‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’ serves its namesake
Aidan Janssen, Reporter & Designer
For more than 20 years, the massively popular Pokémon series has been a major part of youth culture. Now more than ever, this shows no signs of stopping. The franchise has spawned video games, films, toys, and card games, among other forms of entertainment. With the recent release of “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,” it appears that at least a bit of what made the franchise great is being injected back into the Pokémon.
Directed by Rob Letterman, best known for directing “Shark Tale,” “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” tells the story of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a lonely boy who claims to want nothing to do with Pokémon, Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an intern for a news publication, and Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds). The movie explores the unusual connection between Pikachu and Tim, made possible by their ability to understand each other, as they search for Tim’s missing father, Harry Goodman.
The story tackles the idea of “What if we lived with Pokémon in our world?”, a thought many kids from the 1990s and 2000s toyed with during their childhoods. For the most part, the movie does a great job making that “What if?” a reality.
The story itself isn’t mindblowing, which isn’t super surprising as Pokémon films released prior to Detective Pikachu also struggled with a hollow story. However, the story isn’t bad, nor does it feels like it was made just to support the style of film that the director was going for.
For this installment, Letterman pushes for the use of live actors and 3D animation. We now get to see hyper-realistic depictions of many beloved characters created over a 20-year legacy. Ninety percent of the time, seeing these characters in such a hyper-realistic rendition lands well. Fur, scales, and feathers rarely looked out of place, and I never questioned who or what I was looking at on the screen. The way the art and design were handled gave most Pokémon fans a real treat.
The Pokémons’ behavior was also created well. Those in charge of the movement based the actions on the behavior of real-world animals, and the effort shows.
There was a pool of 807 Pokémon that the team could have selected, and they did a great job picking a Pokémon that both longtime fans and people with very little knowledge of the series would recognize. Hardcore fans will likely be delighted to see how much detail has gone into including references to previous Pokémon media.
While the movie does an excellent job with its presentation, some other aspects are a bit lacking. While a lot of the set pieces in the film look interesting or present intriguing locales, some of the CGI looks a bit off and stole my focus away from the characters and towards the unnatural visuals.
Another part of the film that felt off was the dialogue between the characters. A few of the lines, while voiced well, introduced ideas that were either never explored further or just felt cheap. The attempts at comedy were also fairly hit and miss. The best and most-clever moments were created from the Pokémon, such as Pikachu’s coffee addiction. The concept is funny because he is such a gosh darn cute character, and other special Pokémon quirks are used as a clever way to create comedic moments.
“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” is a must-see for Pokémon fans. While I fear that people who are unfamiliar with the franchise will get less enjoyment from the movie, those who have grown up with or fully delved into the culture later will be delighted. It uses what has made the franchise popular in the first place — the Pokémon — expertly. The movie can feel a bit cheesy at times, but it is undoubtedly pure, good fun. As soon as I got home from watching the film, I pulled my old Pokémon cards out of my closet and reminisced about a simpler time, something only Pokémon could do for me.
3 out of 5 stars – Worth your time.