When I first learnt that Pokemon Detective Pikachu (“Detective Pikachu”) was being made into a feature film, starring Ryan Reynolds, I was unsure of how to react, given my history of disliking live-action Hollywood adaptations of classic Japanese anime or video game titles. Not only did I doubt the film’s appeal but I also couldn’t quite picture Reynolds playing the voice of one of my favourite Pokemon characters, Pikachu.
Fast forward to the trailer and I still wasn’t quite convinced of the film’s appeal, going so far as to further doubt Reynolds’ portrayal. There was just too much ‘Deadpool’ in his voice. However, upon receiving an invite to the New Zealand premiere thanks to Roadshow Films, I figured I would give the film a shot and watch the film without any expectations.
What I experienced far outweighed my initial thoughts and low expectations. Not only was Detective Pikachu a fun, family film, but it was also cleverly crafted with elements that did both the video game and anime franchise justice.
Detective Pikachu, directed by Rob Letterman, follows Tim (Justice Smith), a young insurance agent who, upon learning of his father’s mysterious death, discovers a city where humans and Pokemon live and work side by side. It is here that he meets Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), a cute but peculiar Pokemon who he’s able to communicate with, and who informs him that his father may not, in fact, be dead.
What ensues is a series of intriguing investigations into Tim’s missing father, which reveals a sinister conspiracy that Tim and Pikachu must work together to solve. A pseudo noir / buddy cop style adventure, Detective Pikachu’s narrative is easy going, relatable, and humorous, making it a film that can be enjoyed by both children and adult alike, whether they are familiar with the Pokemon franchise or not.
Unlike other anime and some video game adaptations, Detective Pikachu remained true to its source material throughout the film and depicted each character, including the variety of Pokemon, exactly as they’ve always been portrayed. Many popular Pokemon are featured throughout the film, which is a huge nod to Pokemon fans who adore these characters and have grown up either watching the anime, playing the games, or even collecting the cards. In fact, there are moments in the film where even I, was taken on a trip down memory lane to a time when I was obsessed with collecting and trading Pokemon cards (I still have a folder filled with rare holos somewhere).
The graphics, in particular, is of note, with tremendous use of CGI effects to accurately illustrate a futuristic city filled with life-like yet recognisable Pokemon. The Pokemon in the film fit in incredibly well next to their human counterparts and the entire world within the film just felt normal, as if it was commonplace for magical creatures to exist alongside mankind.
Though I initially didn’t see the appeal in Ryan Reynolds portraying Pikachu, it actually made sense in the film, and added to the story’s allure. Each of the actors in the film played their roles perfectly that it was difficult to find much fault with the film, apart from the standard predictable moments, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in this film. With a whole lot of humour, references to the much loved Pokemon franchise, and a neat but cheesy twist in the film, Detective Pikachu may just well be a Hollywood adaptation of a Japanese anime and video game done right.
Detective Pikachu may not be the best film with superb writing worthy of an Oscar, but it is an entertaining film that will make you laugh and cry, while reminiscing about your Pokemon gaming and collecting days. With visually appealing graphics, plenty of action, mystery and a heartwarming moments, it’s a great family friendly film to see.