Justice Smith as Tim Goodman
Directed by Rob Letterman
Pokémon Detective Pikachu Review #2:
Independence Day. Mission: Impossible. Scream. The beginning of the Pokémon franchise. What do these all have in common you may ask? They all were introduced to consumers in 1996, just as I was brought into this world. But unlike me, the 23-year-old franchise has not only proven to be resilient and timeless for its fans, but also continues to evolve and grow in many new ways, including its 2016 spin-off Detective Pikachu in which the classic gaming franchise got a new mystery twist to its adventure format and proved to be such a unique hit for Nintendo that it sparked interest in developing a new theatrical film for the franchise and reaching a deal to adapt the game into a live-action/CGI hybrid film. After nearly three years of development, casting, filming and a stellar marketing campaign, the highly-anticipated project is finally here and it is mostly a thrill from start to finish.
As a fan of the original franchise, this was one of the most exciting and breathtaking adaptations of the world I could possibly have imagined or wanted. Director Rob Letterman’s commitment to building the world for both longtime fans and potential new fans makes it an easy-to-access universe. While quickly explaining the history of humanity’s connection to the titular creatures and introducing key elements from the gaming’s past, including a hilarious sequence involving a Pokéball and Cubone, it’s an intriguing spin on the classic Pokémon battles from nearly all of the game’s installments.
In addition to a wonderful development of a world in which humans and Pokémon are living in harmony and working together, the visual effects team have done an incredible job at designing over 60 of the near 800 species featured throughout the gaming franchise. They have found a way to blend the original character designs and add further layers and textures to every creature to make them look incredibly realistic, namely the titular yellow hero, who has definitely become even cuter than the games or the original animé series and films could ever make him.
When it comes to the cast, everybody has also been perfectly recruited for their roles. Ryan Reynolds, best known for his not-so-secret life as the Merc with a Mouth, brings plenty of his classic quips and edgy humor to the titular role while also giving the role just enough restraint and heart to thrill fans and newcomers alike. Justice Smith, known better on the big screen for his side roles in 2015’s Paper Towns and last year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, shines in his first theatrical lead role as he brings plenty of charisma and charm to the role and shows incredible chemistry with Reynolds and digs deep for some truly emotional moments.
The story is the only real area of struggle for the film. In the film, the titular Pokémon teams up with Smith’s Tim Goodman to help solve the mysteries behind Tim’s missing father, a series of attacks from the creatures around Ryme City and the explanation behind his amnesia. It’s a tale rife with potential to be a great neo-noir mystery and Letterman certainly crafts a great genre atmosphere, but unlike most films in said genre, too many of the plot points feel very predictable.
Furthermore, the film’s ending proves to be a real mind-boggler, not only for fans of the story’s potential, but also because we know Legendary Pictures ordered a sequel months ago. Though there are still some threads to be potentially explored for the future, this story is so well-executed as a solo outing that it begs the question of how will they continue past this installment.
In the end, it may not have reached its potential heights, but unlike every prior video game adaptation, Pokémon Detective Pikachu sets itself apart by actually honoring its fanbase with a fairly interesting story and brilliant development of its world and creatures. Stylishly directed by Letterman and wonderfully performed by Reynolds and Smith, the film proves itself to be one of the most visually beautiful films of this year.