by Edward Baillargeon
Back when I was a kid growing up in the 2000’s, Pokémon was one of the biggest media franchises in the world. First starting out in 1996 with the first game, Pokémon Red and Blue for the Nintendo Game Boy, Pokémon became an instant phenomenon in Japan and would flood into the United States in 1998. Not only would quickly become one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Star Fox and several others. And kids would try to follow the franchises’ catchphrase that they “Gotta Catch’em All!” as they capture various creatures to use in battles with other trainers. The series would expand into an anime series and a trading card game that both are continuing to this day. However, when Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, and The Pokémon Company announced that Pokémon was next in line for the usually unsuccessful trend of turning a video game into a movie. But now, they decided to adapt one of the more obscure spin-off games instead for Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
When ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a wise-cracking sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City–a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side-they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole universe.
After many years of dealing with bad movies based on video games, Pokémon Detective Pikachu finally cracks the code at making a good video game movie. As to be expected from a mystery film, the story has plenty of twists and turns as the film follows Tim and Pikachu’s mystery of finding Tim’s dad, down to a point where I didn’t know where the plot was going to go next. Because of this mystery, the film actually turns out to be more dialogue focused than to be expected from a Pokémon movie, so I wouldn’t really recommend this movie for really young kids of around 5 and under.
The chemistry between Pikachu and Tim is really strong to be expected from a buddy cop film with Justice Smith playing more the emotional straight-man as Tim, while Ryan Reynolds playing himself and doing his hilarious Deadpool schtick in a Pikachu’s body, but only on the limits of what the PG rating can allow. Most of the other acting is really solid with standouts like Kathryn Newton and Bill Nighy. The visual effects are really impressive where they managed to translate many of the now 807 Pokémon that currently exist in the seven generations of the series that make them look like they can exist in the real world and not look like something out of the uncanny valley, unlike another video game movie coming out this year (*cough* Sonic the Hedgehog *cough*) . Another nice touch that director Rob Letterman decided to go for shooting this movie on film instead of digital like a lot of traditional contemporary blockbusters to make the environments look more realistic and like detective movies from back in the day. There is plenty of excellent world-building in the world of Ryme City looking like a neon lit utopian world that makes the film feel like a Pokémon buddy cop film inside the backdrop of Blade Runner.
Overall, Pokémon Detective Pikachu successfully breaks the curse of video game movies and could hopefully lead into a brighter future for gaming adaptations very soon. Thanks to an interesting story, a well-crafted world, and an always fantastic lead performance by Ryan Reynolds makes this film worth catching. This is one of those movies that I feel like fans and non-fans can get some kind of enjoyment out of. Fans would enjoy the world and trying to find all of the Pokémon that are crammed into each frame, while non-fans can go in with a base-level knowledge of what Pokémon is and still be able to understand and have a fun time with this one. I’m going to give Pokémon Detective Pikachu a 9/10 with the Edward’s Seal of Approval.