“Pokemon Detective Pikachu” is finally in theaters and delivers Pokemon’s long-awaited entry into live-action film. Featuring a mix of well-crafted graphics and live actors, Warner Bros. delivers a realistic and refreshing take on the Pokemon universe. Drawing on established, fan-favorite material, “Detective Pikachu” is, quite simply, the best nostalgic experience in recent film history.
The film’s overall plot is nothing special as the focus is clearly on the spectacle of a real-life Pokemon. We follow Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) on his journey to uncover the secrets surrounding his father’s death. Joining him is a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), whom Tim begrudgingly agrees to take along. On their journey they uncover many secrets by exploring different places of the Pokemon world. Much of the plot has our protagonists meeting people that have important implications for the plot, but then leaves them drifting through the plot with little direction. This was, unfortunately, quite jarring as Tim and Pikachu seemingly travel to and from places with little emotional connection to each other.
The live-action cast worked well together in their interactions with the loveable Pokemon cast. Pikachu himself stands out, with a convincing voice performance by Reynolds. The charm of his character is due to the quippy humor that he brings along to it. It adds some good flair to an overall messy plot. Unfortunately, however, the humor was too much at certain points, often killing the serious mood that the movie tries to convey overall. Justice Smith’s Tim worked well enough as he played off of Reynolds in order to carry a cohesive buddy cop nature through out. I felt that other performances were otherwise overshadowed or forgettable. Most brought little to the table in comparison to the main duo as the focus was clearly on them. However, this pales in comparison to the inclusion of realistic Pokemon, which was the main allure of the film.
Detective Pikachu boasts some of the best CGI in recent history, with fully animated and lively Pokemon that run amongst the human world. Despite fears that the animated Pokemon would seem to be out of place among their human costars, the implementation was done very tastefully and looks beautiful. When characters interact with Pokemon, it looks extremely natural and very aesthetically pleasing as they are masterfully integrated into the film and accentuate its atmosphere. Many of the Pokemon designs truly benefit from the CGI’s touch. The haunting and intimidating Pokemon Gengar looks stellar in his CGI form. This all comes together with the cinematography as some scenes are simply extraordinary.
Some scenes in the film are shot just like famous scenes in the video game or anime source material. While the cinematography is all CGI at some points, it still plays into the epic atmosphere that some scenes carry by allowing the Pokemon to be shown at their best. Each sequence with a Pokemon flows very smoothly, with the cinematography matching that. It does well to portray the vivid imaginations of Pokemon kids dream about. However, a slight downside to these scenes is the less-than-stellar soundtrack that accompanies them.
As most of the film takes place in a city, the techno and synth feeling paired nicely with the rest of the film. Yet, the soundtrack failed to fully sell me on some scenes leaving much to be desired. Rita Ora’s original theme “Carry On” was the only real theme that I felt was memorable as all the others never felt that they could carry the same weight. The film does try to remix famous themes from the franchise such as the classic opening to the anime, but even that remix is an offhand inclusion that doesn’t stick or make an impact on the film overall. The sound design is not much better as most sound effects don’t have the same feeling as they would in other Pokemon media. Which is quite off as most Pokemon media feature good soundtracks and catchy theme songs. Most Pokemon sound as they should, with their familiar cries announcing their arrival on screen. While these areas weren’t very impressive, they still were appropriate with the theme that the film was trying to hit.
Warner Bros.’ adaptation is an interesting experiment in what realistic style can do for Pokemon. While much of the nostalgic effect is thanks to modern CGI, it definitely pays respect to the franchise’s 23-year history by successfully transitioning the anime to the big screen. Although the film allows the eponymous character to shine as the main focus, however, every other aspect falls short and feels less important. Still, the franchise’s first live-action film is a welcome addition to the franchise and a must-see for any Pokemon fan.
Verdict: “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” tries and succeeds on giving fans a fun, light-hearted experience. Despite some shortcomings in the overall plot and soundtrack, the film delivers a fun-filled experience that is a visual spectacle.