Pokémon Detective Pikachu
A young man mourning the mysterious death of his father teams up with a talking Pikachu who wants to be a detective in Rob Letterman’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
It goes without saying that Pokémon is a massive phenomenon that has endured for quite some time. The relative simplicity of the early games won over legions of fans and it has only grown over time with subsequent entries and an ever expanding roster. My personal history with Pokémon will be a fairly common one; I was a huge fan of the generation 1 video games and started to grow out of it around about generation 2. Ever since then I’ve had an awareness that the franchise has endured but I haven’t been involved in it much.
I’m always of the opinion that you never truly lose interest in something; priorities and interests shift but that attachment will always remain. The recent Power Rangers adaptation proved that and Pokémon Detective PIkachu is another clear example of childlike wonder being recaptured by revisiting something left behind through the inconvenience of getting older.
In terms of construction this film is really impressive. The production team did a stellar job of creating a world where Pokémon co-exist with Humans in a way that feels functional and lived in. It’s basically the imagination of everyone who enjoyed the games brought to life and it’s hard to deny that seeing this affected me in a really profound way even after all these years divorced from the franchise. Seeing traffic diverted around a sleeping Snorlax, a herd of Tauros grazing in a field, a Jigglypuff singing bar patrons to sleep or even simple details like a flock of Pidgey’s flying overhead just as normal birds do in our world bring this concept to life like nothing else has. The visual effects compliment this beautifully with each Pokémon having a unique texture making them feel like a distinct creature and the photorealistic aesthetic allowing their interactions with Humans to appear natural.
The story is centred around the mystery of Tim Goodman’s (Justice Smith) father’s death. Tim encounters a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that only he can understand and they become reluctant partners in solving the mystery. It’s basically a buddy cop story set in a Pokémon world which makes for a simple yet effective setup. Tim is an engaging character with a decent amount of depth that shows itself throughout and Ryan Reynolds lending his vocal talents to Pikachu is consistently hilarious.
Their shared dynamic is an engaging one as they have both lost something that they would like to get closure on. For Tim it’s his father who he was estranged from and for Pikachu it’s his memory. What they bring to the investigation is set up very early on with Tim being able to handle Humans and Pikachu being able to translate what Pokémon are saying which makes for a reasonable foundation to build from. Their investigation takes them to various locations that provide a tour of Rhyme City as well as an excuse to interact with the various Pokémon that can be found there and many of the scenarios presented are really entertaining such as a fun battle sequences near the mid point of the film that defies expectations.
The plot moves on at a reasonable pace with very little dead weight dragging the pacing down though the actual story being told is somewhat hit and miss as it descends into a fairly dull and predictable corporate conspiracy narrative that makes very little sense when applying any thought to it. When the film plays to its storytelling strengths it’s a really strong character driven adventure that makes good use of well known detective tropes but it bites off more than it can chew towards the end and descends into awkward lunacy.
Justice Smith is a strong presence as Tim and does a great job interacting with the fully CGI PIkachu. His emotional arc is strong and compelling while touching on things like grief, acceptance and personal growth. He goes through a lot in the film and his journey is entirely believable. The rest of the Human characters don’t fare quite so well with shallow characterisation and baseline personalities. That isn’t to say the actors do a bad job as there is a lot of talent here that is being underutilised.
The strongest character outside of Tim is Kathryn Newton’s Lucy. She manages to elevate the material she is given with a great deal of great deal of personality and full commitment to the material. Perhaps she can be given more room to grow in the inevitable sequels. Ken Watanabe does fine as the Police Chief though the role asks little of him and Bill Nighy plays himself really well which more or less works in the context of the story. The focus was clearly on the Pokémon rather than the Humans and the film accomplishes exactly what it set out to do in that regard
An entertaining and well put together cinematic experience that excels at world building while doing right by fans of the franchise. Visually the film is stunning with the photorealistic Pokémon being exceptionally well designed and blending perfectly into the world that has been created around them. A lot of work went into making this believable and it definitely pays off. The core relationship between Justice Smith’s Tim and Ryan Reynolds’ Pikachu carries the film wonderfully while providing plenty of opportunity for well executed comedy. It starts to fall apart in its chosen plot as it descends too far down the corporate conspiracy path and the Human characters outside of Tim don’t fare all that well but as a whole the film accomplishes what it sets out to do and does so expertly.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
- the core Tim/Pikachu relationship
- stunning visuals that bring the Pokémon world to life wonderfully
- Ryan Reynolds being consistently hilarious as Pikachu
- respect and reverence for the source material
- expertly digging into my personal nostalgia in a satisfying way
- poorly developed Human characters
- an overcomplicated corporate conspiracy plot
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.