Review: Pokemon Detective Pikachu

I think you’ll still find a couple of used batteries if you did a clean enough sweep of my childhood home, they’re probably very leaky now. Want to know where they come from? To tell you that would be winding back the clock to when I used to borrow my best-friend’s Gameboy to play the addictive game called Pokemon. Be honest with yourself, did you play Pokemon or just watch it? The funny thing is that surrounded by a movie theatre of Pokemon Go players ­– a game I never really took to – I felt very old.

Very funny was my wife’s reaction to the movie; she only associated Pokemon with Pikachu and was quite surprised to discover an entire world of pocket monsters coming to live action life on the silver screen. Best thing for me, though, was a substantial part of the audience not knowing the general plot of the movie, or associating it with the 2016 game it shares a title with. Like even the character names were the same, but I digress.

No game play or animations can prepare you for seeing the beloved characters imagined in a real world that looks similar to ours. One example was the collective gasps when a group (pod?) of Bulbasaurs appear towards the movie’s final act. Ever the drip, though, I couldn’t help but mentally judge the sound of collective cooing from the audience.

Was Detective Pikachu a good movie? To be honest, I’m not really sure. Catch a glimpse of the trailer and you’re pretty much in the dark about the plot. Them in the audience who had no vested interest in the franchise – like my wife – seemed indifferent. Is the Ryan Reynolds re-imagining of Pikachu good? My take is that this character is PG Deadpool. Real care was taken with the animation (unlike our first glimpse of another popular game character), but Reynolds is so synonymous with his Marvel fringe character that his voice and humour echoes his red-suited work. Test my theory in this clip.

To sum up the plot and character progression would give too much away from what really is an entertaining fliek. Train scenes are notoriously difficult to execute well within a popular culture that has the Hogwarts Express in its reference library and Justice Smith does a convincing job of making them carry the needed emotional gravitas.

“Them” is actually more than you would expect, but a central theme is travel and moving from a comfort zone to discovering things about yourself that you never knew possible, or finding questions you never knew to ask. Is the central purpose of the Pokemon franchise to get people exploring the world and discovering new things and relationships? My experience has always been that.

Cause and effect is also finely balanced throughout the games and this movie as characters investigate a world that has no Pokemon battles, except in underground circles, and tries to put the human/Pokemon relationship front and center.

Detective Pikachu has opened the beloved franchise to a new audience while also doing enough fan service and staying true to the nuances of Pokemon. In an age where producers are more concerned with paying off elaborate set-ups and hiding poor story arcs behind contrived spoiler bans, this is a movie that gives you just enough of everything to not have anything to really complain about. If you love Pokemon, you should treat yourself.

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