This is a spoiler-free review.
Directed By: Rob Letterman
Written By: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith and more
Run Time: 1 Hour, 44 Minutes
Release Date: May 10th, 2019
Link to IMDb
‘Mortal Kombat‘? Nope. ‘Doom‘? Get out. ‘Tomb Raider‘? Tried three times, none were very good. ‘Hitman‘? Forget about it. ‘Angry Birds‘? Close, but no cigar. ‘Rampage‘? Meh at best. No friends, our first truly good video game movie is, drum roll please: ‘Detective Pikachu‘.
Of all things.
Now, don’t mistake good for masterpiece. This is still a highly flawed movie. But as a fun movie for kids, or a visual treat for long-time Pokemon fans, this movie does the trick. If you fall into either category, you’ll have a great time with this film.
But if you fall into neither, you’d probably do better to watch something else. Like ‘Avengers: Endgame‘. I’ve already seen that, you exclaim to your screen like a crazy person? Go see it again! ‘Avatar‘ isn’t going to beat itself in the box office!
Plot: A Boy, His Pokemon, and His Dead Dad
No, that last part isn’t a joke.
Tim Goodman is an ordinary guy in an extraordinary world. After his mother’s death, and his father having moved away, he gave up on his dreams of being a Pokemon trainer and became… an insurance agent. He lives his life without Pokemon, despite the nagging of all those around him to find a Pokemon partner and go out to see the world.
But when Tim gets a call informing him of his father’s demise, his whole life changes. When he goes to say goodbye, he runs into a mysterious talking Pikachu, who turns out to be his father’s old partner. This little yellow ball of adorable believes that Tim’s father is still alive, and he needs Tim’s help to find him. Together, they delve deep into the mysteries of Rhyme City, the only place in the world where humans and Pokemon coexist without the need of Pokeballs.
It is an incredibly simple and easy to follow plot. The characters range from decent to forgettable, with only Tim and Pikachu being above the average. The pacing is very quick, which is both to it’s benefit and detriment. On one hand, the story never slows down or stops, making it super hard to get bored. On the other, it deprives certain moments the necessary breathing time. For example, the love subplot between Tim and Psyduck-having reporter chick is super half-baked.
Then you get to the third act. Now, I won’t spoil anything more than I already have. But be aware: the third act is insane! It isn’t bad, don’t misunderstand. But it is one hundred percent, undeniably crazy! The pacing goes from fast to break-neck, every Chekhov’s gun setup earlier in the film (which there are plenty of, and they’re all quite subtle in a great way) is fired, and the action goes nuts!
A huge part of me wants to see this movie again while on drugs, if only for that final act.
*Footnote: don’t do drugs kids. But if you do decide to do them, please be responsible and only do them within legal limits.
Presentation: I Want to Pet All of Them
This is easily the strongest aspect of the film.
The visual story telling here is absolutely phenomenal! Sure, the cinematography is only just okay, about on par with a Marvel movie. But the special effects are nigh flawless, and they’re used to create a beautiful, vibrant and lived-in world.
At no point does this movie grind to a halt and say “HEY KID, DO YOU KNOW WHAT A POKEMON IS?! WELL, THIS IS WHAT A POKEMON IS!! AREN’T POKEMON AMAZING?!”. They knew that would be a complete waste of the audience’s time. Instead, they rightfully assume that the people who would watch this movie already know what a Pokemon is and skip the explanation. They know that ninety percent of their audience has played a Pokemon game.
They also know that the other ten percent are parents who have no clue what the fuck a Pokemon is. But they decide not to worry about them. Instead, they focused on making each Pokemon look as great as they possibly could.
My god did they do a good job. Each Pokemon looks absolutely incredible, from the warm and fuzzy Pikachu to the scaled and bad-ass looking Charizard. They all blend in with the world perfectly and beautifully.
And there are so many of them! Seriously, every single frame is stuffed to the brim with Pokemon! So much so that one viewing is nowhere near enough to spot them all! I have no doubt that, come the time for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, there will be numerous videos going through the whole movie frame-by-frame to point them all out.
Never before have I been so excited for a f-b-f analysis of a movie!
Acting and Script: As Up and Down as a Pidgey in Flight
This is where things get a little rough.
The acting, as well as the script the actors are tied to, are about what you’d expect from a kid’s movie. Most of it is decent, some of it is great, and the rest of it is pretty bad. It isn’t ever so awful that watching it becomes painful. But if you’re expecting ‘Citizen Ketchum‘, then you’ll be disappointed.
The best actor is easily Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. He steals every scene he’s in without even a moment of resistance! They even sprinkled in a ton of his adlibed lines, which add a lot of genuinely hilarious comedy to the movie. His performance absolutely brings this talking Pikachu to life.
Justice Smith as Tim does an okay job. He does have his rough spots, which often line up with the script’s low-points. But he does do more good than he does bad. He’s easily one of the better members of the human cast.
Not counting Bill Nighy. Or Ken Watanabe. Okay, he sits in the top three human actors in the movie.
Going into this movie, I had higher hopes than I’d ever had for a video game movie. I honestly expected them to be let down. Or at the very least to have a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of a time. But I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it! It met my expectations through-and-through!
However, I feel I need to reiterate: this is a movie for children and long-time Pokemon fans who may as well be children. If you fall into neither category (like my poor mother did when we went to see this for Mother’s Day), then you won’t likely enjoy this movie. If anything, you’ll be extremely confused and wonder who spiked your breakfast.
With that in mind, here is my recommendations. If you are a small child who really loves Pokemon, this movie is a great time. If you are a teenager or adult who grew up playing Pokemon, you’ll likely have a fun time with this one. If you are neither, go watch something else.
Like ‘Endgame‘. #BeatAvatar.
Now, with ‘Detective Pikachu‘ being so successful, we can finally look to the future of the NCU! We can finally see if Nintendo decided to take all my totally great ideas from way back when I wrote the ‘Plotting out the NCU‘ series! WHICH THEY SHOULD! BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL GREAT IDEAS!
Don’t believe me? Check those out in the links below!
Plotting the Nintendo Cinematic Universe
Phase 1: Smash
Phase 2: Melee
Phase 3: Brawl
Phase 4: Ultimate (Part 1)
Phase 4: Ultimate (Part 2)
Nintendo, please feel free to read those and take all the ideas. I expect my name in the credits of each film and a royalty check in the mail. You’re welcome.