Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

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When his father goes missing and is presumed dead, former Pokemon trainer Sam journeys to Rhyme City, a high-tech utopia where humans and the multi-colored, super-powered animals live in harmony. There, while searching through his dad’s apartment, he encounters a Pikachu, who, shockingly, can speak English. Pikachu claims to have known Sam’s father and says that the man is not, in fact, dead. Realizing that there may be a chance to save his dad, Sam teams up with the talking, lightning-tailed mouse, and sets off to unravel the mystery of his father’s disappearance.

If you were a child of the mid-to-late 90s, as I was, it would have been impossible for you to miss the pop culture phenomenon that was Pokemon. It was literally everywhere. It was a card game, a video game, a hit animated series, and had several theatrically-released movies. Hell, the theme song, which begins with the immortal line “I want to be the very best, like no one ever was” is ubiquitous in pop culture. But, here’s the thing, as big a part as Pokemon was of me and so many other millennials’ childhoods it isn’t all that good if you look back on it. Hold on! Here me out. Yes, it’s colorful, the designs of the animals are cute, and its fun to imagine having super-powered pets. But, let’s not kid ourselves, the characters in both the shows and the movies are shallow, the stories are repetitive, and the themes are muddled, to say the least. Like, the first movie is all about it being wrong for Pokemon to fight but is nothing but Pokemon fighting each other. It’s literally the selling point of the franchise. So I was intrigued to see what a big budget studio adaptation of Pokemon could bring to the series. And having seen the movie, all I have to say is this.

This movie is good. In fact, it’s probably better than it has any right to be. The humor, the acting, and the visuals are all top-notch. Seriously, the design, and integration of, the Pokemon into the environment, is superb. Rhyme City feels like a real place, with its own rules and geography. And the use of color is amazing. There’s one scene, at the beginning, where Sam is walking around his apartment, and the shifting, neon lights that are streaming through the windows legitimately reminded me of Blade Runner. The film also moves very quickly, has some fun action, and is made infinitely better by Ryan Reynolds, who voices the talking Pikachu. He’s got the best dialogue, is the best actor and is just an all-around joy whenever he’s onscreen. Now, all that said, the film isn’t perfect. It’s very predictable, with me being able to guess the identity of the villain the second he was introduced. The human characters are kind of bland. The twist ending is a tad silly. And Ken Watanabe is completely wasted in this movie. But, all in all, this is a huge step up from previous video game and anime adaptations. Even Alita: Battle Angel, which I did like, had some painful dialogue, and didn’t tell a complete story. Detective Pikachu has very good dialogue, tells a complete story, and has a clear plot. So, in the end, I do think it’s worth checking out. If you’re a fan of Pokemon, or of cinema, you’ll have fun.

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