Movie review: “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” (2019)

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” (2019) 


Running Time: 104 minutes

Written by: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly

Directed by: Rob Letterman

Featuring: RyanReynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy

Tim Goodman: “I don’t need a Pokémon, period.”

Detective Pikachu: “Then what about a world class detective? Because if you wanna find your pops, I’m your best bet.”

This week the latest video game adaption hits the big screen in the form of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” (2019) that while having a decent premise as well as some emotional plot points that are refreshing, is ultimately predictable with a third act that suffers from what almost all major blockbusters these days suffer from, that is too much of everything, but it does have enough style over substance to keep audiences entertained for most of its run time. However it will ultimately fade into the background as more weightier movies are released throughout the year. This is the very first movie based on the ‘Pokémon’ franchise created by Satoshi Tajiri and the 2016 video game Detective Pikachu, judging from the way audiences have embraced it this will be the first of many which should succeed as long as the story changes and moves forward, as a straight sequel to his movie may struggle with originality. 

What the writers and director have done with Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is something that many video game as well as comic book movies have successfully done over the past ten years or more, that is merge existing characters, in this case the Pokémon, with a classic story, in this case it is a detective story as well as a buddy cop movie and of course the requisite fish out of water narrative that pits a reluctant hero with a mystery to solve and of course with lots of supporting characters and revelations to follow. That is not a criticism, just a fact that assists the filmmakers and studios to endear their new property to not only existing audiences but to new ones as well.

Co-written and directed by Rob Letterman who has either been making animated movies or as is the case with this new movie, adaptations of one sort or another, it has to be said with very mixed success. His last movie was the R.L. Stine “Goosebumps” (2015) sort of adapatation, which was a minor success at the box office but a bigger critical hit as it was as original as it could be while maintaining a very good plot that was bolstered by a logical narrative and very good CGI. Unlike his previous movies “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” comes from one of the most popular properties on the planet, he does extremely well in harnessing a story while at the same time building a new world that audiences must be onboard with almost from the outset, if he fails in that then the movie falls apart. So much work is done with the first half of the story that by the time the second half as well as the climax of the movie arrives it becomes a big bloated mess, the saving grace, as well as the reason to see the movie is the performance by Ryan Reynolds, the special effects and the humour that is offered all the way through the story. All three of these elements sans the Ran Reynolds performance are present in all of Letterman’s movies, so he does have a style which is required when making the genre of movies he is involved in.  

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” concerns Tim Goodman a 21-year-old insurance salesman who had given up Pokémon training due to the death of his mother and the absence of his father Harry. While hanging out with his friend Jack, Tim learns that Harry has presumably died while investigating a case. He travels to Ryme City to collect Harry’s assets. Tim meets Lucy Stevens, a fluff columnist who wants to be a reporter and is suspicious of Harry’s death. While reminiscing in his apartment, Tim encounters a deerstalker-clad Pikachu that can speak and only he can somehow understand. From here the story moves along becoming the movie I have already described but I will not spoil the plot points as they are enjoyable to uncover as the movie moves along at a very good pace.

This movie is built around two elements the CGI effects as well as the central voice performance by superstar Ryan Reynold who mostly gives a ‘Deadpool’ like PG performance which is actually very good. The rest of the supporting cast are all very good, the standout is Bill Nighy who almost always steals every scene he appears in, he is really the second lead as it transpires. Playing opposite Reynolds voice is his onscreen partner Justice Smith whose largest part was in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018) where the part was an afterthought and actually not memorable at all. Here Smith does very well and the difficulty factor would have been large as he often acting in front of green screen and inanimate objects so he acquits himself exceptionally well. Overall the acting throughout the movie is very good especially for the genre it is within as well as it being full of special effects. 

As “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is absolutely full of CGI effects they need to be of the highest standard possible with absolutely great backgrounds and foregrounds to highlight the world that all the real and made up characters inhabit. This is a fantastic looking movie with a mostly bright colour palette that shines even in the scenes set at night. It helps that this movie has a cinematographer like the legendary John Mathieson who aids the director with expertise making this movie look cinematic like few special effect’s movies have been which is a credit and makes it look amazing.

This is a very good movie with some issues such as the last half but it contains enough to make it an enjoyable trip into a new world that offers a lot of humour with the requisite heart that is needed to keep audiences engaged. Not only that but it is lovely looking, retaining some of the game elements but not making it an overly complicated narrative which us a plus in terms of video game adaptations. “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” should also be viewed on a big screen as it will reward that medium as there is a lot going onscreen which means the eyes need to roam over the lush visuals. 

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