Image Credit: Warner Bros./The Pokémon Company
Recently, the trailer for the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie brought along plenty of memes, disappointed fans, and affirmation of one long-lasting “fact:” The video-game movie adaptation curse is real. Ever since the infamous failure of the Super Mario Bros movie in 1993, nearly every single attempt by movie studios to make a decent movie based on a video game franchise has been poorly received by fans and critics. So, if you told the haters one year back that a live-action Pokémon movie was in the works, they would probably insist that it would turn out terrible. But luckily, one film seems to have broken that curse. One film based on a Nintendo franchise, with live-action pocket critters and the voice acting of Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds. That film would be 2019’s Detective Pikachu, released a few weeks ago. I will be reviewing it today.
Now, what exactly made video game movies in the past bad? Well, poor storylines, unfunny humor, bad CGI, poor acting, and blatant attempts at “fan service” actually just being cash-grabs all spelled doom for countless video game film adaptations in the past. I guess I will debunk each of these points one by one, to prove that Detective Pikachu is an electrifyingly fun and hilarious tale that will not disappoint hardcore Pokémon fans, newcomers to the series, or the average moviegoer.
Above: Detective Pikachu on the case! I'm not sure if his already huge eyes needed magnification, but he seems to think otherwise. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
First, the story. Now, without spoiling anything, I will say that the film is loosely based on detective mysteries that you have probably heard of in the past. The film starts out with the main conflict point: A car crash near a Pokémon research center leads to the disappearance of an ace detective, Howard Goodman. The only one last seen at the site would be his furry Pokémon partner, a Pikachu who now seems to have gotten his memory erased. When Howard’s son, Tim, hears the news, he goes to his dad’s office, where he meets Pikachu for the first time. But it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary Pikachu; he insists on wearing Howard’s detective hat, has no idea of what happened on the day of the crasah, and can actually speak to Tim. Only Tim can hear him, however; whenever Detective Pikachu speaks to someone else, all they can hear is a regular “pika-pika!”
Above: In the film, Psyduck is a Pokémon who gets stressed out super easily. It's not exactly reassuring that when his brain gets stressed enough, he has the tendency to explode. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
As Detective Pikachu and Tim dive deeper into what happened in the car crash that day, they learn that not everything around them is as it seems. So expect constant plot twists and turns that, while sometimes are a bit predictable, still managed to make me engaged throughout the relatively short movie. (It’s no 3-hour long Endgame beast of a movie, don’t worry.) The story isn’t super complex or deep either, but you shouldn’t go in expecting that. It is just a kid’s movie, after all. But it’s certainly not a bad or lazily-made one. It’s full of heart and humor, with a good message about friendship and family mixed in for good measure. I didn't realize this until after watching it and looking it up, but the plot happens to be loosely based on the Pokémon spin-off game of the same name, Detective Pikachu, which was released for the 3DS in 2018. So if you've played that game (which I haven't played but have seen online), know that it has the same basic plot with quite a few notable twists, which is a good thing. It means that it sticks to the source material enough not to feel ridiculous, yet doesn't stick to it too much to the point where it's boring.
Above: Mr. Mime is one of the weirdest Pokémon around. This scene might just be one of my favorites in the entire movie. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
Next, the humor. I’d say that the humor is one of, if not, the best thing about this entire movie. Of course, casting Ryan Reynolds to play a cute and fuzzy Pikachu that makes jokes about caffeine addiction was an absolute stroke of genius from the corporate executives over at Warner Bros. I can just imagine them sitting down at a meeting and asking, “Okay… Who should play adorable little Pikachu in this kids' movie?... Oh, I know! Deadpool!” So while there still are the moments of sillier humor aimed at young children, there is still constant edgier humor thrown in there by D.P. (Detective Pikachu? Deadpool?) that is sure to keep the older audience laughing out loud. The gags with the live-action Pokémon creatures interacting with each other are equally hilarious, and it makes the entire movie feel, well fun. There is no other word to explain it. I haven’t watched a movie this simply fun in quite some time; the last few months have been so filled with deep cinematic universe lore and dark storylines to the point that I honestly forgot that I could still appreciate a good ol’ adventure comedy. Not many of the jokes felt particularly awkward or cringy, which I greatly appreciate. Besides Reynolds’ comedic gold, the other acting in this movie was also mostly on point, and I can’t remember a single performance that didn’t feel mostly genuine and well-done.
Above: Many of the CGI Pokémon in this film look absolutely incredible. Just look at the detail of animation put into this Bulbasaur! (Credit: W.B./TPC)
And of course, one of the other stand-out things about this movie is its visual effects and CGI. Unlike particular other upcoming video game movie adaptations (like that particular one starring a fast blue hedgehog), all of the Pokémon look believable and creepy enough to be funny but not to be terrifying. Audiences will be able to behold real-animal inspired fire-breathing Charizard, magic-wielding Mewtwo, and a Psyduck with anxiety disorders (whom was probably my second favorite one), as well as countless other goofy ones, like a grumpy Jigglypuff, tricky Ditto, and the tongue-wagging pink thing I can’t remember the name of. Of course, out of all these CGI creatures, the one that the most detail and care was put into creating was the film’s title character himself, Pikachu. He looks shockingly realistic, like a mix between a cat and an obese rabbit (Big Chungus anybody?) with adorable bead eyes and that gosh-darn button nose and mouth. His entire body is covered with an impressive computer-generated layer of fur that I haven’t seen in an animated movie since the Angry Birds Movie three years ago. In other words, as soon as you see him, you’ll want to hug him for eternity, regardless of the fact that Deadpool is the one voicing him.
Above: Detective Pikachu brings the colorful, crazy world of Pokémon to life. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
Next, the fan service. As you could probably tell, a movie based on the single most money-making media franchise of all time (fun fact, it’s #1 on the current list of rankings with an estimated $90 billion total revenue, ahead of even Star Wars), is going to make some attempt at pleasing the fans of a much-internationally-beloved three-decade-old franchise in ways that only the fans would appreciate most. Now, I’m not even remotely close to a true Pokémon fan (I think the concept is cool, but I’ve only touched one Pokémon game in my life), but I could still tell the amount of enjoyment that fans would receive from say, Pikachu comedically belting out the anime Pokémon trainer theme song, or the level of detail put into Ryme City, and the multiple references to the games and anime all lovingly put into the film. As a casual moviegoer, I thought that the idea of a city in which Pokémon and humans live together in harmony, rather than fighting or training as you have seen them before, was a good move and made it very interesting and magical. IGN’s official review of the film states that the amount of magic in Ryme City hasn’t been felt in cinemas since the first Harry Potter flick, and I’d have to agree. It gave me goosebumps seeing the introduction to Ryme City, crawling with hyper-realistic Pokémon critters, and I’m not even a massive Pokémon fan. It’s either that the moment was just that magical, or I’m just geeking out for no reason.
Above: That's Jigglypuff on a Monday. He's just slightly grumpier than usual. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
Unlike other video game movies, there is one main distinction about how this was made. You see, the people who made this movie are true fans who actually care about what they are doing and want to do proper service to the Pokémon franchise. The point of this movie wasn’t to make money (even though, let’s be real, the #1 media franchise in the world will make a truck-load of “moola”), and since the people making it knew very well that they didn’t have to put any true effort into it for it to be successful… That didn’t stop them from making it a phenomenally funny and true-felt adaptation of the Pokémon franchise as a whole. The references are done well, a more than adequate amount of effort is put into every second of the film, and it is enjoyable and funny from beginning to end. They knew that they didn’t have to try for it to be successful, yet they tried to make it a good movie anyways. Thus, that is the sole distinction that makes this the first movie to truly break the videogame curse, and if other studios follow the lead, then the future of videogame film adaptations finally looks bright.
Above: Have fun distracting yourself with this adorable dancing Pikachu GIF! You're welcome. (Credit: W.B./TPC)
I'd rate this movie a solid 90 out of 100. It has its flaws, but they don't severely detract from the overall movie experience. This is definitely a very FUN movie, and nothing stops it from being that. The humor, the fan service, and the pure heart of the story all contribute to a laugh-out-loud ride that, while not particularly complex in nature, definitely exceeded my personal expectations. You shouldn't go into the movie expecting to hate it, because that will ruin the experience for you. If you know what to expect; a simple, funny, actually good video game movie, then that's exactly what you'll get. This is a must-watch for Pokémon fans everywhere or just the typical moviegoer who wants a funny, casual movie based on a pop culture phenomenon. You don't have to be a Pokémon fan to enjoy it, and that's another applaudable thing about this movie.
But wait a minute… I see something blue in the distance. It’s speeding past faster than the speed of sound. Now, it's slowing down. I think he finally has gloves now. And he's holding a sign that reads "Delayed 'till 2020 for better VFX!"
This is Arca. My power went out a few hours ago. All I remember was a flash of blue, and someone screaming out “GOTTA GO FAST”. I also distinctly remember that all the speakers in my home were blaring out Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. Oh well, just a nightmare. Hopefully, it doesn’t become true… Because otherwise, the future isn’t bright, it’s blue.
(Just a FYI: This exact review was published by me on my middle school's official online magazine, The Lion's Pride, a week ago. I am a contributor to that, so I got to write and publish that early there prior to publishing here on my blog. If you saw that, know that this is a slightly modified version of the same review which I wrote previously)
I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Share it with others if you liked it, and leave a comment with feedback or questions since I love to hear what all your reactions. Are you going to be seeing Detective Pikachu? Does the future of video game movies finally seem bright? Leave all that in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to receive email notifications to be the first to know when I make new posts.
Speaking of new posts, I know that you are probably used to my posting being a once-a-month phenonenon. Well, I'm happy to report that my super-elongated blog publishing schedule is no more! Now that summer has finally gotten much closer (I only have less than a month of school left), I finally have time to make many new posts. Obviously, once I graduate middle school and head into this summer (both a happy and sad thing), I'll be able to hopefully do a summer daily blogging schedule. But for now? Once a week, hopefully. As you know, I already had finished this post quite a while ago; the reason I holded off on posting it was to let my Minecraft's 10th Anniversary post have a little bit of breathing room to gain some views and to let people know that my blog is BACK, baby, BACK. So the next post may even be only in a few days... who knows.
Well, thanks for reading, and see you guys in my next post, which might be a new YouTube video or a long-delayed Spider-Verse review. Worst case scenario, it could be later than usual, and could be a just-on-time E3 2019 predictions post. Or just a kind of early one. Until then, BBBBBBBBYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!