What does it take to adapt a cartoon-slash-game franchise of over two decades old into the big screen? First, an overly successful location-based game that took the world by storm in 2016, which have spawned weird stories across the world. Remember the truck driver that stopped at the middle of the highway to ‘catch a Pikachu’? And perhaps, Ryan Reynolds’ iconic voice and rising credibility as a star who can make magic happen with his unstoppable mouth, as seen recently on Deadpool 2.
Sorry Pokémon anime fans, no Ash Ketchum is present in the live film as the protagonist this round. Instead, the plot follows one Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), who is a 21-year-old insurance agent who had let go of his childhood dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer. Tim seemingly avoids any confrontation with Pokémon (those cute, little creatures that appears throughout the fictional world, which humans can catch them with Pokéballs and train them) due to having an uncomfortable past with them.
After receiving news that his father, Harry Goodman had perished in a lethal but mysterious road accident, Tim ventures off to Ryme City, a metropolis founded by Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), where Pokémon and humans live in peace without those nasty Pokémon battles. There, he is greeted by Harry’s peer, Detective Hideo Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) and bumps into Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), a new but relentless reporter.
To the masses that only knows Pokémon by name and haven’t actually thrown a virtual Pokéball, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is savvy enough to soak them in with an introductory scene of how it all works in a Pokémon world. A crying Cubone and an inept Tim Goodman, which was portrayed reliably by Smith warms the audience’s hearts and proved that Smith might just be the perfect guy for this film. What’s even more pronounced, is Cubone itself; known as a little, cute Tyrannosaurus-like creature that wears its ancestor’s skull over its head, it looks as truthful as it can get to the original design in the anime and more recently, Pokémon Go.
Which is pretty good news to fans, worldwide. While cartoon series- adapted film like X-Men faced an almost impossible task to put Wolverine’s yellow spandex suit into the big screen, there’s virtually nothing to lose for Detective Pikachu to carry over the creature designs raw, and unaltered. Yes, the audience will definitely lose out that experience of ‘guessing how Pokémon X and Y will look like in the film’, but it is just a risk simply not worth taking.
And the film proved that to be true. The film has not suffered any major criticism as far as the live-adapted designs of Pokémon are concerned. Unlike Sonic, the movie literally saves itself from resorting to a total redesign which, will inevitably cost an additional million or more. Fans are rejoicing to come across Pokémon with proportions which they have been loving for the past decade or two, while none fans will find a slightly beefier Gyrados and slightly furry Pikachu a delight. Win-win.
On the contrary, the plot itself is taking more risks and stands proud among films which were adapted from video games. Deep beneath the cute posters and sneak peaks, Detective Pikachu is surprisingly a proper crime thriller, though in a different setting from what you normally see. The plot paces pretty weightlessly from scene to scene where Pikachu and Tim uncovers the clues of the conspiracies surrounding Harry Goodman’s death.
Don’t let the naive outlook fool you, as even more and more clues are found, Detective Pikachu is seriously tight-lipped about the final outcome. This stands as one of the strongest aspects of the overall story, as it keeps the audience from coming into the right conclusion early on in the movie. Though the way the events unfold are pretty gradual, the level of plot secrecy and a handful of perspective-changing twists thrown in here and there ultimately keeps the audience occupied until the climax.
Detective Pikachu can also be seen experimenting on a few other elements to bring more depth to the story, most prominently, adventure and emotion. Experimenting, in the sense that they are nice to have, but don’t necessarily do that much good to the film in overall. The film slots in an obvious adventure-centric scene into one of the most crucial moments in the plot, albeit triggered out of convenience rather than necessity.
After a couple of hoo-ha’s and thousands of calories burned from navigating a ‘questionable forest’, the adventure-factor of Detective Pikachu squeezes into a permanent Pokéball , never to reappear again. Which makes the scene looks perfectly like an afterthought.
The intention of Detective Pikachu to stir your emotion at certain points of the plot does fare a little better. Now, at the very least, there are certain messages to be conveyed there, and those scenes exist to push the plot progression a few steps further down the line. But yet, they feel kind of flat, and brought me a mixed reaction. At one end, the scenes doesn’t reach deep enough into my heart to do any substantial damage to my emotion. On the other end, I’m not sure if I’ll ever admit to anyone that I’ve cried over a Pokémon film.
Topped-off with an ambitious final conflict setting with action sequences rivaling that of a superhero film over the iconic city-line of Ryme, Detective Pikachu is undoubtedly an entertainer and a great all rounder, either in a good, or bad way. And that cloaked identity and elusive nature of Harry Goodman towards camera angles until the end of the film? Well, what can I say here. It’s definitely a great touch. It adds unprecedented style and finesse into the whole movie. Perhaps, that could be the most memorable part of the 104 minutes-long story.
Addict Verdict, AV:
Regardless of what a Pokémon-titled film may suggest to you at first, Detective Pikachu is a rather thought-provoking, proper crime-thriller which stays radiant, light and playful at its core. Surprisingly, it is well put together considering the genre it falls within. But, unsurprisingly and unfortunately, there’s nothing to really go crazy about. For Pokémon fans, yes, this solid, all-rounder film is unquestionably a must watch. What if your not a fan? That decision, though, has to depend on something else. Maybe your time schedule.–The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict