The first "good" movie based on a video game? I'm not quite sure I can grant "Detective Pikachu" that honor, but it makes a solid case, relying heavily on fan-service...as any Pokémon movie should.
It's hard to believe that it took nearly 24 years for there to be a live-action/animated Pokémon movie, but "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" is actually the very first in the franchise. It's based on a video game of the same name that was released in 2016, and stars Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) alongside his human counter-part, Tim ("Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"'s Justice Smith), as they investigate the disappearance of Tim's father.
Big disclaimer: I am know-nothing when it comes to the world of Pokémon. I couldn't tell you the difference between a Parasect and a Machamp if it came up and bit me in the Kakuna (yes, I heavily researched the world of Pokémon just to come up with this line). Yes, I'm aware of them (how can you be alive in the past two decades and not be?), and I remember the craze over the whole "Pokémon Go" thing, and I may also have overheard talk of "trainers." But that's about it for me.
So I know not the world in which "Detective Pikachu" threw me into. And while this universe seems vast for exploration, this story stays focused on a place called Ryme City, founded by Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and ran by his media mogul son Roger (Chris Geere). It is apparently the only place in the world where Pokémon and humans co-exist peacefully, and in this dark-ish crime noir story, it's painted as a neon jungle reminiscent of places we've seen in movies like "Blade Runner" or even "Chinatown."
It even gives us the shady investigative reporter, Lucy (Kathryn Newton) who is helping with the case. Yes "Detective Pikachu" is actually quite effective in its look and feel, if only Pikachu could have jolted some electricity into the film's sometimes uneven tone.
Not knowing Pokémon made me take the movie at face value, but I highly doubt that it was made for people like me. I could just tell that the movie was chock-full of Easter eggs and inside references, and the audience I saw the film with had strong reactions during a few scenes that made me wonder what I had missed. And truth be told, I actually found the Pokémon to be interesting, but just felt like there was so much more that could have been explored.
That being said, "Detective Pikachu" had me teetering on the edge of "thumbs up or thumbs down," but a ridiculous ending (yes, even for a Pokémon movie) moved the bar squarely into the negative. But if a Pikachu movie is what you crave, I have a feeling you will not be disappointed.
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure.
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes.
Starring: (Voice of) Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere.
Directed by Rob Letterman ("Goosebumps," "Gulliver's Travels," "Monsters vs. Aliens," "Shark Tale").
"Detective Pikachu" opens up everywhere on Friday, May 10th, 2019.
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