The one piece of pop culture I can remember truly loving before I loved movies was Pokémon, when I was around 4 or 5 I got my first copy of Pokémon Red and haven’t stopped playing them since. Now whilst I have seen and mostly enjoyed all 21 of the animated Pokémon films, they aren’t actually any good. However now director Rob Letterman is bringing the world of Pokémon to life with a live action adaptation of the Detective Pikachu game.
The film sees Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, and young insurance salesman who gave up on his childhood dream of being a Pokémon trainer due to the strained relationship he had with his father Harry. When he finds learns of his father’s death in a car crash he teams up with Harry’s former partner Pokémon, a Pikachu that can talk but only so Tim can understand, with Ryan Reynolds providing the voice for Pikachu. The end up teaming up with a Kathryn Newton’s Lucy Stevens a Junior Reporter who wants to look into Harry’s death.
In terms of the story Detective Pikachu takes a lot of inspiration from classic film noir mystery thrillers, but bases all of this in the Pokémon world. Being a mystery film and with those classic inspirations the film obviously takes plenty of twists and turns as the main characters investigate the case, but so many of these are very obvious and easy to predict if you’ve ever seen any kind of noir film before. Despite this the final act of the film also manages to encompass all of the World Ending insanity that the Pokémon films so often end up showcasing, but despite the crazy specifics the plot still feels fairly unoriginal and a little stale.
However the great strength of Detective Pikachu is the incredible way Letterman has managed to capture the world of Pokémon in this live action setting. Both Tim’s hometown and the metropolis Ryme City feels just like I imagined a real world inhabited by Pokémon would feel. On a side note I also really appreciate those behind the film using a wide range of Pokémon, and not just ones from the first Generation as the easily could have done. The world feels fleshed out and authentic, but also very much tied into the lore and traditions of the game. This feels like a world that you could create any number of great stories in, and indeed that I hope they do.
Obviously with Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu in the film the screenwriters leaned into his comedic talent, and gave him plenty of brilliant comedic moments. Reynolds is always such a charismatic and magnetic leading performer, that even with just his vocal performance he manages to stand out fantastically. Justice Smith as the other lead of the film also really impressed me, he did a fantastic job of bringing some depth to the role of Tim, and conveying the fractious relationship he had with his father. Detective Pikachu also managed to secure actors such as Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy to appear in supporting roles, but both have very little to do, and ultimately wound up feeling wasted in the film.
Truly any Pokémon fan will adore spending time in the world that Detective Pikachu has created, even if this particular story won’t blow anyone away. The team behind the film have successfully managed to bring the Pokémon games to life in a truly spectacular way. I hope this film makes enough money that Warner Bros will move forward with more films in this world, although they don’t necessarily have to be direct Detective Pikachu sequels.