In a world where animated classics are being remade into live-action spectacles for what seems to be at a monthly pace, a staple of the 1990s makes its live-action cinematic debut. POKÉMON: Detective Pikachu is based on the video game of the same name and stars Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds as the titular character.
First Thing First
The visual effects team that worked on this film deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects because they miraculously pulled this off without making the Pokémon look awkward, sloppy or out of place. The majority of the film takes place in Ryme City, a city where humans and Pokémon live in harmony amongst each other. The way the effects team were able to make Ryme City feel like an actual city was astonishing. There’s a scene where the screen is occupied to its fullest capacity and establishes that someone took their time and deliberately made every Pokémon count.
Even when Pokémon are in the frame by themselves, the details are robust and they feel like actual creatures instead of pocket monsters. When the script calls for them to emit some sort of emotion, the facial expressions and eye movement convey the message effortlessly. The Psyduck below is the face of confusion and Bulbasaur has the eyes of someone who knows what’s going on. In the context of the film, the little things make it more impactful when it happens.
Outside of the visual effects, the other thing that POKÉMON: Detective Pikachu has going for it, is the chemistry between its two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith. Reynolds is at his wisecracking tactics as if he had just walked off the set of Deadpool and Smith counteracts that by acting as the straight man, which is a formula for a few hearty laughs. The film starts out in a serious tone, but as soon as Reynolds’ Pikachu comes into frame, that’s when the humor makes its entrance and never exits. Being that this is a PG film some of the jokes don’t land but overall, the pairing work perfectly off of each other.
Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, and Ken Watanabe make up the notable cast members who have solid roles in the film. The problem is the writing in the film doesn’t give them much to do. Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) is a reporter and early on in the film before Pikachu is introduced, she has some sort of motive and character for her. Once she and Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) start working together, she just becomes a sidekick for him and Pikachu. The film also becomes predictable as soon as Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) is introduced. Clifford looks like he’s up to something nefarious so by the time the third act happens things are not surprising at all. The last act felt like it just took place for the film to hit beats but since the visual effects were so well done, it was still a fun watch.
Another area of improvement is the amount of exposition the flashback scenes used. Every single time there was a flashback hologram scene it was just used as a way for the film to tell the audience what was going on. The flashbacks might as well have been narration because that’s how they functioned within the film’s storytelling. There are around four scenes of “holographic security footage” that provide answers to the mysteries the main characters are trying to solve which make it feel like a cop out of the film’s mysterious aspect that it set up in the beginning.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a kids movie, which is why it’s predictable plot hurts and helps the film simultaneously. For children the plot is something easy for them to understand but for adults it’s something we’ve seen time and time again. As far as a movie that’s based on a video game, Detective Pikachu is probably the best one I’ve seen in a long time. The world-building is phenomenal and the movie is amusing from start to finish. Compared to a lot of properties that become films for cash grab nostalgic reasons, Detective Pikachu delivers and never feels as if the crew behind the scenes did not have a passion for this project. Warner Brothers and the other studios involved allowed director Rob Letterman to stay at the helm and direct his vision as it worked to the benefit of both parties. With rumors circulating that a live-action film based on Pokemon Red and Blue is currently under development, I’m looking forward to the future for the franchise based on pocket monsters.
[All Mames Wey]
The Public was released in theaters April 5, 2019.
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