Three years ago, the “Pokémon” franchise re-emerged into the mainstream through the wildly popular mobile game “Pokémon Go.” Since then, various film companies have been vying after the rights to produce a live-action “Pokémon” film. Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment ended up winning the bid to turn the “Detective Pikachu” video game into “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” the movie.
The CGI-heavy film follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a former Pokémon trainer, as he tries to find out what happened to his father, Harry (Ryan Reynolds), after he went missing while working on a case. Goodman travels to Ryme City in an attempt to find out more about the case that his father was working before he went missing.
While in Ryme City, Goodman discovers a talking Pokémon, Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), and quickly realizes that he is the only one who can understand what the yellow creature is saying. The duo works together to learn the truth about Goodman’s father and is joined by a reporter, Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), who is equally curious about Harry’s mysterious disappearance.
Along the way, they run into some other Pokémon, like Psyduck, a group of Aipom, Mr. Mime, Charizard, some Greninjas and Jigglypuff, just to name a few. These Pokémon all help lead them to the film’s main antagonist, Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), the visionary behind the co-habitation mecca that is Ryme City.
The movie does a great job of including all of the essential characters presented in the video game, and as far as the graphics go, “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” nailed it. Cinematographer John Mathieson credits the success of the looks of the film to his decision to shoot on film, rather than using a digital camera. Basically, Mathieson saw it fit to use older film techniques in order to add a different color intensity to the computer graphics being used.
It’s part of the reason why another video game film adaptation, “Sonic the Hedgehog,” still needs some work; they filmed the movie digitally, so the graphics and whole look of the film feel more animated than reality-based. Combining both real actors and animated characters into one shot can be extremely challenging, yet Mathieson continued to trust his vision for “Pokémon Detective Pikachu.” He understood that sometimes using technology in all aspects of the principal filming process might seem coherent, but combining old and new film techniques might produce a better final cut.
Although “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” looks good on screen, there were still some inherent problems with the script. For an outsider, somebody who isn’t familiar with the “Pokémon” universe, I wish the film went more in-depth with each of the Pokémon creatures and what their specific powers and purposes were. The movie seemed to brush past the unique qualities of the different characters, so it was hard to understand how they played a role in the whole story.
The cast did pass the script around and try to tweak it during the early stages of production, but because this movie was more of a fan favorite, some story elements had to be overlooked. However, the cast still managed to give strong performances.
Reynolds as Detective Pikachu, in particular, couldn’t have been better. His sarcasm, quick wit and snarky behavior mixed with Smith’s more soft-hearted and subdued attitude made for some nice, family-fun humor. It was also funny to hear Reynold’s voice coming out of a cute, cuddly creature because it’s atypical of him to take on such a kid-friendly role. Reynolds truly delivered in this film by showing off his sheer talent, playing two distinct roles.
Reynold’s portrayal of the titular character was one of the main reasons why so many fans went to see the film, or at least that was the main appeal to me. The film received high praise based on Reynold’s performance and the fact that fans finally got to see what these cute Pokémon would look like if they were real.
Smith is also very expressive in his performance. The character of Goodman required someone who was daring, yet cautious with his emotions and, considering his previous performances in the musical drama TV show, “The Get Down” and in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” this role was right up his alley. The film also featured cameos by musicians Rita Ora and Diplo as Easter eggs for some of the more eagle-eyed viewers.
Overall, “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is an amusing, silly movie that will remind you why you liked Pokémon in the first place. I love how this movie set out to be an epic, serious action movie, but ended up being a really quirky and hilarious film. It’s almost like “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” was made to be a parody of a detective film but ended up spiraling into a wonderfully whimsical film in its own right.
For the first-ever attempt at a live action “Pokémon” film, I’d say it was a solid first effort. Granted, the story could have used some improvements, but the dialogue between characters and some of the one-liners delivered by Reynolds more than makes up for it. The acting and CGI really set the standard for future video game films, and there is already some chatter about the film getting a sequel. So, look out world, “Pokémon” is on the rise again and they’re taking it to the next level.