Pokémon: Detective Pikachu – Movie Review
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is the first live action film adaptation of the ultra-popular Pokemon franchise, which was probably partially inspired by Muka Muka Paradise, and it is specifically based on the 2016 video game of the same name. The movie is directed and co-written by Rob Letterman who did the 2015 Goosebumps film adaptation and the 2010 Gulliver’s Travels, both which I don’t recall enjoying.
The film is made for fans or not-so-hardcore fans like myself who generally know what Pokemon is. For those who don’t, the film does provide a bit of explanation at the beginning. Basically, Pokemons are the animals of that world. They are commonly kept in the BALLS of their owners and are bred to fight in tournaments like gladiators. Hence the name, Pocket Monsters.
Unlike the usual Pokemon storylines, the film is set in Ryme City where Pokemons and humans live in harmony and work together. Pokemons here do not live in Pokeballs, instead they rome freely in the slightly more futuristic city and they willingly stick with their owners like pets. But I find it weird that they call their Pokemons by the name of their species instead of naming them like we would in the games. Even Ash in the manga and animes don’t.
The plot follows Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith, who’s told that his estranged father, a police detective, died from an accident. He goes to check out his apartment and meets a talking Pikachu, who’s actually his dad’s partner and is suffering from amnesia. The Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, instinctively believes his dad is alive and that there’s a bigger conspiracy at play. Together, they go on an adventure to investigate on this case and seek the truth.
As we all know, movie adaptations of video games are terrible. A couple of them were so bad it’s good but most of them were just shit. When I heard Hollywood was going to make a live action Pokemon movie, I thought, “Oh, no. Here we go again.” But then it was announced that they would only be adapting the spinoff game that nobody I know bothered playing.
So with that, we get to lower our expectation and just enjoy the fan servicing of Pokemon cameos. And that’s what this movie delivers best. The Pokemons here steal every scene. They are incredibly adorable and most importantly, faithful to the games, anime and manga. I guess Nintendo was still having movie adaptation phobia after the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie so they were probably closely supervising this time and had The Pokemon Company to co-produce the film.
The Pokemons may look very CGI but I was convinced they are physically present with the human characters, who are oddly strong. Imagining carrying a dog or cat with extended arms.
The plot itself is formulaic and mostly predictable, like TV shows on children’s channels. The main character has daddy issues. Daddy goes missing. He goes searching for daddy with some friends. You could tell who the bad guy is from miles away and the mystery isn’t much of a mystery. The tone is lighthearted, goofy, somewhat campy and doesn’t take itself that seriously.
Ryan Reynolds just sounds exactly like himself here. His jokes and brand of humour don’t land as often as they do in his Deadpool films. Maybe he should ask Bradley Cooper (voiced Rocket the Raccoon in the Marvel movies) for some tips on how to sound different.
Justice Smith’s performance is fine as the young and reluctant protagonist but unfortunately the writing and pacing of the film didn’t really allow me to care much for his character.
Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens, a reporter with a Psyduck, is kawaii but her level campiness is so over the top, I cringed hard in her first few scenes. But thankfully the film is quite self-aware.
Despite the title, there aren’t really much detective stuff or investigative activities. I didn’t play the game but the story is most probably rushed in the movie. The development of the relationship between Tim and Pikachu feels very lazy, unconvincing and unearned. However, I am okay with the twist at the very end though the how and why that happens aren’t really explained.
Although most of the action are chase scenes, we do get a bit of Pokemon versus Pokemon action. I just wished the film had a bit more time to explore the city more. I was very interested and more intrigued to see the lives of the people there.
In overall, Detective Pikachu is not too bad and this might be a turning point for video game movies. It’s decently fun to watch. The Pokemons are just so cute. If you are a fan, I think it’s worth watching just for the fan services alone. Non-fans and general audience may also enjoy it as a fast-moving family comedy adventure.
Mortal Kombat (1995) is still best video game movie in my books but Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is one of the better ones for sure.
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Genre: Fantasy adventure comedy
Running Time: 104 minutes
Director: Rob Letterman
Screenwriters: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Suki Waterhouse, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy
Malaysia Release Date: 9 May 2019
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, The Pokémon Company