One of the most highly anticipated films of 2019 is finally here! And fret not, you don’t have to be a fan of the Pokémon universe to get on board.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu, directed by Rob Letterman, is not only a film adaptation of the popular Nintendo 3DS game of the same name, but it is also the very first live-action Pokémon film. Deviating slightly from its video-game counterpart, this film follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith)—a 21-year-old who has given up on his childhood dreams of becoming a Pokémon trainer to work as a humble insurance agent. However, Tim is finally forced to face his past when he receives a devastating call concerning the passing of his estranged father, Harry Goodman.
During his mourning process, Tim pays his first visit to Harry’s apartment which is situated in Ryme City—a Tokyo-London hybrid metropolis established by the visionary industrialist Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy). The city is home to humans and Pokémon alike, who live freely amongst each other without the need for Pokémon battles or Pokéballs. It is here that Tim unexpectedly crosses paths with his father’s Pokémon, an amnesiac Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who just can’t keep his paws off a good ol’ cuppa joe. If it isn’t already strange enough that this yellow guy struts around in a deerstalker, his vocabulary also expands way beyond the constant repetition of his name. But to Tim’s dismay, he seems to be the only human who can understand Detective Pikachu.
After learning that Pikachu managed to escape unscathed—aside from the memory loss—from the car crash that supposedly killed his father, Tim agrees to partner up with the yellow detective in hopes of uncovering the full story. Through their sleuthing, they uncover a secret that might spell the destruction of the very foundation of all human-Pokémon relationships.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu successfully manages to integrate CGI into this live-action film, exceeding expectations of long-time fans—and I say this as a ‘90s Pokémon fan myself.
Whilst Justice Smith may not exactly be a household name, it seems like he’s been destined to play this role from the very moment he belted out “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” in the teen-film Paper Towns (2015). Smith has also explicitly expressed his passion for the Pocket Monsters franchise in many of his press interviews, as well as on social media.
In comparison, casting Ryan Reynolds may seem like a relatively odd choice. However, including Reynolds’s recognisable name and a familiar voice was an act of genius, inviting new fans to get to know and fall in love with the world of Pokémon.
While there are 807 Pokémon currently in existence, the film focuses on its most recognisable creatures, doing an excellent job of satisfying long-time fans without overwhelming newcomers. And for any fan initially horrified at the live-action depiction of Mr Mime, the creators made sure to preserve the hilarious and endearing essence of the rare Pokémon, which hopefully deters viewers from experiencing any nightmares about the harmless fella.
Whilst Detective Pikachu’s storyline might seem lacking, with a few predictable twists, it seems to pay homage to the very first animated Pokémon film, Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998), which had a similar endearing simplicity.
Ultimately, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is an excellent first live-action film for the franchise, which will undoubtedly pave the way for more to come.
Catch Pokémon Detective Pikachu in cinemas from today.