Detective Pikachu: A Critique
Just so it’s on the record, I no longer write spoiler free critiques. Once upon a time I would spend the time and energy to avoid spoiling a movie or series and would wind up with a series of paragraphs that didn’t actually say anything. Pointless.
So now that you’ve been warned, here we go.
Given how stupidly popular Pokemon Go was for those few short weeks, I think Nintendo finally realized that there’s a large demographic of grown ass individuals who still love the franchise, and more than anything I think this movie is for them. Fans have wanted a serious Pokemon movie for years, hoping to shake some of the “little kid” stigma that comes with enjoying the series. At this point, the children who were just barely old enough to appreciate that first wave of Pokemania are in their mid twenties. But up until recently, the target demographic for the show, games, and cards have been ten year olds, in spite of the mature and often dark themes snuck into the content of the video games and manga.
I would be lying if I said this movie effectively flips the switch and becomes as dark as Pokemon has the potential to be, but it does succeed in feeling like it at least takes its audience seriously- most of the time. There are moments when Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) either states the obvious or is forced comic relief, and I get that he’s mostly there for the kids in the audience but it can be somewhat distracting. I’m also unsure if the twists that occur throughout the film were actually surprising/well wrtten or if my level of expectation was so low that having a plot twist at all blew my mind.
The inclusion of Mewtwo as a pseudo villain was a nice touch, although I’m not convinced he’s still the most powerful pokemon in the world anymore, as the movie likes to keep reminding us. There’s a romance subplot that feels superfluous, but it’s nice to see an interracial pairing on screen, I think the last time we had something similar was in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Seriously…look into it.
More than anything this movie was meant as an acknowledgment of the older fans. Very much an “I see you” on behalf of the Pokemon Company. There are plenty of references to the old pokemon anime and subtle bits that poke fun at canonical lore for the series and moments that make narrative sense once the twist is revealed. At one point a character refers to Mewtwo as a man made abomination. It seems a little harsh, but it also serves to frame Mewtwo as the villain and this guy as someone who doesn’t agree with pokemon genetic engineering. Except it feels off because the dude’s pokemon companion is a Ditto. Ditto is a breed of pokemon that is largely hinted to be a failed clone of the original Mew. In essence, Ditto and Mewtwo are the same, man’s attempt to replicate and improve upon pokemon physiology. So if you’re an older fan of the series, this comment tips his hand as the villain pulling all the strings and I think that’s an awesome way of acknowledging the folks who have stuck around.
At the heart of this film is a story about a father and son finding each other, both literally and figuratively. There’s also a message hidden in there about accepting the fact that you like pokemon, even if you’re in your twenties. I’m sure I could dissect that further but the notion only shows up in one scene and is pretty hamfisted so I’m not sure it’s worth diving into. Overall, the plot and premise weren’t the most interesting, it’s a classic detective story, with few frills. The acting was a little hit or miss, with some of the dialogue sounding like it was written for a cartoon character (probably a nod to the dialogue of the earlier games but jarring nonetheless). The CGI was consistent throughout, and it did make me itch for a more combat heavy film because there just wasn’t enough battling for my tastes. Also, the way Gengar looks was probably the only character design I had issue with, though I couldn’t tell you why that is.
Final rating 2/5. It was okay. I didn’t especially like it, but it wasn’t necessarily bad. Having fallen out of love with the series the moment they announced Pokemon Crystal, this wasn’t really for me though, and the more hardcore fans will definitely appreciate this film.