Is Pokémon: Detective Pikachu the very best video game movie, like no one ever was?
Well, the competition wasn’t exactly fierce. But, yes. Yes, it is. While I’m no longer the huge fan of Pokémon that I used to be, I had a good time watching this movie.
It’s interesting, based on the different reviews that I’ve read and watched, how many people don’t seem to realize that this “video game movie” is based on a specific video game in the Pokémon franchise: Detective Pikachu for the Nintendo 3DS. I played and reviewed the game in anticipation for the movie’s release and really enjoyed it. The film is a loose adaptation that follows the premise and some of the major story beats, but mostly does its own thing.
Tim Goodman, a young man who once dreamed of becoming a Pokémon trainer, travels to Ryme City after hearing that his father was killed in a car accident. When he gets to the apartment, he discovers his father’s partner: a talking Pikachu that nobody else can understand. Pikachu claims that Tim’s father, a renown detective, is still alive somewhere, and proposes that they team up to solve the mystery of what happened to him. After a few mishaps, Tim reluctantly agrees.
A lot of reviewers have praised the film for bringing the world of Pokémon to life, and I’m going to join the chorus. Wow. I’m also not alone in saying that I would have been satisfied with a film that showed long, extended shots of this world and absolutely nothing else.
Detective Pikachu takes the game’s concept of Pokémon as partners and combines it with the more familiar world of the main series and the anime. It’s established that kids like Tim do traditionally leave home and go on adventures to capture Pokémon. Tournaments exist. The Kanto region is mentioned. However, none of the usual rules exist in Ryme City, which is specifically designed to be a place where battles are banned. Pokémon and humans live side-by-side, as they do in the 3DS game. It’s a treat to see all of the different Pokémon fitting in this live-action world in ways that you might expect to see them if they existed.
There are fun shout-outs to different parts of the franchise. I know I missed a lot of them, having been out of the loop for so long, but there was still plenty for this Gen 1 fan to love.
Although this film did a wonderful job of realizing the world of Pokémon, it wasn’t perfect. It started out strong, but I had some issues with the pacing of certain scenes. Right as Tim meets Detective Pikachu for the first time, some Aipom attack the apartment and a chase ensues. Immediately following said chase, Tim goes back to questioning why he can understand Pikachu. And Pikachu, as voiced by Ryan Reynolds, makes nonstop quips throughout the scene. It all happens so fast that it’s hard to follow at times. It wasn’t until the underground battle with Charizard when I really started to become invested again.
Speaking of which, that live-action battle was thrilling. All of the action scenes were fun to watch and kept me interested in what was happening. And while many reviewers have stated that they found the story twists to be a bit too obvious, there were a few moments that caught me off guard.
And now I’m going to get a little controversial and admit that I didn’t find Ryan Reynolds to be as funny as I anticipated. I thought he fit the role of Detective Pikachu better than his video game counterpart (Kaiji Tang), and I definitely laughed during the movie- just not as hard as I thought I would. The character that got most of the best jokes was Psyduck.
But Reynolds did have some great chemistry with Justice Smith, who plays Tim Goodman. And just as I predicted, I liked Smith’s version of Tim much better than the protagonist of the 3DS game. He and Pikachu have some very heartwarming scenes together, as well as funny moments.
If you love everything about Pokémon, you should love this movie. If you hate everything about Pokémon, then this movie’s not really for you. Detective Pikachu embraces the source material instead of poking fun at it. It’s not a perfect film, but it is fun, and I hope there will be sequels. I’d rate it 7 out of 10 Pokéballs.