It has long been the case that movies based on video games have the tendency to drift so far from the source material that it ends up being the complete opposite of what it set out to be. However, with Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Director Rob Letterman and Warner Bros have finally solved the mystery on how to bring a small screen adventure to the big leagues in the most entertaining and respectful way possible.
In an alternative version of Earth, Pokémon have shared the world with humans having lived here for thousands of years. Over this time, the two species have learned to co-exist and work together in order to make the world the best possible place with Pokémon using their powers to enhance the evolution of mankind and the planet. One man, Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) took that relationship to the next step when he created Ryme City - a place where Pokémon and Humans live as equals. Our story revolves around Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who meets a talking Pikachu (voiced by the incredible Ryan Reynolds) when he returns to his estranged father's home after news that he has passed. Unbeknownst to Tim, this is no ordinary Pikachu as he is, in fact, a world-class detective with links to his father but no memory and who only he can understand. Thus the two are thrust into a mystery that only they have the power to solve.
When the film was first announced several years ago, fans questioned why a movie was being made based off of a spin-off game in the Pokémon universe that commercially was deemed a failure. But what they didn't know, until now, is that this was a story that was made to be told in a big screen adventure. For fans of the Pokémon universe, Pokémon Detective Pikachu ticks all of the boxes for what you want to see in this kind of adventure. Throughout the film, whether it be in the background or up-close-and-personal, audiences are introduced to a wonderful world full of all of your favourite Pokémon and much more - see how many you can spot and name! Each Pokémon clearly has their own personalities and act in the same way that you may, or may not, remember from the video games and countless other forms of media that they have appeared in. For example, Psyduck, who personally is one of the true MVPs of the film, is just as anxious as its original Pokédex entry entails.
As far as world-building goes, the film does a great job of sucking in the audience into this world of Ryme City. The realism and attention to detail in all of the different Pokémon allows for a quick suspension of disbelief and full absorption into the adventure especially because the special effects are top of the range. This is only heightened by the chemistry shown by not only the human cast; from Tim's awkward dialogue with the roving reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton), but also the Pokémon too. The writing is something to truly be commended too - the film is classified as PG but, with some very clever work by Rob Letterman and his fellow screenwriters, there are so many witty and adult-based humour that is innocent enough to distract younger viewers whilst also providing belly laughs for the adults in attendance.
In regards to the aforementioned fact that video game movies tend to stray too far from the source material, Pokémon Detective Pikachu finds a beautiful balance between a video game narrative and a typical movie screenplay. It is very easy to see this particular incarnation of the story take place within the world of player controlled influence if it was ever deemed necessary which shows the power and attention to detail the film shows to the world of Pokémon. The story aspect will satisfy hardcore fans of the games and the action set pieces, especially in the second act including scenes of a fierce underground Pokémon battle, will appease general movie fans.
Even though the film successfully accomplishes so much in breaking the curse of bad video game movies, a few revelations and choices made in the final act have the potential to be divisive amongst the audience. But, as is the case with an adventure like this, it's less about the destination and more about the journey and this voyage has it all - it's funny, charming and endearing. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is an absolute delight from start to finish for new and old fans alike. Easily the best video game movie ever. Pika Pika!
POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: ROB LETTERMAN / SCREENPLAY: DAN HERNANDEZ, BENJI SAMIT, ROB LETTERMAN, DEREK CONNELLY / STARRING: RYAN REYNOLDS, JUSTICE SMITH, KATHRYN NEWTON, KEN WATANABE, BILL NIGHY / RELEASE DATE: MAY 10TH