Release: May 10, 2019
Director: Rob Letterman
Screenplay: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly
Story: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Nicole Perlman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu, Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens, Bill Nighy as Howard Clifford, Chris Greere as Roger Clifford
Running time: 104 minutes
Review May Contain Spoilers
Following the mysterious disappearance of his father, Harry Goodman, young insurance salesman Tim Goodman makes his way to Ryme City to collect his presumed dead father’s belongings. Making his way to his father’s apartment, Tim makes the acquaintance of a conspiracy-minded reporter named Lucy Stevens. Whilst rifling through his father’s belongings, Tim finds a phial of a strange purple gaseous material. The gas drifts out of an open window where it is imbibed by a group of Aipom. At this point, Tim encounters a talking Pikachu with a penchant for Victorian era pulp detective fashion and the pair are chased by a flock of crazed Aipom. After the pair make their escape, Pikachu tells Tim about the purple gas called “R,” and how it makes Pokemon go crazy and the two decide to team up, agreeing that tracking the source of “R” could lead them to Harry if he is still alive. With a little help from Lucy, they track the gas to an underground pokemon arena run by a man known mononymously as Sebastian. After an accidental discharge of “R” causes a Charizard to go on a rampage through the arena, Sebastian tells the pair his source for the gas. Following the lead eventually takes Tim, Pikachu, Lucy, and her Psyduck to a lab out in the wilderness where they learn the origin of “R.” With this new information, the team head back to Ryme City for a final confrontation.
I am not what one would call a Pokemon fan. Out of the entire long-running series of games, I’ve only ever played Red and Ruby, and not to completion, and exposure to the ghastly anime tie in put me off of the entire idea of anime until sometime in my mid to late twenties. Needless to say, when the esteemed proprietor of this site asked me to review this movie, I was less than enthusiastic, though I will admit to being somewhat intrigued by the prospect. With superhero movies getting a little long in the tooth, it’s safe to assume Hollywood will be looking for another well to stick it’s snout into and take a decade long inhale. After years of nonsense like Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, and the two Hitman flicks, could Hollywood make a big screen video game adaptation that was at least semi-competent? I am surprised to admit that it seems they have managed to do just that.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu, while not something I’m likely to ever watch again (I think I’m a few years too old, or perhaps not emotionally stunted enough to be in its target demographic), was not terrible. Stylistically, it’s not what I was expecting. It’s sort of a neo-noir for kids. There’s a murder mystery, a femme fatale, a conspiracy, and the requisite morally/emotionally compromised protagonist. Yes, it’s bright, colourful, and packed to the gills with those insufferably cute little creatures that the developmentally stunted thirty-year-old in your life absolutely loves, but it’s not afraid to get a little serious at times. Dare I say, it doesn’t completely insult the audience’s intelligence at every turn with inappropriate jokes and an overabundance of puns. A good job was done visually making the various Pokemon look like they belong alongside the human actors. Yes, it gets wonky a few times, but never quite sinks to post-Doctor Strange MCU bad. They also wisely keep the running time under two hours. As such, the film has a brisk pace, moving quickly and cleanly from plot point to plot point without needless meandering. All in all, it is a solid film.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu falls into that category of kids’ movies that are less likely to drive the parents insane. It’s also an interesting curiosity for gamers who remember the films I mentioned before (as well as the cinematic output of Uwe Boll) as an example of what can be done with video game properties when the filmmakers give at least some semblance of a damn.