This film was cute and fun. There were a lot of moments I enjoyed and it brought some nostalgic feelings up, but overall, nothing was done spectacularly. The 2019 movie, directed by Rob Letterman, is based on a video-game (based on another video-game, based on an anime, that was based off a card game, based on a video-game, etc.) Overall it really missed the mark in a lot of places. This was a movie for kids so a lot of things can be excused, however that doesn’t mean it was a great.
The Pokémon IP is massive, and it is actually surprising that Detective Pikachu was the story they choose to flagship their live-action debut. Originally the Pokémon franchise started out as a handheld game (Red and Blue, as many of us remember playing.) There was an anime adaptation that we watched when we were kids. There still is a massive presence in the card collecting/gaming industry. Multiple animated shows and movies have been released with variations in success. Specifically, the Detective Pikachu brand was created in 2016 with a narrative driven video-game and although it sold well, there was mixed reviews. I am glad Pokémon decided to go with a movie that wasn’t a live-action remake of Ash, Misty, and Brock, but choosing this spin-off was a risk.
The biggest reason most (non-Pokémon) people went to see this movie was for the main voice star: Ryan Reynolds. After having tons of success being the voice actor for Deadpool, and other raunchy films, it was weird to hear him voice the cute and adorable Pikachu. As far as the story goes, it fits. Detective Pikachu is hard boiled and mature. It wouldn’t make sense if the voice was someone “cuter”, however it was obviously Ryan Reynolds and that takes you out of the immersion. I thought the rest of the cast was great. Justice Smith was a great lead actor that proves he belongs in more top grossing films. Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, and Chris Geere all play their roles perfectly. The acting made me feel like it was a real story, but it also didn’t take itself too seriously. And that was needed when the world is full of colorful monsters.
Now I said how the non-Pokémon fans went for Ryan Reynolds. But this movie was obviously made for Pokémon fans. The interpretation for the live-action/3D versions of the Pokémon were pretty amazing for the most part. I think some designs worked better than others but overall it was pleasing. There was a bit of nostalgia seeing the Pokémon I loved up on the big screen. And better yet, there were tons of Pokémon I didn’t recognize. Personally, I dipped out of the franchise somewhere during the 3rd-generation, but this movie was for the fans new and old. They didn’t lean on just the 1st-gen Pokémon because a lot of audience members are kids playing the newer versions of the game. That being said, there is a very part of the story that suggests that this movie is in canon with the original Pokémon TV show/movies and it made me incredibly happy. Unfortunately, It was one of the only parts of the story I really liked.
The overall story was actually nice, and a lot deeper than I expected. The main character, Tim Goodman, has to team up with Detective Pikachu to solve a murder. The mystery ends up paying off and there were some plot elements I did not see coming. However, the actual plot itself was kind of thrown together with no cohesive reason for anything happening. It was a movie for children, however I felt like the story just happened too easily. There was a lot of [scene] and then [scene] and then [scene that has a character explain everything in dialogue] and then…. And at the end of the day I didn’t really understand the main villain’s reason for unleashing his plan or how everything just wrapped up so perfectly. For being the first Pokémon live-action film, it could have been executed so much better, especially knowing how great the animated films have been.
If you or your children like Pokémon, you’re going to go see the movie regardless. But if you are on the fence, I would say hold off on this one until it came to your home, or possibly even skip it all together. I wouldn’t say this was the best use of the IP or the movie to break the ‘video game movies cannot be good’ curse. The point of Pokémon is for trainer to use their pets and prove they are the very best at that skill. Building a bond with theirPokémon to elevate their abilities. That is what the TV show, video-games, and card game were all about. This movie doesn’t try to do that at all and just took a plot that could be seen in any other movie and adds some CG references to an old Japanese video-game.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith