Konichi-welcome back Island Guests! This blog has been around for a year and a bit now and while I was just starting out fresh as a Pokémon Blog, a movie came out recently that I JUST missed out on being relevant about. Before Halloween Month came along, I decided to review video game movies and.. luckily that Pokémon Movie was specifically based on a Video Game! Even Better .. it’s NOT a sucky Video Game movie! Hurray you guys, I finally reviewed Detective Pikachu.
In February a short, almost demo like game called Detective Pikachu hit the markets in Japan. It gained a lot of popularity and in 2018 it saw a Global release in a much more fleshed out, full game version because of it. In it we would play Tim Goodman, a do-good boy that solved mysteries with his gruffly voiced Pikachu! It did not take long before the rumors of this becoming a movie began to pop up! With a huge petition for Danny Devito becoming the hatted electric mouse. Ryan Renolds however wanted it more.. and with Justice Smith taking the role of ..what in the game was a very white Tim, we in may 2019 we got Detective Pikachu the movie. I must say.. I am SOOO happy with these casting choices.
The Tim in the video games was a super generic blank sheet of a character that was like Phoenix Wright if you take all his dialogue and charm away. Just a guy who responds to something and occasionally solves a puzzle in a very kiddy way. The movie while still clearly aimed for kids aimed at kids at least decided to age the characters up a bit to give them actual stuff to do and make them feel like a cohesive part of this world. For that I am grateful. Ryan Renolds clearly cares more for Pokémon than Danny Devito ever would so we got a bland character that is made more interesting and actors who are really involved with the franchise! This is how you do re-casts and change up the status quo! Very well done!
Finding Evidence in the Story
The movie does follow the plot of the game for a big part, with some twists here and there! Since this IS a detective movie and there is fun to be had in solving this riddle.. even if it is quite an easy one, I shall try to maintain spoilers to a minimum but I will spoil what the plot of the movie is about. So if you think that is a spoiler, this review might not be for you. Tim wants to be an insurance guy and live without a Pokémon.. because having a Pokémon reminds him of his neglective father who Tim has since banned out of his life. That ban is put to a screeching halt though when Lieutenant Hide Yoshida calls him from Ryme City! Apparently Tim’s father has been in an accident and he died! Now Tim has to get there to wrap up some business and say goodbye to his estranged father.
However things do not turn out to be that easy! Tim finds some weird “drugs” that turn Pokémon feral in his father’s apartment as well as a talking Pikachu. This Pikachu believes his father might still be alive..but is struck with Amnesia and together the two discover a plot that involves fighting many other pokémon including the most powerful pokémon off them all, Mewtwo. … but since it is not Mega Mewtwo… I gotta say that technically is not true..but hey! We will roll with it. We will see a lot of interesting locations within and just outside Ryme city and are introduced to Pokémon in a way that is less intrusive or knowledge intensive in a plot with some interesting twists. While it all is very predictable there are enough events and plot threats to keep the movie interesting to the slightly older audience. Even if you don’t know that much about Pokémon…because in reality.. Pokémon is just a dressing put over a cyberpunk story for children. Only instead of robots helping society it’s pokémon… or animatronics. It’s Blade Runner for kids!
Interrogating The Pokémon
Without the whole Pokémon thing we have a 6/10 movie I’d say. There is still some very funny jokes in the movie like the interrogation of Mr. Mime working even if you do not know anything about Pokémon. Detective Pikachu making jokes about Cocaine in a Pokémon movie.. and the whole litle “drug” subplot .. and the finding of the father that has gone missing/is dead it can carry the story well enough. The movie is well acted and shines best when Tim is meeting with the lieutenant. Those two bounce off of each other REALLY well. Weird but some of those scenes really hit hard. The heartfelt talk with Pikachu works well enough without any Poképuns with it alll feeling really endearing and there is enough sense of adventure and science for everyone… However the more you know about Pokémon the better this movie becomes. My Arceus the sheer number of easter eggs here in this movie are insane. Everything oozes Pokémon.. even though it somehow is on a completely separate layer than the rest of the movie. This movie would have worked just as well for people not knowing about Pokémon if the plot was with little robots or something fitting in a cyberpunk Scenario.
From the moment Tim tries to capture a Cubone that is very sad and lonely.. right until the very last second of the movie there are some may callbacks to everything pokémon. Mostly in Ryme city itself. The neon lit streets of this magnificent city feature so many pokémon. Every single commercial sign is a reference to a pokémon or something in the pokémon world. From a call to the berries in the pokémon mythos to having brands based on pokémon names, pokémon models and so much more. Pokémon are very much a part of this world. The Jigglypuff singing at the bar.. standing on a table with guests who have fallen asleep. Pikachu riding into battle on a Pidgeot feels like a callback to the original opening of the anime, There is just so much to unpack here! So many layers and on a single view you will never see it all. There is a cleverness in how this world has been built. For example there are Loudred at a club working as “speakers’. Machamp is being used on a crossroads because it can hold up four signs due to having so many arms. Dodrio being a flightless bird thus being seen walking in the city all over and Aipom being mischievous little miscreants it all works wonders.
It is a bit weird to place this in the Pokémon timeline though, as the rest of the regions seem to have the traditional.. capture a Pokemon system.. Ryme city works on a Pokémon buddy system.. humans and pokemon befriend each other and walk across the city as friends and equal partners.. ..but outside the city it is the traditional pokemon world.. I honestly wish they left this scene out.. even though I love the Cubone in the beginning ogf the movie.. it means that Kanto exists in this universe and so the idea that Mewtwo exists suddenly happened twice.. it’s an implication that is tricky to unify. Luckily even then there are small visual cues that could provide an answer. Maybe this research station had a particular organisation funding them ..something from inside the Pokémon world. However since this is set in the future from Red and Blue a few problems still arise with that.. so let’s just not think about it and take a look at how cute Snubbull is! Yes, who’s a good pink doggie!
Effects under the magnifying glass
Like I mentioned before the movie does a pretty good job of following the plot of the movie though some significant twists are made towards the end. Which I think is a good thing, we get a new case with a new perpetrator and new developments. Which means even if you have played the game before the mystery is still yours to solve.. which also is quite in line with the puzzle type of game it is. We do see Tim hunt for clues and little scraps of hints on what happened yet it never feels as Mundane and trivial as in the game.. which isn’t nearly as good as the movie. Not even close! Strangely the video game movie is better than the video game.. as it feels a whole lot more love went into this one. The game felt a bit cash-grabby but here there is so much attention to details it really feels like it is made for the fans. While obviously there is a LOT of CGI in this movie a lot of the pokémon are also made practical. Their faces have been animated in later but there is actually something on set. We get a strange atmosphere of effects that are decently enough to be believed.. but you are aware there isn’t anything there..
I would like to compare it to seeing a ghost.. in real life and you know it’s a ghost.. but you can’t walk through it.. it is still there.. you can bump into it.. this movie feels a bit like that. Pokémon have another wordly quality yet also something tangible. They aren’t there but it feels like you CAN touch them. I think this is the best way to go about this to be honest. Pokémon are strange and if we had to make them realistic they would lose lots of features that would make them so recognisable. Feathery pokemon feel feathery, fluffy Pokemon feel like they actually have fur … and Mr. Mime has that sense of creepiness that his game counterpart has as well. Every effect is a bit like that.. in the fact that it really doesn’t feel like attack..but an effect yet if you saw it in 3d you’d probably still duck dip or dodge. Almost on a seperate layer.. which calls back to how animations worked in the sprite based pokemon game that also was just another layer. So weirdly for me this level of fake.. sells it more as Pokémon. The Squirtles and Bulbasaurs are adorable.. and seeing Greninja, Charizard and Torterra.. gave me that sense of wonder again of first encountering them and thinking they were really cool! Everything is just different enough.
I DID have a few issues with some of the stunts though, it all feels just a bit safe. The stuff human actors have to put up with is kept to a fair minimum except for one scene.. which is such a shame because I think that is a missed opportunity. It would be hard to realise, but the idea of a human facing against the raw power of a pokémon or facing trouble from a pokemon seems very under explored here. There isn’t as much of a sense of danger as I would like. That does fit the videogame .. but it fits the world a lot less. Oh well.. we always have the upcoming Monster Hunter movie for that type of stuff.. *cough*
One level short of evolving
I had a blast with Detective Pikachu but it has issues. The biggest gripe is the “Disney” vibes we get from some dialogue. We get the classic boy whose mother died and now did not want to live with his father.. but now everyone is dead and he must go look for the truth.. while encountering a girl. Who tries to be way tougher than she is.. Luckily it isn’t the Late 2010’s “I can do everything” myself kinda woman. No she acts like this .. but it is shown to be an act to be tougher then she is.. it gives her a sense of frailty and makes her different from most of her peers who are actually that sassy .. bratty ..I can do this by myself type. No, she is actually the footwipe of her boss, not taken seriously in her career and dealing with actual problems instead of being strong enough to rise above them. Making her feel more real. She has some Misty vibes so giving her a psyduck is a bit unfortunate and feels as if this is Misty.. but if we look closer we can see she is different enough! We just need to really look.
Other than that.. There are a few instances of weirdly written dialogue that are not akin to normal speech but are needed to further the plot in a certain way and create barriers. For example at one time Tim gets his hand on a part of dialogue.. which seems a clear indication of some dark motives, however later in the movie we see this message has been pulled out of context.. . this trope can work.. but with the reveal that is made later on.. it seems strange that the dialogue flowed like that in the first place. It is just a very awkwardly worded conversation that has been designed to sound confusing if you only hear a specific part of it. It is here that we realise this is a kid movie and then the writer did not want to bother making it more compelling and sensical. There are a few moments like these. where “it’s good enough for children” It’s a shame because so much of this movie seems to be made for all and new fans alike. I know that little kids will not notice this.. but most times kids movies are just as much watched by adults as Mommy and Daddy have to come along… or any combination of the two and not forgetting a non binary parent.. regardless of who sees it with their kid.. there usually is someone.. so that excuse.. it’s just a kids movie.. I find a bad one.
In the end we got a delight of a movie that I had very gleeful feelings watching, both times.Yet it is also a movie whose faults are very apparent from the get go. The predictable plot, the sloppy dialogue and the low stakes make me realise there is more potential in this type of story than we got out of it right now. This is good for everyone… adequate for the non pokemon fan and a blast for the actual pokémon fan. It does get better the more you know about pokémon and the more things you can spot in the background. Having seen it two times now though I doubt I will watch it again any time soon.. at best just to stare at the backgrounds of the more crowded scenes. I would like to compare it to a level 19 Tyrogue. It’s cute.. can kick your ass and we know it has a whole lot of potential. It is not fully clear where this could go.. but it just needed that little push to be better! Now it still great but it will not endure indefinitely. It still is one of the best video game movies made!