Pokémon was a big part of my life growing up. I collected the trading cards along with my elementary school friends, rushed home to watch the anime after school, played several of the many iterations of video games, and always yearned for toys and stuffed plushies of my favorite Pokémon. And now Pokémon Detective Pikachu is out in theaters, and it's an entertaining hour and forty-four minutes that's packed with humor, personality, and nice callbacks to the original Pokémon: The Movie 2000.
As someone who grew up with Pokémon and could only picture the adorable "pocket monsters" as animated cartoons, I was skeptical when I first saw the trailer for Pokémon Detective Pikachu, because my first impression was, "Pokémon shouldn't be that fuzzy, what are they doing?!?" But as I saw the trailer more and more, their realistic appearances grew on me, and I was no longer creeped out. After a certain point, I lost my skepticism and became eager to watch it in the theater.
I was not disappointed.
While Pokémon Detective Pikachu features the same Detective Pikachu and Tim Goodman from the video game the movie is based off, the story is quite different.
In the Pokémon Detective Pikachu movie, Tim Goodman is an insurance agent who seems to have given up the dreams of becoming a Pokémon trainer. However, he soon receives word that his ace detective father, Harry Goodman, died from a mysterious car crash, and Tim must go to Ryme City to collect the assets of his father. However, on his way to his father's apartment, he meets Lucy, an up-and-coming news reporter, who is suspicious about Harry's death. As Tim explores the apartment, he discovers a Pikachu wearing a detective hat and can speak, though only Tim can understand him. Pikachu seems to have amnesia though, and can't remember his past or his connection with Harry. The two end up working together to solve the mystery behind Harry's death.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu isn't perfect, but it's one of the better video game movie adaptations that balances world-building, storytelling, humor, breathtaking visuals and effects.
While Pokémon Detective Pikachu could be seen as a kid's movie, there was quite a bit of adult humor throughout the film, including some drug jokes. These adult references earned several chuckles from me and other grown-ups in the audience. In fact, I noticed more adults in my theater than smaller kids, so even though it may be geared towards children, it's more like a love letter to the fans who have been around since the beginning of Pokémon, since they even say in the movie, "The Mewtwo who escaped from the Kanto region about 20 years ago," (referencing the Mewtwo from Pokémon: The Movie 2000).
Story-wise, the mystery plot is pretty straightforward. As Detective Pikachu said in the trailer, "Oh, that's very twisty." There are some nice surprises in the story that I honestly didn't see coming, and have left my husband and I thinking even a day later. Yes, there are some plot holes if you think about it, but it's a movie with realistic Pokémon and a Pikachu that's voiced by Ryan Reynolds—I didn't exactly expect Citizen Kane.
Visually, the movie is beautiful. Again, I was a skeptic when the first trailer dropped, but they truly built a believable fantasy world in Ryme City, where Pokémon and humans coexist peacefully. Ryme City in and of itself was a mix of New York, Tokyo, and London with a bit of futuristic dystopia thrown in. The CGI Pokémon look real and blend in seamlessly with the environment, especially the scene with what appears to be a forest-like area. I also love how some Pokémon are used to maximize their characteristics, like Loudred alongside a DJ and Growliths in the police force.
Fans of the original games and anime will love the visual treat during the credits sequence.
Pokémon battles aren't really a thing in Ryme City, because it's more about the relationships between people and their Pokémon partners, but there was a cool scene with an underground battle arena. If trainer battles were a bigger part in this movie, they would have turned out to be quite epic. Hopefully, if this movie does well, more live-action Pokémon movies can be made (Ryme City is just a small part of the entire Pokémon universe) and we can see legendary Pokémon battles in all of their beautiful glory.
I don't think Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a perfect movie, as I said there are some parts of the story that left us scratching our heads, but it's definitely one of the better video game movie adaptations so far. It was definitely entertaining, and none of it felt really slow to me. And the credits sequence is an amazing visual treat for fans of the original Game Boy games and anime.
Oh, and I'll never look at Dittos the same way again, that's for sure.
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