Review: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)Review:
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)
Noah Percival
May 18th, 2019
Note: review may contain spoilers

When it comes to Pokemon I am a complete newcomer. I know some of the names like Pikachu and Mewtwo and I've played some Pokemon Go but the franchise has been around since 1996 with countless games, tv shows, and animated films so I wouldn't even say that I've scratched the surface when it comes to my knowledge of the property. My biggest concern with Detective Pikachu was being able to watch the film without any prior knowledge and the film is successful in this aspect for the most part. Another concern for the film was what kind of story would work best for a Pokemon film. Initially I would have figured a plot similar to Real Steel would have been used but instead Warner Bros. surprised everyone by choosing to base the film on the game Detective Pikachu with a focus on mystery solving rather than Pokemon fights. I personally think this was a terrific choice and the movie pulls it off with style.

Justin Smith stars as Tim Goodman. The estranged son of successful police detective Harry Goodman in Ryme City who is believed dead following a car accident. When Tim goes to his father's apartment he is surprised by a Pikachu who not only wears a detective hat with Harry's name and address, but the ability to speak English but only Tim can hear and understand him. Pikachu claims to be Harry's Pokemon partner who was working on the case that claimed Harry but is unfortunately suffering from memory loss. Pikachu believes that Harry is still alive and despite his conflicted feelings toward him, Tim is roped into joining Pikachu on a quest to try to find his father while discovering a conspiracy that threatens the harmonious relationships between Humans and Pokemon.

While Detective Pikachu doesn't provide the deepest mystery I found the story to be quite engaging especially since the plot is so tied into the characters and their emotional growth. There are a few twists that I honestly didn't see coming and found to be quite good. The mystery of Harry's disappearance is the biggest one and has a terrific conclusion that I won't spoil here.

Review: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Justin Smith's performance is terrific and I really enjoyed watching him onscreen. He is able to do some great comedic acting while also pulling off some really emotional scenes alongside the CGI Pikachu that are really impactful. The casting of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu defiantly turned some heads when first announced but he is awesome in the role. Like Justin his emotional moments are just as good as his comedic and energetic highlights. His addiction to caffeine is a great running gag and just one of the great jokes Ryan gets to deliver. The animation of Pikachu is perfectly matched with Ryan's delivery and is the visual highlight of the film. Both the animation and performance really merge to make Detective Pikachu a stand out character. I will say I was at first surprised at some of the jokes in the film which felt odd coming out of a character like Pikachu. Pikachu saying "Get me the hell out of here" is funny but seems a bit too edgy for the character. It'd be like hearing Snoopy say "Damn" in a Peanuts film. Surprisingly though while some of the jokes maybe a bit too edgy for a younger children's film there is kind of an explanation for them in the story. The rest of the film's actors all provide good performances but their characters all take a back seat to Tim and Pikachu and don't leave a big impression on the audience.

The detective story not only provides the narrative framework for the film but drives the film's visuals to mimic classic noir films with exaggerated shadows and lights during the night which look beautiful and really help the film stand out visually beyond the countless Pokemon filling the screen. The Pokemon themselves are really well done. What really impressed me is how the Pokemon are incorporated into every environment. From street shops, coffee houses, and apartments the Pokemon flood the screen and feel like an essential part of this world in the same manner that phones and cars do. Their constant presence and the films visual style really makes Ryme feel like an amazing place. If I had any negative things to say about the effects it would be the Pokemon designs are photo real but some still come across as being a bit too CGI looking. The mix of photo real with some animated styled elements works really well for some Pokemon but not all of them.

I also felt a bit out of the loop on some aspects of the Pokemon mythology. We're told Pokemon have been around since the dawn of time but we're never told if they are just a different kind of animal or something more like supernatural entities. When we meet Tim Goodman a big deal is made out of the fact that he does not have a Pokemon partner but we aren't told why it seems so important for everyone to have a Pokemon partner, particularly if they are not involved in Pokemon fights.

That being said the bottom line is that Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is a terrific movie and easily the best video game movie adaptation ever made. Fans of Pokemon will be thrilled with this film and newcomers like me will also have a blast with the film and maybe even start exploring the franchise more. I've already reinstalled Pokemon Go on my phone if that's any indication of how much I enjoyed this movie. Strong recommend!