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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

May 9th, 2019 by Marc Comments

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (PG)
Directed by: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith & Kathryn Newton
Run-time: 1hr 44min

In a world where people collect Pokémon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective. 

Ok, so full disclosure, I know very little about Pokemon… I saw the last movie (Pikachu I Choose You) in the cinema with my kids and the original craze passed me by by a few years, so my knowledge of the franchise and concept is pretty basic.

But when I saw the first trailer for this, I really loved the look and tone and the off-the-wall casting of Ryan Reynolds as the titular Pikachu.

So, while I wasn’t chewing at the bit excited for this screening, I was looking forward to it.

And it was exactly what I expected and wanted, but also left me a little unsatisfied.

So, the premise is basic, Tim (Smith) finds out his estranged police detective father has been killed and he goes to pick up his personal effects as he has no other family to do it. However, when he arrives at his father’s apartment he also finds a Pikachu investigating the death too… will they team up to solve the apparent mystery of what really happened? Well, I think it’s pretty obvious what the answer to that it is.

One of the things I did enjoy was the ‘jump right in’ approach to this world… Pokemon are real, they live in the world like cats and dogs and that’s that – some of the more complex bits of the mythology – and believe me there IS a mythology as my kids are crazy about this stuff – are explained in onscreen ads, news clips etc… all fairly standard but leaving us at ease in a world similar – but also very different – to our own.

Oh, and you heard it here first, this is set in the same reality as the first two Home Alone movies, that’s all I’m saying.

And the voice of Reynolds as Pikachu is just ridiculously perfect, honestly, it’s unreal just how right he is in this role and his chemistry with Smith is great, with the character animation nailing the joy, sorrow and everything else that the characters experience – but the other Pokemon in the movie betray their CGI reality very obviously with Pikachu being the only one who feels really, well, real.

Was this a deliberate choice? Perhaps, but I think it’s more a result of the ‘almost but not quite’ effects work… don’t get me wrong, they are convincing enough but they just don’t feel quite flesh and bone.

And while the characters are fun and do well with what they have, the movie’s main drawback is story: there isn’t one. Well, there is, but it’s soooooo thin that you will know who the villain is and what the big reveal will be long before it comes – although I challenge you to make sense of the villain’s overall plan (despite its fun nod to Batman ’89) because try as I may, I can’t get my head around the sense of it.

But maybe I’m thinking too much about it – is that character really meant to be Milo Yiannopolis? – it is, after all, a Pokemon movie.

But don’t get me wrong, despite the thin plot, there is much to enjoy here… the world is wonderfully realised and the cast – Reynolds in particular – have a blast playing in it and you will too. Also, if you are a fan of Pokemon you will have a great time spotting all the little critters in the background – my son was glued to the screen – and I can see this having infinite pause and slow-motion value on home release.

So while it is essentially World-Building: The Movie, it is a contender for best video-game to live-action movie adaptation, not that there’s been much competition (although I do like the first Resident Evil and recent Tomb Raider movies) and expect many spin-offs and sequels because this is a vast, rich world and despite not totally falling in love with it, it’s one I’d be happy to return to.

Overall, while the movie is a little thin on story, it is rich in it’s own world and reality and while the casual viewer may be content with just the one watch, the Pokemon fans will want this playing on a loop until every frame has been dissected. So… job done?

Pika, pika!

3 out of 5 Nerds

Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….