All of my life I’ve wished for Pokémon to be real and Pokémon Detective Pikachu might be as close as I ever get.
Every birthday when blowing out candles, every time I saw a particularly bright star. For as long as I believed in the power of wishes, that was my first choice.
It’s because of this when I first saw the designs for Pokémon Detective Pikachu I was immediately and intensely excited. I drank in every trailer with every new detail of this furry, scaly, and sometimes disgusting Pokémon. This was possibly as real as Pokémon are ever going to get in my sad, short lifespan.
This was the smallest piece of a wish coming true.
So, I went in with unprecedented expectations that were impossible to meet. As such, Pokémon Detective Pikachu absolutely fell short of them but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun movie in a seriously cool world. It’s also without question the best video game movie we’ve ever had – which is the biggest backhanded compliment anything has ever received.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu Review
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I’d heard a lot of discussion around this film before going in. Lots of folks have claimed that it is more than just a kids movie and I just don’t think that’s true.
The biggest problem Pokémon Detective Pikachu has is that you can’t really think about the plot for more than a few seconds without poking holes in it. Ultimately, it’s a simple movie about a boy teaming up with a Pokémon to follow clues and unravel a mystery.
Unfortunately, the addition of Pokémon into this familiar mystery solving formula makes things much more complicated.
The plot can’t really stand up to much scrutiny and absolutely wraps up too neatly in the end. There were several times throughout the film where my brain would pose an unanswerable question, pulling me out of the immersion. It’s a film that requires you to absolutely levitate your disbelief.
Little things niggled at me like how a scene which literally caused the ground to raise up appeared to cause no long term damage or even alert a nearby city. Or bigger plot points like how exactly the weird rules (or lack of) behind Mewtwo’s abilities actually worked left me dissatisfied. This is, I admit, still set in a universe where you can keep god in a small ball and have it fight for you.
Ultimately you need to go in with a sense of wonder and enjoy the ride. The more I started to question things the more they fell apart. It doesn’t have a lot of logic but it’s got a fair amount of heart.
It’s a Whole New World We Live In
One of the strongest points about this movie is the world that’s been built up. Most Pokémon fans are familiar with the regular line of games and anime which feature Pokémon trainers and their partners. This usually focusses around the idea of Pokémon battles but that’s not how things work in Ryme City.
Ryme City is a sort of paradise where people and Pokémon live work together side by side. There aren’t even battles unless they’re underground style cage fights.
This separation from the main line of games was especially smart. People familiar with the Detective Pikachu games will recognise a lot of the story but it’s wholly new for everyone else. It gave me permission to write off some of the niggling issues I had, viewing this as something different.
The unique designs in Pokémon Detective Pikachu add to the new and vibrant feeling world. It also gave me further allowance to disconnect a bit from what I know to be Pokémon. Even designs I didn’t necessarily like, I could still appreciate and find fascinating.
Almost every scene, especially in the city areas, gave so much information about this world. There were tonnes of Pokémon everywhere going about their day and doing their jobs. Lots of signs for shops or bars. It felt real and fleshy and lived in and my heart really wanted to go there.
Don’t Expect Pikapool
Another factor coming in was the expectations that come with casting Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu. I felt like the voice really worked but couldn’t help but sometimes just hear Deadpool. It also made me expect more adult jokes which obviously was never going to happen.
Most of what we got was fairly childish and goofy which fits for a Pokémon movie for kids. Though, there absolutely seemed to be a family friendly muzzle over this electric rodent with the occasional darker than expected quip getting through.
More often than not when a laugh came it wasn’t because of anything Detective Pikachu himself had said. Things like the way Pokémon behaved or moved in the world were often the most entertaining. The excellent use of Loudred as beatboxing dubstep super speakers or the cute antics of the potential bomb Psyduck were such highlights.
Unfortunately, it’s also a movie where some of the funniest stuff has been shown in the trailers. Though the Mr Mime interrogation was absolutely hilarious and much darker than I’d anticipated.
Maybe Not Real Enough
The human actors also felt like a bit of background to these antics. Justice Smith who plays the main human character, Tim Goodman felt hit and miss. His acting would sometimes work really well when used paired with another person like co-star Kathryn Newton.
However, when interacting with some of the CG Pokémon there was often some disconnect. At times it almost reminded me of a children’s TV presenter talking to a cartoon sidekick.
This didn’t help when, while the Pokémon could look very cool in the world, whether or not they felt real wasn’t always consistent. Sometimes, I’d watch Pikachu clamper up onto Tim’s shoulder and believe every step he took. Other moments, like when Tim dove to catch a falling Pikachu, or when Lickitung gave his face a good lick, looked off and fake.
These are small issues but they could do enough to break me out of the movie for a few moments every time they occurred.
Good, Not Great Balls
The thing is, this isn’t an amazing movie. It is, however, something I’d never have believed existed without the official announcement.
It’s also one of the weirdest and perhaps coolest looks at Pokémon we may ever get. I could feel the licence being stretched as far as The Pokémon Company would likely allow and really wanted it to go that bit further.
There’s a fascinating world, a just good enough plot that holds together as long as you don’t think too hard, and a fun ride. You’ll get to see Pokémon in ways they’ve never existed before and feel like you can almost touch them.
And for that, a bit of nonsense and far too convenient twists are a small price to pay.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu was reviewed at a screening with a ticket purchased by the reviewer.
Movie title: Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Movie description: In the Pokémon universe, Tim’s Goodman is a former Pokémon Trainer who is looking for his father when he mysteriously disappears in a car crash. Tim travels to Ryme where he partners up with Pikachu to find and uncover the mystery disappearance of Tim’s father. As they chase clues through the streets of Ryme City, the dynamic duo soon discover a devious plot that poses a threat to the Pokémon universe.