While flawed, this is definitely a giant step forward for video game movies.
Pokémon is without a doubt, one of the largest franchises to have come out of the 1990s. With video games, trading cards, anime etc., Pokémon has certainly left an impression over the past twenty-four years. Whether or not you were part of the phenomenon, it is very likely that you recognise the little yellow mascot that captured the hearts of many across the world. While the live-action adaption does draw on the nostalgia, there is an earnest effort both on-screen and behind the camera which makes this film far from a simple crash grab.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a fun mystery film which captures the essence of playing the Pokémon Nintendo games. From the synths in the score to the partnerships between humans and these colourful creatures, Rob Letterman has created an exciting experience for anyone familiar or new to the franchise. While the Pokémon pop on the big screen in every chance they get, the same can’t be said for the human characters who mostly come off as one note. Despite this, the on-screen chemistry between Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds is endearing and lets audiences know that they’re in for a treat.
Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman who teams up with the wisecracking, amnesiac and caffeine-addicted Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) to find his missing father. They are also joined by news intern Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her Pokémon, a mischievous Psyduck. The story is straightforward and somewhat predictable, which easily makes it one of the weaker aspects of this film. Some of the jokes incorporate Pokémon lore which is a nice touch, but the brisk pacing doesn’t allow the movie to fully explore the dramatic and poignant moments which is a shame.
However, the film is bursting with a lot of character on its technical side which makes up for this weak point. This is most evident in its worldbuilding of Ryme City. The introduction to this metropolis is very reminiscent of Zootopia, where audiences are given a tour of a world where humans and Pokémon coexist peacefully. John Mathieson’s cinematography compliments the film nicely, where the 35mm film provides a lot of richness to Ryme City and its neighbouring locations. The CGI is also impressive, where the animations of Pokémon are not only fluid and well-rendered, but they’re given a lot of subtle characteristics and actions that emphasise their adorable and sometimes terrifying features.
In terms of acting, Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds really shine. Although his role is less energetic than the electric mouse, Smith shows that he is a capable actor. Alongside being likeable and funny, he also shows he has the skills necessary for dramatic acting in the film’s serious moments. Reynolds channels the same enthusiasm and energy seen in the Deadpool films into Pikachu. Delightful and charismatic, Reynolds delivers his lines with a lot of vigour. Their performances make the development in their relationship from reluctant partners to friends very believable and organic. Newton also delivers a good performance as Lucy Stevens despite having substantially less to do than her co-stars.
Overall, Pokémon Detective Pikachu sports strong, stylish visuals and a charming cast who all do well in their performances. However, the story is noticeably weaker in comparison to the film’s other features which may disappoint some viewers. In spite of this, this film delivers as a great spectacle for all those who have dreamed to see live-action Pokémon up on the silver screen.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu, directed by Rob Letterman, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Entertainment UK, certificate PG.