It’s incredibly difficult to know where this film will land for viewers: if they’re a hardcore Pokémon fan, will they hate it? If they know absolutely nothing, will they understand it? Those are the questions to be asked, and they’re almost impossible to answer fully without going to see the final product yourself. What I can say however is that on a personal level it placed a spell on me from beginning to end. I remember as a child watching VHS tapes of some of the original films and my grandma taking me to UDF (a local gas station) to grab a pack of cards from behind the counter - fond memories that were brought back into the limelight with Pokémon Detective Pikachu!
Rob Letterman is at the helm of this crazy adventure film that I in no way thought we needed, but I was incredibly wrong. Letterman may not have produced the best films in history, nor the most memorable, but his efforts here truly showcase what he learned in his prior attempts and has executed with incredible finesse. The city is alive and flooding with Pokémon cameos everywhere, but his decision on how to portray each and every character in the series is a breath of fresh air. The art design and the way the city moves with humans among Pokémon felt surprisingly right in the world Letterman created. While the film focuses a lot on the Pokémon and in one scene in particular about the fights, the film is an action adventure with a mystery leading the charge. The action can be a little sloppy for the tastes of people aware of the relentless realism of the Mission: Impossible series, but, the film doesn’t have that as its main focus and that makes this flaw much more forgivable - sometimes less is more, and that is thankfully the case with the occasionally unwarranted violence.
I may have grand memories from the past about Pokémon as a whole, yet what I don’t have is an in depth knowledge of the newer video game Detective Pikachu. The story of the film follows Tim Goodman attempting to solve the mysterious ‘disappearance’ of his father after an outbreak of a treacherous Pokémon occurs within the outer limits of Rhine City. Along the way, Detective Pikachu, the partner of Tim’s father, must help Tim discover what really happened to his father as well as find out why he can’t remember a single thing about the time before yesterday - all while continuously cracking jokes. Is Murder on the Orient Express too dull for your liking? The Happytime Murders too uncomfortable and dumb? This mystery plot may be for you, consisting of constant twists and turns, always keeping you on the edge of your seat and even during a slow moment, you can’t be bored with all the Pokémon lurking around - after all you’ve “gotta catch them all!”
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) fills the tiny hat of Detective Pikachu flawlessly - sincerely only one joke from Reynolds’ arsenal for the character falls entirely flat. His energy is unrelenting, and his voice connects surprisingly fluently with the body of Pikachu. Justice Smith has a bit of a restoration of his career, and after his poor characterization in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, his role in Pokémon Detective Pikachu needed to be something special. While he’s not someone that I'd love to see too much more of, his performance enormously outweighs the rough outing of Fallen Kingdom. Smith on his own as Tim may be a kind of bland protagonist on the hunt for his father, but that is only until he meets Detective Pikachu where his personality then evolves and the duo’s relationship truly functions smartly off of one another in the film. However another large aspect of the picture, Kathryn Newton (BLOCKERS), is a major problem here, taking a much more eccentric performance of a journalist trying to get her first big story, but her performance doesn’t flow with the rest of the “straight” performances. While the villains may be a tad cartoony, they oddly work well with the story provided unlike Newton’s Lucy. While I won’t spoil the villainous characters here, let’s just say that the suspects are inspired and are a great inclusion of the final product of the film - with one of the main suspects being Chris Geere transitioning his attitude from his brilliant FX series You’re the Worst with ease into the world of Pokémon. Don’t believe me...watch and see.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Of course we have the Pokémon theme brought up at one point in the film, and to comedic effect. The score that inhabits the entirety of the film has hints at the classic Pokémon score that people estranged from the brand will still find joy in with the occasional flashback to when Pokémon was in your life. Henry Jackman composed the score for Detective Pikachu, and his work here is reminiscent of previous work he’s done such as 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Those desiring a part of the classic Pokémon video game score will be delighted once the credits start to roll - but the initial score is just as enticing. The sounds of the Pokémon are perfect for each and every one, as they state their names clearly as a form of speech. Classic Pikachu phrases comes out fully in certain moments of the film where others are listening to Reynolds’ character speak.
Pikachu is simply adorable; you start the movie loving the little guy and you just love him even more the more time you spend with the cute little guy. There’s a beautiful scene with Bulbasaurs walking Tim through the river with a soaking wet Pikachu and his fur looks so real you could basically feel it from the screen. MewTwo is where the underlying problems are with certain effects looking just okay and others looking absolutely absurd. It’s a shame that the strongest of the Pokémon would showcase the worst of the digital effects. The other Pokémon may at moments look like puppets in a Henson production, but for the majority of the film look astonishingly unique and simply wonderful to glance at. People turned away from the digital animation of their beloved characters won’t find salvation with final last minute adjustments, but for those going in with open arms and a short adjustment period, they will gladly walk away with any of the adorable Pokémon by credits. Lastly, the environments are breathtaking, as Rhine City comes to life as well as scenes outside the city limits such as the river scene previously mentioned, all providing a fluent contrast between effect and real elements of the film.
People can say what they like about Detective Pikachu, but as a casual fan of Pokémon and at a complete loss about the videogame, this film works extremely well. If you go into Pokémon Detective Pikachu wanting anything more than a fun experience where Pokémon have finally come to life on the big screen, then you’re asking for too much because this film does something that no other film has accomplished before as it’s the first genuinely great film based on a video game.