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Review: Detective Pikachu (the movie)

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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.

Review: Detective Pikachu (The Game)

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Between the movie adaptation coming out and one of my friends highly recommending the game to me, I finally decided to play Detective Pikachu.  It’s a spinoff of the Pokémon franchise for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS that’s not as bizarre as it sounds.  I had no idea what to expect from it.  What I got was a fun game that kids and diehard Pokémon fans should enjoy.

Detective Pikachu follows the adventures of a teenage boy named Tim Goodman, who’s looking for his missing father.  Harry Goodman was a famous police detective who went missing after a suspicious car accident.  Only his partner, Pikachu, could be found at the scene.

By the time that Tim arrives in Ryme City, two months after the incident, his father’s Pikachu has somehow gained the ability to speak- but only Tim can understand him.  He presents himself as “the Great Detective Pikachu” and wants to help Tim find his missing father.  Unfortunately, Pikachu isn’t much help in one respect: he suffers from amnesia and can’t recall what happened during the accident.  So Tim and Pikachu team up to investigate Harry’s last case and figure out why he disappeared.

The game is divided into nine “chapters,” each concerning a unique case.  Tim and Pikachu work together to solve crimes by interrogating suspects and searching the crime scene.  Pikachu gives the duo an advantage by talking to all of the Pokémon witnesses and translating their testimony for Tim.  It’s all very straightforward and you’re not likely to get stuck on any point in this game.  If you’re looking for a serious challenge, don’t expect to find one with Detective Pikachu.

Don’t expect to collect any Pokémon or engage in battles either.  In the world of Detective Pikachu, most people have one Pokémon as their “partner,” similar to Ash’s friendship with his own Pikachu.  The secretary at the Baker Detective Agency has a Fletching that delivers mail for her, a talented violinist works with a Kricketune that helps her practice, and a police office partners with a Manetric that uses his nose to solve crimes.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get as much out of the world building or the Pokémon cameos as I ought to have.  As a kid, I stopped paying attention to the Pokémon franchise after the first movie and I’m only just starting to regain interest now.  My knowledge of Pokémon begins and ends with Gen 1.  As it is, I liked the game’s setting and the Pokémon that I encountered.  Lifelong fans will probably love everything about them.

This game does an impressive job with episodic storytelling.  Each case leads directly into the next and has some importance to the whole plot. When I think of other video games or TV shows that try to do this, they usually follow a certain format: the premieres and the finales are where all the important stuff happens.  Then you get a lot of “monster of the week” episodes in between that are loosely connected to what the characters hope to accomplish.  Without going into spoilers, I can say that that’s not the case with Detective Pikachu.  Granted, not every mystery directly ties back to Harry and his investigation.  But Pikachu and Tim always have a reason to be where they are and they find clues in every case that help them piece together the larger mystery.

Speaking of Tim and Detective Pikachu, they had a nice partnership and I liked all of the human characters in the game.  However, I found Tim to be a little too flat and generic.  As of this writing, the movie hasn’t come out yet, so it’s too early to pass judgment on who will ultimately give the superior acting performances.  Still, based on what I’ve seen in the trailers, I’m enjoying Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith much more.

Overall, Detective Pikachu is a solid game and I recommend playing it if you have a Nintendo 3DS (or 2DS).  It’s simple to play, which makes it a good choice for young kids to try out.  Fans will enjoy the story, the setting, and the many different kinds of Pokémon. Enjoy it before you watch the movie!