First Impressions of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

So, there’s been a lot of mixed feelings among the movie lovers lately. And almost all of it centers around the first trailer for the first ever official live-action Pokémon movie. Some have fallen instantly in love while others have already written it off as another soulless cash grab with no love. So, let’s break down and examine the trailer for Detective Pikachu.

Judging from the trailer, the plot seems to be at least partially inspired by the game of the same name to a significant degree. Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) has moved to Ryme City – a metropolis where humans and Pokémon coexist and aid each other freely – in order to uncover the secret behind the disappearance of his father Harry, a beloved detective. Tim meets up with his dad’s old partner; a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that, for reasons unknown to either of them, only he can hear speak. The two work together to find out the truth about Harry as well as the last case he was working on before his disappearance.

One of the complaints I routinely hear is that the Pokémon designs look uncanny – like toys or monsters rather than actual creatures. To that, I say, “Gee whiz, it almost like the name ‘Pokémon’ was a hybridization of the words ‘pocket MONSTER!'” I actually like the designs that they used here. The pokémon are appropriately cute/scary exactly when they should be (with the exception of one dead-eyed Psyduck, but I would look the same way if I had a permanent migraine too). You’ll want to hug the fuzzy Jigglypuff (I call them ‘Jiggly-Fluff), be in awe of the precision movements of a clan of Greninja, and wet yourself in the presence of a scar-faced Charizard.

I’m somewhat lukewarm on the casting. Don’t get me wrong; I love Ryan Reynolds and even in his bad movies (looking at you, Green Lantern) he’s entertaining. But so far, it really just feels like he’s reprising his role as Deadpool but in a cute fluffy body. I honestly miss the stereotypical, gruff, hard-boiled gumshoe voice Pikachu had in the game if only because it was hilarious to hear it come out of such a famously cute character. It makes me wonder if the people in charge of casting ever considered taking the fans advice when the game was still being redubbed for English-speaking audiences and tried to get ahold of Danny DeVito to play the role.

My biggest concern is how the movie will adapt itself for audiences coming into Pokémon fresh. Remember, this is a franchise that’s switching to a new medium after building up 22 years of continuity. Yes, you and I may get the in-jokes during the interrogation scene where Pikachu slams into an invisible wall, but how do you explain to someone who HASN’T been playing the games since the first generation, in a story friendly way, that Mr. Mime is a powerful telepath that can conjure psychic barriers via pantomime?

Then again, this IS Nintendo we’re talking about. They bailed out of movie and television adaptations for years after a string of failures here in the states. There’s a very real chance that tightfistedness with their intellectual property may have them demanding more creative control than in previous outings. I’m just saying, as bad as this has the potential to be, it’s probably not going to be as awful as, for instance, The Wizard.

Even with my childhood nostalgia safely in check, I suspect that this will be a passable ‘good bad movie’ at worst. I’m choosing to stay optimistic on this one for now until it can be proven to me that it’s the worst thing Pokémon has done since introducing Garbodor and is equally trash.

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“Exterminate All Rational Thought”: The Horror, Tragedy, and Weirdness of Naked Lunch

That guy on the left… That’s Mugwump. He is the most normal thing in this movie.
Source: Austrian Film Museum

So, lately, I’ve been getting a lot of love from fans of Horror movies. And honestly, I’m glad. I’m one of them. I’ve discussed in the past why Horror is so important to art and society, so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan.

So today, in honor of our monster mash of new Field Operatives here at The Archive and the approaching Halloween (the holiday starts for me when the coffee shops break out the pumpkin spice), I’d like to share my love for one of my favorites in the genre; a psychedelic, drug-fueled, semi-biography turned Body Horror exploration into the symbiotic nature of creativity and addiction called Naked Lunch.

Now before anyone gets up in arms about me labeling this film based on the book of the same name by beat poet legend William S. Burroughs as Body Horror, let me explain my thinking.

Body Horror is defined by Collins English Dictionary as an entry in the horror genre, “… in which the main feature is the graphically depicted destruction or degeneration of a human body or bodies.” Firstly, this is absolutely a Horror film; its goal is to depict a terrifying situation and how our hero copes with it. Secondly, while no one gets mutilated (well, ALMOST no one), the imagery centers around people and objects morphing and mutating into psychotropic hallucinations that are unnervingly inhuman. In that regard, it’s not that much of a departure from director David Cronenberg’s other works – The Fly comes to mind in particular thanks to Naked Lunch‘s insect fixation.

So, why do I love this film? Well, it comes down to the goal of all horror – to depict the terrors and anxieties of the real world in an artistically exaggerated manner so as to make a social commentary on the topic. These terrors take multiple forms throughout the film as our hero – former exterminator turned writer William Lee (Peter Weller) – copes with addiction, guilt, and pressure to create. We can identify with many of these fears and they humanize his character more when you realize that he’s meant to be an analog for Burroughs himself.

Almost everything Lee experiences through a drug-induced haze happened to Burroughs including the murder of his wife (Burroughs accidentally shot his wife during a drunken game of William Tell), his adventures in the country of Interzone (Burroughs spent several months in the Tangier International Zone), getting advise from his fellow writers (Lee’s friends Hank and Martin are stand-ins for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), and his penchant for breaking out into improv routines during conversations (my favorite is the infamous ‘Talking Asshole’ routine).

There’s something creepily familiar to me about Lee/Burroughs and the joint nature of creativity and addiction. I’ve never done drugs before, but I can attest to the fact that writing is a lot like an addictive drug to me. It takes an infeasible amount of effort to come up with what I’ll say – to get my fix if we’re using the drug analogy. But, If I don’t get it in time, I start feeling lethargic, depressed, and even physically weak; like a junkie suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Basically, to sum up an essay of over 600 words into a single sentence, I like this movie because it’s a love letter to a great writer that I admire, has some of the most amazing special effects animatronics I’ve seen in film (courtesy of Jaime ‘Yes, THAT Jaime Hyneman‘ Hyneman in part), made me think, and because I – as a writer – identify with the notion of being in the grip of a deadly muse (she says mere minutes to midnight the night before publishing as she finishes her second cup of coffee during the writing/editing of this article).