This is actually a real shame.
There are two ways in which this could have been a success; the filmmakers could have used the world and created a film that was accessible and fun for all audiences despite their knowledge of Pokemon (which I think it tried to do), or they could have given the millions of Pokemon fans out there a proper tribute with the world and characters they know and love. This film fails on both fronts and it was frustrating to watch, because it shouldn’t have been too difficult to just do a fun, live action remake with plots and characters that are already so well established.
I genuinely don’t understand why this movie couldn’t have just been Ash and Pikachu catching Pokémon and being mucked around by Team Rocket. It would have been fun to see the real life counterparts of familiar characters and their Pokémon and the filmmakers could have utilised the family friendly tone of the series while maybe sliding in some more adult jokes in there too.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is set in a world where humans and Pokémon live side by side, and 21 year old Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) has just been told of the death of his estranged father. Upon arriving in Ryme City, Tim meets a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) at his father’s apartment who has no recollection of his past and the two of them set off to find Tim’s father and along the way uncover a conspiracy that threatens both humans and Pokémon alike.
The world itself is believable and accessible. Apparently the makers of this film spent months and months on the design of the Pokémon, creating working skeletons and devising simulations to make sure that the eyes of each creature could blink properly and wouldn’t dry out in the real world. That’s all fine, and the creatures all look realistic and sound how you’d expect them to sound, but that isn’t what makes an entertaining film. The script was horrendous, the plot was weak and I was surprised at how under-utilised the Pokémon actually were. There was literally one Pokémon battle and it was interrupted within half a minute, and I could feel the 6 year old Jocko somewhere in the back of my brain wanting to throw his shoe at the screen.
Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu saves this movie. I laughed quite a few times, but in a strange way it somehow didn’t seem right for a Pokémon movie. Pikachu was funny, but if the film had been executed as it should have been, then he wouldn’t have needed to be funny at all. Reynolds is the saving grace of the film, but he feels out of place in the same way that Eddie Murphy would feel out of place in a Narnia film. I might still laugh at Eddie Murphy being Eddie Murphy, but his style of comedy shouldn’t be whacked in anywhere.
However, the rest of Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a train-wreck so I was glad that Reynolds was a part of it so that there was at least something that I could enjoy about the whole experience. Justice Smith was irritating as the lead, I didn’t like the emphasis on the family drama and Tim’s estrangement from his Dad, and the twist of Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) being the real villain was glaringly obvious from a mile away.
This was disappointing, because I do think there’s a lot of potential in this property and I wouldn’t mind for them to have another crack.
All you want from a movie about cute little animals with superpowers is a bit of fun, and this was far from it.
By Jock Lehman.