon fan, you are going to love this movie. Just the fact that they were able to create a live action version of the world shown in the games and the shows is worth the price of admission. The production designers and special effects team took full advantage of the setting and really made the world come alive. It almost feels like a reboot of “Who Framed Rodger Rabbit” with Pokemon instead of the Looney Toons.
The biggest complaint I could see diehard fans having about the film is that there are no cameos or even Easter eggs for characters from the rest of the franchise, not even during the credits. There are no cameos of icons like Nurse Joy or Officer Jenny, and there aren’t any Easter eggs hinting at Ash or Red. There is a plot device involving the letter R that I thought could have been teasing an appearance from Team Rocket, but it ended up being unrelated. The only character that technically crossed over from the other mediums was Mewtwo.
While I know many people who thought his appearance in the trailer was a spoiler, he’s introduced in the first five minutes of the movie. However, the reason Mewtwo is in the movie is very much a spoiler.
If you love Pokemon and grew up with the franchise, you’ll love the movie. But what if you didn’t?
If you were a kid that wasn’t the biggest fan but still were somewhat familiar with the franchise, you’ll probably still love the movie. I’m not the biggest Pokemon fan in the world, either. There were a few Pokemon in the background that I didn’t know, but I still really had a fun time with the movie.
If you know absolutely nothing about Pokemon then you’re probably not going to have such a good of a time. If you take away the nostalgia goggles, you start to notice some of the movie’s core problems.
The film takes place in the fictional Ryme City, which is unapologetically a carbon copy of London from the double-decker buses, signs for the underground, driving on the left side of the road and The Gherkin. I wouldn’t make a big deal about this, but they put all this effort into creating a fictional world that has a building that is very clearly a replica of a famous skyscraper. It’s especially weird in a city where most people still have American accents.
The movie’s villain is intended to be a surprise at the start of the third act, but the moment the character is introduced, your mind goes, “yup that guy is the villain.” The evil plan that is revealed in the third act also feels a little bizarre.
Justice Smith does a good job acting against Pikachu and really sells the comedy. The one thing I felt was odd, though, was the character’s age. The character of Tim is established at the beginning of the film as being an accountant. Despite this, he’s played by a 23-year old that looks and acts as a teenager would. It almost feels like he was supposed to be a kid or a teenager, but somewhere down the line, they decided to make him an adult with an accounting job. Tim’s age doesn’t have much of an impact on the plot, but almost every other piece of Pokemon media is lead by a kid, so this choice felt weird to me.
Tim has a female friend, Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) with a Psyduck who appears throughout the film. I didn’t mind her character, but I felt they didn’t give her enough to do. She kind of felt like a character that was added in a second draft after a producer told the screenwriters to add in a female character.
When it comes to Pikachu himself, Ryan Reynolds does a good job in the role. I was afraid that he would just be playing a watered-down Deadpool, but he was able to pull off a similar but still original performance.
So do you have to catch it? No, but you’ll have a good time if you decide to.