Pika, Pika!

Promotional Poster for Detective Pikachu
Poster image courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Detective Pikachu” directed by Rob Letterman and based on the video game of the same name is whimsical, adorable, and fun for not only fans of Pokemon but for anyone who sees it.

The film takes place in the fictional Ryme City where people and Pokemon live in harmony thanks to visionary Howard Clifford and follows the story of Tim Goodman and his father’s Pikachu. After an accident involving Tim’s father, Tim travels to Ryme City where he discovers he is the only person able to communicate with Pikachu.

When the trailer for “Detective Pikachu” was released in late 2018, fans were excited to see some of their favorite Pokemon were coming to life on the big screen. The film does not disappoint. Hundreds of different Pokemon were created through CGI. The Pokemon look believably real while still being true to their original cartoon designs. The visual team not only created colorful Pokemon but built a fast-paced, technological world for them to live in. Ryme City is filled with massive skyscrapers and colorful signs on every corner. The pocket monsters fit like puzzle pieces with the digitally created city. The colors of the film are muted to give it a noir feel, but the Pokemon stand out against the background with their brightly colored scales or fur.

Pikachu is in the forefront of the film and every scene with him is a treasure. “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds is the voice for the little mouse and it could not be a better fit. When you first hear the actor’s voice speaking through Pikachu’s mouth, it is a little disturbing because normally Pikachu says one word like all other Pokemon. Once you get over the initial shock, hearing Reynolds as Pikachu is actually quite enjoyable. In an interview with Gamespot, Reynolds said he originally wanted to make Pikachu sound like a “hardened” detective from Brooklyn but the film’s producers told him to “Just do Ryan Reynolds.” The end result is Ryan Reynolds shrunk down into a caffeinated Pikachu. Even in the most serious of moments, Reynolds lends a lightheartedness to dilute the situation. Much like his acting in “Deadpool,” Reynolds quickly delivers jokes and one-liners without distracting from the plot.

With Reynolds’ Pikachu as the driving force of the film, many of the other characters fall behind. The character of Tim Goodman played by Justice Smith, a twenty-something-year-old who gave up on Pokemon training, lacks emotional depth and is tough to connect with. While the audience does get a glimpse into his past via flashback, it does very little to help build his character. Until the end of the film, viewers get the sense that Tim would rather be somewhere else. On the opposite of him is Lucy Stevens portrayed by Kathryn Newton. When she was first introduced, Lucy just did not fit well into the world that was going on around her. Later on, it is discovered that she is a struggling reporter just trying to get a good scoop. While this could have helped with her character development, the end result seems too neatly tied up.

Despite its cute nature and the well-crafted universe, “Detective Pikachu” falls short in the storytelling. Like many kids movies, the audience is spoon-fed information. However, the film does allow fans of Pokemon to see what a world of humans and pocket monsters living together could look like. Because this is not an origin story, viewers see what it would be like if Pokemon were always there in the background of our lives.

“Detective Pikachu” dips a little into the political world. Ryme City seems like a place Pokemon and humans coexist without any interference from leaders or government. However, under the surface, there is someone trying to pull strings and take advantage of not only humans but exploit Pokemon. The film plays this off as a way to create a dividing line between good and evil. Adults that attempt to force beings into a different lifestyle and limit their freedom will face consequences. The entitled rich who seek unjust power through fear tactics and buying their way to the top will create mistrust and rebellion.

As someone who knows only a little bit about the original Pokemon card game and video games, watching “Detective Pikachu” was not as confusing as I was expecting it to be. I found the movie to be enjoyable and easy for a non-fan to understand. If you are like me, there will be a few moments where you do not know the name of a Pokemon or what powers they have but will still be able to enjoy the film. For those of you who are fans, be prepared for a heaping helping of nostalgia with a dash of new lore.