” There’s Magic…”
Gotta Catch ‘em all!
Being a 90’s kid myself and having grown up watching Pokémon all my childhood, I can confidently say on behalf of all Poké-fans, that this is the song that plays on our mind when we come across this word – “Pokémon”. For all other people living in the dark, Pokémon are mythical creatures of varying types that each have special abilities. Working with human trainers, they battle one another for supremacy by using their powers to attack opponents. The phenomenon started in the 1990s with video games, evolving into an anime series, a trading card game and eventually the ever-present cultural juggernaut it is today. The frenzy around the Augmented Reality game released in 2016 by Niantic – Pokémon GO! – revalidated the fact that Pokémon still remains very special to us.
Thus, when we first heard about Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, or watched the first trailer, it was surely confusing why this world didn’t portray Ash Ketchum and his silly friends , trying to “catch ‘em all” to become the greatest Pokémon trainer ever. But this movie (having its roots in one of Pokémon’s spinoff video games with the same name) tells a different story with different characters, which might just be the reason why this film works well.
Detective Pikachu opens with Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith with his wry humour); a young man who prefers to keep his distance from the fantastic beasts that populate this world. While it may seem strange for a Pokémon movie to tell the story of a guy who doesn’t like Pokémon anymore, it actually shows why Pokémon are so special in the first place. Tim was a kid who decked out his room in Pokémon merchandise, collected Pokémon cards, and wanted to be a Pokémon Trainer, and given that many audience members can probably relate, Detective Pikachu uses this narrative to take Tim (and us) down memory lane to try and rekindle that childhood love and addiction.
After the death of his father in a mysterious accident, Tim heads to Ryme City to set his dad’s affairs in order, only to discover an amnesiac, caffeine-addicted Pokémon lurking in his father’s office: a yellow, extremely fuzzy chipmunk-mouse hybrid with a lightning bolt shaped tail – the ever-favourite Pikachu. But he also has a very deeply sarcastic, wisecracking voice? Yeah, that’s Ryan Reynolds for you. Though it might sound like PG-rated version of Deadpool, it sure is a lot entertaining.
“There’s magic that brought us together. And that magic… is hope”, says Pikachu trying to convince Tim that it was meant for them to meet. After all it’s all therein the Pokémon theme song: “It’s you and me | I know it’s my.” (right?)
The pair endeavors to solve the mystery, with the help of Kathryn Newton’s Lucy Stevens, an energetic intern journalist who thinks she has uncovered some evidence of a widespread conspiracy. Along the way, they meet an idealistic tech mogul Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) with utopian ideals about the relationship between humans and Pokémon.
But there’s one better reason to buy a ticket to this movie: the Pokémon. The first trip to Ryme City’s metropolis, which is filled with Pokémon, evokes a level of wonder, excitement, and awe not felt since Harry Potter first journeyed to Hogwarts.
The various Pokémon are brought into the realm of live-action with impressive authenticity that inspires all manner of reactions. There are little cuties like Jigglypuff and Psyduck, strange wonders like Loudred and Greninja, and the awe-inspiring Charizard and Mewtwo (though I felt there were a few Mewtwo scenes where they could have notched up the CGI a bit). Then there’s the disturbing creature that is Mr. Mime, which is uncanny enough to vaguely resemble a human while still weird enough to be recognizable as a Pokémon. If you’re a stranger to the world of Pokémon, you’ll probably miss dozens of Easter eggs.
While Sonic the Hedgehog fans fumed over the film treatment of their favourite video game character — prompting director Jeff Fowler to redo Sonic’s weird, toothsome look for his upcoming movie — Pokémon enthusiasts will adore the titular yellow cutie, and also every other Pokémon shown.
The most striking part is how the Pokémon feel like a natural part of the world, whether it’s a Treecko lazily sticking to a clerk’s window or a Ludicolo casually working as a barista. This extends to the Pokémon out in the wild, as well. One scene in particular features a pack of Bulbasaurs trotting through the forest as bioluminescent Morelull float overheard, creating a quiet moment of beauty not unlike you would find in a Hayao Miyazaki film. It’s these small touches that make these cartoon creatures truly come alive.
Detective Pikachu is directed by Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) from a script he co-wrote with Dan Hernandez (One Day At A Time), Benji Samit (The Tick) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) – with a story by Hernandez, Samit and Nicole Perlman (Captain Marvel). The score is composed by Henry Jackman, whose scoring credits include Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: First Class, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Kong: Skull Island among others.
The story however is not its biggest draw. With an overly simple storyline, it is solid enough to carry viewers through this larger world, and compliments the world well.
To conclude, Detective Pikachu is a family-friendly movie that will be entertaining for Pokémon fans of all ages. Pokémon is such a beloved franchise and given the supposed video game movie curse, Detective Pikachu could have gone very wrong. But though viewers may scratch their heads at certain stylistic choices made during the casting and creation of Detective Pikachu, it all miraculously works well together. Reynolds is a distinct style choice for Pikachu and yet Detective Pikachu is a dazzling and compelling ride through the world of Pokémon. The way we are introduced to this world is where Detective Pikachu truly shines, depicting Pokémon both in the wild and living amongst humans in Ryme City. Though the movie isn’t about a Pokémon trainer, that aspect is still very much part of this world, but never overly explained. Detective Pikachu skillfully develops this complex world in a way that compellingly establishes it, but leaves further exploration for a potential sequel or spinoff.
Though it might not be the perfect video game adaptation or even the best made film, but Detective Pikachu is an extremely solid first live-action Pokémon movie and it paves the way for many more of such to come, and let’s hope that the Magic lives on.