First played Pokemon Red, now occasionally gets stoned and watches Pokemon 2000.
Set mainly in Rhyme city, where Pokemon and humans walk and work side-by-side, Detective Pikachu takes the absurd childish world of Pokemon and dials the madness up a notch or two. Thinking too deeply about the world of Pokemon has always been an uncomfortable experience. This movie tackles that particular issue by flatly ignoring it. Pokemon are brought to life in varying degrees of realism, and any gory details are swept cleanly under the rug. Frankly this attitude works for a Pokemon movie. I don't want to see blood pouring from scratches on a bulbasaur any more than I want to know how anyone can trust anything when Alakazam exists; I'm happy to move on and be entertained.
Pikachu Forgot the Plot
Pikachu has amnesia, and apparently so do I, because the plot of this movie is entirely forgettable. The story takes just enough turns to prevent falling into a lull of predictability, and is heart-warming enough to induce a small sigh. For a kids movie this is enough. I wasn't bored, and the plot didn't get in the way of the show. The story is certainly darker than typical for a Pokemon movie.
The real stand out element of this film is the animation. The detail in both design and realisation is impressive. Pokemon characters are interesting to look at, with unique textures and movement animations. The depth of design in each Pokemon is impressive. The human world is made of shiny flat surfaces of metal and lights. Often shot at night in the dark and rain, the movie seems to have taken inspiration from Blade Runner and the like. The world is littered with references to the wider Pokemon franchise which adds some whimsy to the dark atmosphere. This dark, rain soaked background then plays host to spectacular Pokemon battles. Brought to life with the full animative force of the modern movie industry, these look spectacular. Bright lights zap across the screen, dark shadows breaking apart crackling balls and beams of energy or fire. From details in quite moments to the overall impression from dramatic set pieces, the animation in this film is stand-out. That said, I am not sure that it will age well, I expect the style will look dated in a very short few years time.
The second strongest element of the film is the dialogue. Ryan Reynolds delivers a stellar performance as the titular detective, and along with Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton, keeps the banter bouncing fast. The jokes are dense, and while none are stand out, most are genuinely funny. Decent use of visual comedy elevates the humour in Detective Pikachu above most modern action-comedy fare.
My Favourite Pokemon Movie So Far
As a kid of 1993, I played the first two generations of Pokemon on my game-boy colour. Since then, I have occasionally gotten stoned enough to think watching Pokemon 2000 was a good idea. By sticking to Gen I Pokemon for the most part, this film kept itself accessible for people my age. Casting Ryan Reynolds as a sardonic, sarcastic, animated, not-quite-hero-but-definitely-not-villain, after his well received Deadpool feels like a direct play for that market. There has always been an art to making a kids movie that the parents still want to watch. I can't speak for either group really, though I imagine any young parent who played Pokemon as a child will enjoy it. Forgetting the kids, if you're looking for flashing lights, pop culture humour, and a healthy dose of nostalgia, you should give Detective Pikachu a watch.
Three out of four stars.