I was in to Pokémon when it first became popular in the United States back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I had the cards, played the game on my Gameboy, and even watched the show and the movies based on the show. Watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu brought me back to that time. It might be different from the Pokémon I grew up with, taking place in a different world with plenty of new Pokémon I have never heard of or seen, but I had an absolute blast in this exciting visual spectacle.
Detective Pikachu takes place in a world where Pokémon roam free amongst the land, where the humans catch them not necessarily to battle, but more so for companionship. Everyone seems to have a Pokémon except for Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a loner who works for an insurance company. When Tim gets a call that his estranged father has been killed in a car accident, he goes to Ryme City, a city where Pokémon roam the streets amongst humans, not to be caught or battle, but to work with their partners. As Tim looks to pack up the remainder of his father’s life, he runs into his father’s Pokémon, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a world class detective who is addicted to coffee and solving cases. After some digging, Tim and Pikachu think there is more to the accident than meets the eye and decide to go deeper to find out what happened to Tim’s father.
When Pokémon first launched, there were 151 of them, which are the ones I grew up with. Now, there are upward of 800 of them, so I don’t know a majority of the Pokémon that exist. Detective Pikachu brings in a number of original Pokémon along with a lot of the new ones but luckily, it isn’t confusing. You might think that you need to know what the powers of Ditto are or what a Growlithe is, but you really don’t. The Pokémon and their powers do more of a fan service than move the plot forward. Will fans of Pokémon like seeing Magikarp turn into Gyarados? Sure. But things like this aren’t essential to the plot. There are a number of scenes featuring Pokémon that I had never heard of, but I quickly figured out what they could do and let it play out. The Pokémon that do matter to the plot and their powers are explained so that there isn’t a ton of confusion and that when they use their powers it makes sense. This film works for people who grew up with Pokémon and people who have never heard of it before.
Detective Pikachu is a surprisingly strong noir. Though it is set in this Pokémon-friendly world where instead of femme fetales we get Psyduck, the film does hit a lot of the noir beats and features plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. We have a loner, an obsessive detective, double crosses, corruption, corporate greed, and a city that might look bright and sunny, but gets dark and weird at night. A heads up for parents: Detective Pikachu is a film geared towards children and it is very kid friendly, but the plot is a bit complex and might have a lot of children confused as to what is happening. I don’t know how many kids care about plot and story, but just letting you all know.
The best aspect of the film, and most impressive, is its visuals. This is a visual triumph and should earn an Oscar nomination for Visual Effects at the end of the year. I was in awe the whole movie. From the realistic Pokémon to the thrilling action sequences, this film is flawless in terms of how it looks. There is a sequence in the film featuring a Pokémon called Torterra that had my jaw on the floor. It was a big, thrilling set piece that’s as exciting as any action sequence I have seen in 2019 and really elevated the movie to another level. The final battle played like a glorious homage to the final set piece in Tim Burton’s Batman, as our villain takes over a city-wide parade with a balloon-focused scheme. It had me grinning from ear to ear.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a film that will be enjoyed by kids and adults as well as Pokémon fans and newbies. It’s a visual spectacle with lots of laughs, action, and heart and a film I hope kicks off a Pokémon universe so we can dissect this world even deeper.
Follow Kevflix on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix, and on Facebook by searching Kevflix.