When people hear that their favourite video-game is being transformed into a movie, it’s often met with a sigh and something along the lines of “here we go again.” That’s because the genre is crap. The enjoyable ones are cheesy, campy and often fall into the realm of so-bad-they’re-good. However, Letterman and the team behind Detective Pikachu have proven themselves to be magicians of the highest order as they have pulled off a trick that nobody expected – they made a good video-game movie.
-> This review does not contain spoilers.
Whilst the movie is good, the story isn’t anything special. Pikachu, played by Ryan Reynolds, has amnesia and falls into the stereotypical role of a fish-out-of-water. Meanwhile, Justice Smith, playing Tim Goodman, is a reluctant hero. He’s in a magical world of Pokemon but, unlike Ash Ketchum, he does not want anything to do with them. He has no interest in being a trainer and is closed off and lonely. Goodman used to be a Pokemon fanatic which is as relatable as Pikachu’s caffeine addiction but it also serves to make the pairs developing bond all the more emotional and rewarding.
However, the story was not the only selling point. What acted as a hook for many audience members was the sprawling world that was built right in front of our eyes. Ryme City, a world where Pokemon live in harmony with mankind, is a colourful, vibrant and energetic metropolis complimented by a wonderful score. The Pokemon themselves that inhabit this beautiful world are integrated organically. They never feel shoe-horned in and can be found taking the place of everyday animals with cows and birds being the first that we see replaced by these fictional creatures.
Unfortunately, though, the movie is dragged down by Kathryn Newton’s character Lucy who is a young and upcoming reporter with a pet Psyduck. Whilst Pikachu and Goodman have fantastic chemistry, the bond that she shares with these two feels unnatural and awkward. The movie would have been improved had it instead focused on the titular character and Goodman alone rather than bringing her into the fold. However, this is at no fault of the actress and is instead a flaw with the writing.
-> Final Thoughts
Detective Pikachu is a step in the right direction for the video-game-movie genre. It’s not a masterpiece by any means but it is a good movie and it is infectiously fun and inspirational. Whilst before this I was hoping for the genre to die off and for Hollywood to stop adapting video-games, I am now optimistic that they can pull it off. We’ll soon see with Sonic and Mortal Kombat, although I’m dreading the former.