Movies based on videogames have an infamously bad rep. They usually end up as incoherent white noise (think films like Angry Birds or the Mario movie) or they’re generally just bland and uninteresting (like Assassin’s Creed or the latest Tomb Raider movie) but how does the newest attempt from the Pokémon franchise hold up?
The answer would be with resounding success. Detective Pikachu’s action is thrilling, its mystery is intriguing, and its comedy always hits the mark.
But before any of that Detective Pikachu is a marvel to look upon. The cityscape has everything you’d want for a neo-Tokyo feel; a neon structure utopia and a seedy underbelly. Outside of the city, the film has the ambition to show sprawling mountain ranges and breath-taking fields. There wasn’t a single place I wouldn’t want to visit through the whole experience. And even more appealing than the world itself is the creatures that live within it.
I went into Detective Pikachu expecting to be freaked out by the uncanniness of all the monsters but once I sat down and actually looked at them, I released most of them were outright adorable. And if the Pokémon was trying to give off an air of menace that was immediately obvious too. The level of detail put into all the creatures that appear is incredible, they all look so striking and realistic.
As a take on the detective genre this is also an interesting execution, set in a world so different to our own, Pokémon powers make anything possible. It’s easy to lose track of what might become a major plot point later in a world filled with so many character moments from people and Pokémon alike.
But even for as much as this film succeeds in elements of gritty crime thriller, the film is still most successful with its upbeat atmosphere appealing to both older and younger fans.
In terms of the story I was also left pleasantly surprised.
Going into Detective Pikachu I was concerned it would be exclusionary to people who aren’t familiar with the games, but it’s amazing how approachable the story is for how much is included. In the past Pokémon games have been known for their straightforward depictions of what’s basically dogfighting, but in Detective Pikachu an important theme is how much people care for and nurture their Pokémon. They treat them as beloved pets and companions rather than as commodities.
One of my favourite things from this film is watching the chemistry between human characters and their Pokémon partners, especially that of Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) and his Pikachu partner (played by Ryan Reynolds).
From start to finish there’s never a point where you question what is happening. But the film also slyly drags the more dedicated fans through gags and Easter Eggs, that would be missed by a more casual audience.
There is so much good about Detective Pikachu. I wouldn’t call it a bluff to say it’s the best videogame movie of all time, and one of my favourites that I’ve seen this year. It’s a family film, an action film, a fantasy film and a wonderful example of what makes Pokémon so adored. Definitely worth a viewing.