Taking a franchise that completely has taken over the world since 1996 is no easy feat. The concept has grown from trading cards to video games to a slew of animated films, TV series and a mobile game. It is no small task to be the first to bring this concept to live action and instead of being a Pokemon Red or Blue, the decision to take the spin off Detective Pikachu was a bold choice. Ultimately the decision to do this pays off with a heartwarming and hilarious story combined with gorgeous CGI Pokemon and a great cast to deliver a solid first entry into the Pokemon live action outing.
The film centres around Tim (Justice Smith) who travels to Ryme City after he receives news that his father has died. Upon arriving he learns from his father’s Pokemon Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that his father died under mysterious circumstances and Pikachu’s memories have been wiped. The two team up and are joined by Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and her Psyduck as the investigate this whodunnit story to get to the bottom of what happened and restore Tim’s faith and connection to Pokemon.
Having Ryan Reynolds voice Pikachu is a massive component to what makes this film work. Reynold’s has an easily identifiable voice and the character has been given his trademark humour that entertains both kids and adults. There is also a surprising depth to this character that is complimented by Justice Smith. Last we saw of Smith was in the latest Jurassic Park instalment where he was a screaming annoying mess. Fortunately this film has him playing a completely different role and he provides a hilarious and heart filled adolescent who is trying to find his place in the world. He had a dream as a kid to be a Pokemon trainer and after the death of his Mum and his Dad moving away, he has lost all hope and wonder for being a trainer and his connection to Pokemon. There are a few times in the film where Pikachu questions his ability to talk to him (as other humans cannot talk to Pokemon) and he always knows the best move for Pikachu in different situations they are in. Newton is a great addition to the film that delivers some great comedic timing when the film has a hilarious nod to noir murder mystery films when we first meet her.
One of the greatest things in the film is the way that Pokemon are integrated into it. Everything about the world feels natural. Ryme city is littered with Pokemon walking around everywhere. As the camera pans around the city, just seeing the different types of Pokemon and they look and feel natural to the world. There is a breath taking scene where a herd of Bulbasaur are walking through a river and across a field. It is a fine line to walk to make the Pokemon feel real enough and not be overshadowed by the humans and vice versa.
Visually the film is incredible. The VFX are breathtaking. Each Pokemon is a gorgeous photo realistic version of their cartoon counter parts. A lot of the shots used were straight out of anime, particularly when the earth starts shattering and moving around looks straight out of Studio Ghibli and while the CGI does start to get a little shotty in these parts, it does pick up again for the remainder of the film. Additionally a lot of the film takes place at night and the neon saturated city scapes ring reminiscent of Blade Runner. At the start of the film we get our only glimpse at a real life Pokeball that looks incredible. As the film doesn’t focus on battles it was great to a tiny look at what future films could offer if they go down the route of Pokemon battles.
The film features a score without a soundtrack which was surprising as the trailers had a lot of pop songs featured in them. The score in the film is sweeping and epic that also reflect the characters and the reveal as new Pokemon are introduced into the film. It may not have the pop fun that the Pokemon animated film did, but the sweeping score is a beautiful replacement that is appropriate for this story.
Overall Detective Pikachu is a massive triumph for video game adaptions. Instead of leaning on video game tropes, it leans into movie tropes and delivers a great movie inspired by a video game rather than the latter. This is enhanced by stellar performances from the main cast of Smith, Reynolds and Newton. The immaculate attention to the visual effects of the Pokemon themselves is what immerses you into the world of Rome city and makes it feel real. Pokemon : Detective Pikachu finally breaks the video game movie curse and is the perfect introduction to live action Pokemon on the big screen.
Pokemon : Detective Pikachu is in cinemas May 9.