As a 44-year-old man, I am not exactly what you would call Pokemon’s target demographic. Then again, the original game did come out when I was a lot younger, 20 years ago, and I enjoyed it very much at the time. So while I’m not really up to date on any and all things Pocket Monster, I can still appreciate its concepts on the level of an old Game Boy RPG.
That said, I was actually looking forward to seeing the Detective Pikachu movie as soon as I saw the trailer. A somewhat more adult take on Pokemon looked like a lot of fun!
Well, my son totally grew up with Pokemon, and I am writing this from a hotel room in the middle of the US as I am here to pick him up after finishing his first year of college. He’d already seen the movie, but we had some time to kill this evening, so after moving his stuff out of his dorm and grabbing some burgers, we had a perfect excuse to fill a couple hours by seeing Detective Pikachu.
A quick overview: a young man named Tim Goodman loses his father and must travel to Ryme City, a place where humans and Pokemon coexist in society, to unravel the mystery of his father’s alleged death. There, he meets a Pikachu with whom he can actually communicate, and who somehow knew Tim’s dad but has lost his memory. Of course, the mystery proves to be much bigger than expected, and action, intrigue, and lotsa laffs ensue.
In terms of a video game movie, Detective Pikachu was a great slab of fan service with a story that worked fairly well. Again, I’m nowhere near a Pokemon expert, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be to enjoy the film. If you know the basic idea of the games, you’re up to speed.
The actors were good enough, though I felt like everyone — except Pikachu, ironically — was playing down to kids a bit. Family-friendly movies always work best when they’re not trying too hard to be family-friendly movies. However, if you’ve seen the trailer, you expect that Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, is the source of much irreverent comedy, and that expectation proves to be quite true. The titular star is the one character who is playing to the adults in the audience, and he’s definitely the most enjoyable part of the movie.
The two leads, Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton, are likeable, and Ken Watanabe of course makes an appearance as Lt. Yoshida. (I love Watanabe, don’t get me wrong, but he’s totally the go-to actor for every American movie that needs a relatable Japanese character — Last Samurai, Batman Begins, the Godzilla films by Legendary, this, and many more. He’s either got himself a very lucrative niche or a killer agent. Probably both!)
Anyway, the movie is mostly a visual stunner, though a bit uneven. Some of the CG Pokemon shots are extremely convincing, and some are less so. Pikachu always looks great, but Mewtwo is hit-and-miss. My favorite element, though, was Ryme city itself, a dense, futuristic city full of skyscrapers and neon, much like a cleaner, happier version of Blade Runner.
Which brings me to my overall realization that I came to toward the end of the film: I kind of felt like Detective Pikachu was approached like Blade Runner for kids. The near-futuristic sci-fi setting, the detective story, even the megalomaniacal scientist executive character with a coldly inhuman female assistant.
Make it lighter in tone and throw in a ton of Pokemon, and its easy to draw lots of clear parallels. And it works!
I can certainly recommend Detective Pikachu for a fun, popcorn-slamming video game flick, and you don’t have to be a Pokemon scholar to get it. I’d be interested to see another live-action Pokemon movie in this style but with a whole new story, and if this one does well at the box office, I’m sure there will be one.
Did you see Detective Pikachu? What did you think?