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.

Advertisements