Hilarious and exciting, Detective Pikachu reminds us why he is the favourite Pokémon

Published: May 14, 2019
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Detective Pikachu is based on the video game series of the same name and shows Pokémon and humans living side by side. PHOTO: IMDB

The video game adaptation curse has been haunting Hollywood for quite a while now. Many studios have tried to break this curse by only producing movies based on highly popular video game franchises, but none of them have been able to check all the required boxes. No one has yet delivered an entertaining movie which is sincere to the game itself and is also able to please diehard fans.

This is precisely why films based on games such as Assassin’s Creed, Mario Brothers, Warcraft, Prince of Persia, Need for Speed, and Hitman, among others, have all either flopped badly at the box office or have been mocked and hated by audiences.

When Detective Pikachu’s trailer first dropped, I loved it. However, a part of me felt that diehard fans of the Pokémon franchise would not be pleased with the outcome of this adaptation either.

For instance, although the trailer was largely praised, Pikachu’s ‘dead eyes’ sure did upset a lot of people. And whenever fans are so displeased with the main character’s design, things don’t look good for a film.

However, after watching the movie I finally breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Detective Pikachu is based on the video game series of the same name and takes place in Rhyme City, where Pokémon and humans live side by side. The film revolves around Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who visits the city when he is informed about his father’s death. Tim teams up with his father’s Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) to solve the mystery surrounding his death and they, along with aspiring news reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton), end up stumbling into a huge conspiracy which could change the world for the worse.

I am a huge fan of the Pokémon franchise, having played the old Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen games and seen the animated TV series as well, and I was largely happy with the way the film turned out. The movie successfully depicts a world where Pokémon and humans co-exist, which was basically the dream of any child who grew up loving these ‘Pocket Monsters’.

What ends up working for the movie is the design of the Pokémon. Charmander, Charizard, Bulbasaur, Blastoise, Mewtwo, Psyduck and specifically Pikachu, all look amazing. Getting the design of the creatures is of the utmost importance, because if you do a bad job here then no matter how good the movie is otherwise, the audience won’t be able to move past the bad effects to enjoy it (case in point: the trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog). The CGI team has thus done a terrific job with the design for the Pokémon here and their hard work shows in the movie.

What does not work for the movie is its plot, as in that department it has nothing new to offer. Although it is a mystery – the film has detective in the title – there are no major twists and turns and the movie ends up being quite predictable. This is understandable to an extent, as the target market here is mostly kids. However, even kids are used to better movies these days, where the plot has some tension to keep the viewer’s attention.

As a viewer, you are never able to understand the gravity of the situation, or why this whole adventure means so much to the people undertaking it. The stakes are never made clear, which leaves the audience to only focus on Pikachu’s next punch line and not on the ‘mystery’ aspect of the movie. It is evident that most of the imagination put into the movie went into the CGI and the character design, and unfortunately not into making a real effort for the story being told.

Despite the movie’s failure to hold up as a mystery, the features of a noir mixed with fantasy and topped with Pikachu’s goofiness all make the movie a very entertaining watch. Director Rob Letterman has effectively portrayed the magnificence of the world of Pokémon and allows the audience to immerse themselves into it. Rhyme City is an enthralling place that every fan would love to visit once.

The movie stars a fairly young cast led by Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), who is able to perfectly balance the levity of a young boy with the seriousness of the dramatic situations he often finds himself in. Newton’s Lucy is an interesting character, but she isn’t given enough screen time to prosper. The supporting cast is led by Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe and Chris Geere, and they all do a commendable job.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the life and soul of Detective Pikachu is in fact Reynolds (no surprises there). Reynolds breathes new life into everyone’s favourite Pokémon whom we have always found cute and adorable, but Reynolds makes him genuinely hilarious and exciting to watch. Reynolds has also provided the facial motion capture for Pikachu, making every second of his screen time a treat for the audience. You are bound to hear the audience lose control whenever Pikachu speaks, and the credit for carrying this film definitely goes to Reynolds.

Detective Pikachu is thus a complete package. You don’t have to be a Pokémon fan to enjoy the movie, and if you are a fan then this film will not disappoint. Although I stand by my reservations with the plot and the ending didn’t particularly sit well with me either, I did enjoy every bit of Pikachu’s ‘detecting’.

Suffice to say that the curse of the video game adaptations has officially been broken by Hollywood. Detective Pikachu’s success ensures that not only will studios continue to try their luck with more video game adaptations, but will also try their best to make Reynolds a part of these movies (as they should). I do hope a sequel is in the works, because as the audience finds out soon after the movie begins, one can never get enough of Pikachu.

All photos: IMDb

Sahir Palijo

Sahir Palijo

The author is an undergrad pursuing a degree of Business Administration. He loves to write his thoughts and is a movie freak. He tweets at @The_Sahir (twitter.com/the_sahir)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.