by Ian Morton
When Pokémon first reared its head back in the 90s, the world went nuts for the 151 beasts that could be caught, trained and sent into battle at the drop of a hat. Fast forward to now and according to the internet, the encyclopedic Pokédex has reached an eye watering 807 (blame google if its wrong) and has grown to a level that would have had even The Beatles shifting in their seats at the sound of the near infamous Poké-rap.
While there have been a few animated Pokémon movies in the past, none have quite managed to strike the appropriate cord with the intended audience and have fallen fairly flat by box office standards. Yes, it was Pokémon, but many felt it was never more than an extended Saturday morning cartoon than an actual adventure.
Now a proven staple in the landscape of modern pop culture and synonymous with millenial youth, Warner Bros. have finally taken the jump to bring the cast of hundreds to the big screen in all its live action goodness. Based on the video game of the same name, Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman (the human played by Justice Smith) on his quest to investigate the mysterious death of his father, while aided by the intrepid Pikachu (the thunder mouse voiced by Ryan Reynolds).
In terms of plot, Shakespeare this is not… A mixed bag from the get go, this is a movie that shows promise early but quickly unravels with each bonkers plot twist. Opening like a noir mystery, the story shines as our protagonists work together like a well versed buddy-up action film – think a kids version of ‘The Nice Guys’ with cuddly Russell Crowe as the cute detective and Ryan Gosling as his human counterpart.
Once we begin delving into the the main plot however, so things rapidly descend into sheer nonsense. The fun and intriguing pursuit of truth is forgotten and replaced with stonking great set pieces completely devoid of any real connection to the central plot. Given how tightly wound the story starts off, it feels like a misstep given how the intriguing premise opens the door to the Pokémon world many fans have wished to see on the big screen.
Thankfully, it’s this world and the voice performance of Ryan Reynolds which save Detective Pikachu from the video game movie trash pile. Set in Ryme City, the metropolitan mixture of London streets with the glossy overlay of cyberpunk Japan creates a fleshed cityscape that makes you want to further frolic down at street level. Unlike other hybrid animation/live action mash ups, the world created is one bustling with believable Pokémon and their human partners – an authenticity that will put you more in mind of films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit than The Smurfs.
Casting Reynolds in the lead is almost a stroke of genius. Although a little jarring in the trailers, the end result works well as the Deadpool star goes PG-rated but with the same wit as his superhero alter-ego. Given how off-piste the plot goes at several points during the main adventure, it’s a comfort to know that Reynolds’ Pikachu will be your guide for the entirety of the disjointed journey.
Despite the issues that Detective Pikachu has to face in terms of plot, it keeps its head above water by simply crafting a credible location with its inhabitants at the core of what makes Pokémon, Pokémon. While the plot will inevitably leave some members of the audience in the dark, it will be impossible to walk away without wanting a little pocket monster in your life!
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