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REVIEW: POKÉMON Detective Pikachu (2019)

pabziclespabzicles PEx Rookie ⭐
edited May 2019 in Movie Reviews
Significant improvement to slew of disappointing video games adaptation.
The very best and no video game movie ever

PEx Reviewer: pabzicles
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Over the years, video game adaptations are plagued by mediocre and utterly bad reviews from critics and audiences alike. A curse was put on it as they say. But who put the curse in the first place? Is the process of translating this form of entertainment so darn hard unlike major franchises based on comic book movies and novels? Too often, the culprit is the terrible screenplay that do not give justice to the source material or directly copied everything that makes it less cinematic. 
Arguably, video games adaptation is not really a lost cause. Some, including Resident Evil and Tomb Raider managed to spawn sequels. Even first outings such as Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed were able to earn in the box office. And film makers do not cease to adapt these video games (which has solid fan base) into the big screen that even game creators provide efforts to deliberately involve themselves in the production. While other studios and game companies are still trying to figure out how to break the curse, Legendary Pictures and Pokémon Company finally did by following a familiar detective story and relying too much on its irresistibly charming monsters thus giving us the most fun video game adaptation ever.   

Detective Pikachu is loosely based on the Nintendo video game of the same name. We follow Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a 21-year-old guy insurance salesman with a strange behavior. Unlike most of his peers, he doesn’t want a Pokémon. But things started to change when he received the news of the death of his estranged father Detective Harry Goodman. To settle things out, he travels to Ryme City but right when he stepped in to his father’s apartment, he met Pikachu, a cute yellow monster talking and searching for evidence inside. Bizarrely, he understands every word the pocket monster say, he learns from Pikachu that he is used to be his father’s partner and his dad is not really dead. This unexpected meeting turns into unwilling team up to solve the mystery behind Harry’s disappearance. 

The film is exposition heavy in its first act. Initially introducing us into the world like in the anime series where a trainer needs to catch a Pokémon. I thought at first that they would go after the usual story of Ash Ketchum capturing and fighting other trainers. Well, my expectation was immediately cut short, when Tim travels to Ryme City. A city where Pokémons are living harmoniously with people. We see Machamp as traffic cops, Snorlax lying on the ground, Squirtle working with firefighters and Charizard providing fire to cook food. In here, Pokémons are having a purpose aside from battling together with their trainers. Seeing this world is really astounding and captivating. 

How do they intricately designed and photo realistically rendered every cute Pokémons we know give us the feeling of nostalgia at the same time wanting to be part of it. Unlike Sonic the Hedgehog receiving criticism for altering the character design, Pokémon stayed true to the original. The line “Gotta Catch ‘em All” may be the visual effects and production design department instruction. Being shot in film, it enhances the overall appearance of every frame giving us a more vivid and pop color. It is also no coincidence that its cinematographer is the frequent collaborator of Ridley Scott. Blade Runner seems to be the inspiration for the futuristic, urbanized and population dense city of Ryme. Beneath what seems to be a perfect place is an underground fighting between drugged Pokémons and corrupt leaders. This dystopian yet utopian setting complements the mysterious yet funny tone of the movie. 

Detective Pikachu though visually stunning is carried by the rapport of the two leading characters. Justice Smith offers a modest performance but Ryan Reynolds shines the most in voicing and providing facial movements for Pikachu. Yes, Reynold’s voice might sound like the tone down version of Deadpool’s but when Pikachu is on the screen with his voice. It’s as if it is a new character and to say that Reynolds is destined to be the voice of Pikachu maybe an exaggeration, but until I’m not hearing any other rightful one, then my best bet is him. Generally, Pikachu though CGI, generated much more complex emotions rather than its human characters. Pikachu with his funny jokes together with all of the Pokémon’s quirks and cuteness are the greatest reasons why this film is an enjoyable ride.   

The mystery it is trying to build is adequate but the entire plot is too easy to guess.  Well, it is made that way for kids to easily follow. As a detective film, it is not a mind twisting one because majority of times, Tim and Pikachu are just stumbling upon evidences. Yet, behind the obvious mystery in the foreground is a much greater mystery behind that will leave adult and kids alike shocked by the end of it. Much more so, is the entertaining climactic battle on the third act and overall heartwarming story of Tim Goodman.  

Ultimately, Detective Pikachu is a significant improvement to slew of disappointing video games adaptation. It may not be enough to fully break the curse but through its visually stunning world building, charming Pokémon characters, and a delightful story of second chance served in the most fun way; Detective Pikachu is the very best and no video game movie ever was for now. A promising franchise starter that can generate future sequels/spin-offs. (But I want Psyduck spin-off first!) 

PEx Rating: 8.5/10

Directed by: Rob Letterman; Written By: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman
& Derek Connolly; Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe & Bill Nighy; Running Time: 1 hour and 44 minutes; MTRCB Rating: G.

POKÉMON Detective Pikachu only in cinemas May.9.

#DetectivePikachu #PikaPika

Check out the official discussion thread here:  POKÉMON Detective Pikachu



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