‘Detective Pikachu’ may be a little predictable, but it offers a fantastic family movie experience packed with your favourite Pokémon.
A quick disclaimer. My understanding of Pokémon is mostly garnered from the phenomenon that is Niantic Labs’ augmented reality game Pokémon GO. Further exposure comes from my kids’ infatuation with the many television series and books that the franchise has spawned.
Pokémon largely passed me by until a few years ago. I was just that little bit too old to engage with it when the animated series first took British shores by storm. Through my children, I can now name most of the characters at a glance.
My youngest daughter in particular has an encyclopedic knowledge of every character and creature. Both of them sleep each night under the careful watch of a plush Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff, Eevee, Pikachu and more. We seem to catch a couple of new ones at each comic-con we attend. Given my kids’ enthusiasm, it was never in any doubt that I would be going to see the first ever live-action Pokémon movie.
As the film title confirms, it’s the franchise’s most recognisable of Pokémon that takes centre stage in ‘Detective Pikachu’. The cute, mouse-like little yellow electric type critter has long been Ash Ketchum’s side-kick in the many animated televisions series and movies to to spawn from the franchise. So when a live-action Pokémon movie was first rumoured to be in production, it seemed obvious that a live-action telling of Ash’s journey would provide the basis for the plot.
But this film actually takes inspiration from a different source material altogether. ‘Detective Pikachu’ was originally a video game released on the Nintendo DS in February 2016. A spin-off from the regular franchise, the game uniquely moved away from the usual catch and battle concept. Instead it allowed players to work alongside a talking Pikachu to solve various mysteries.
It makes perfect sense in hindsight that ‘Detective Pikachu’ is a far better fit for the big screen – if only for the fact that Pikachu’s vocabulary is traditionally limited to speaking his own name and exclaiming, “Pika-Pika!“. This story sidesteps that dilemma in some style with the casting of ‘Deadpool’ actor, Ryan Reynolds, to provide the voice of Pikachu.
Starring alongside Reynolds is Justice Smith as Tim Goodman. Goodman is in Ryme City following the reported death of his estranged father, a respected detective with the RCPD. Whilst visiting his father’s apartment Tim stumbles upon a caffeine addict suffering from amnesia. Pikachu, but no any Pikachu, Tim’s father’s former partner.
Bizarrely the pair discover that they can understand each other and reluctantly Tim finds himself sucked along with Pikachu’s investigation and entangled in a wider-reaching plot that could affect the safety of the Ryme City’s inhabitants – human and Pokémon alike. Furthermore, Tim’s father may not actually be dead at all.
‘Detective Pikachu’ hits the ground running with it’s faithful adaptation of characters. Yes, there are some Pokémon aficionados who will, no doubt, argue against some of the artistic choices made in the presentation of their favourite characters. Compare it to recent fan backlash to the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and the arguments are negligible.
As a family film ‘Detective Pikachu’ provides in bountiful supply. For the younger proportion of the audience you have cute creatures, relatable protagonists, mild threat and plot twists that will keep them entertained and thrilled. There were plenty of times that laughter came only from the adults in the room with jokes flying over the kids’ heads but landing squarely with the grown-ups.
‘Detective Pikachu’ isn’t a deep-dive into Pokémon lore. Though pivotal to the plot, the back story of MewTwo is fleetingly explained. The film is fast paced but well balanced. A fun, family movie aimed predominantly at the younger audience.
If you are an adult fan of Pokémon looking for a complex plot – lower your expectations. One or two twists caught me out, but for the most part the story is linear, and predictable. You’ll see the big reveal coming a mile off. ‘Detective Pikachu’ is fantastic fun. Just roll with it.
‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’ is in cinemas now.