We live in such a bizarre time in cinematic history. While there may be some fatigue with the consistent slate of sequels, reboots, franchise favorites, and adaptations, it certainly isn’t reflected in the box office, which continues to break records every year. At the same time, some of the ideas for new films that make headlines as they enter development seem to get bigger and weirder every year. That being said, a live-action Pokémon movie starring Ryan Reynolds voicing a talking Pikachu is an insane and unbelievable pitch, and at the same time makes perfect sense at this point in time.
Historically, live-action films based on video games have not been wildly successful by any measure. You may remember (whether you want to or not) recent attempts such as last year’s Rampage with Dwayne Johnson, or Michael Fassbender in 2016’s Assassin’s Creed. You may have successfully blocked out whole franchises from you head; Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil (yes these all exist, I’m sorry if this triggers any old trauma). But hey, at least there hasn’t been any sort of extremely ill-advised Dragonball Z movie yet, because then we would all just have to pretend it never happened and talk about it like it didn’t exist. But again, luckily it doesn’t. Anyway, with Sonic the Hedgehog on the horizon and Minecraft and Metal Gear projects on their way in the next few years, it doesn’t look like Hollywood is giving up on video games just yet. From Warner Bros and director Rob Letterman, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the latest to step into a ring that has ostensibly been cursed for decades.
I’ll start by saying that overall I actually really liked this movie. That being said, Detective Pikachu’s most egregious sin is something that has seems very common in a lot of tentpole films lately. The first act of the movie sees the characters overdoing their own introductions, and then thoroughly discussing the story’s exposition, diminishing a script that could have otherwise been really great. This went on well into the second act. The frustrating part is, I actually found myself thinking, “Oh whatever, it’s a kids movie. You can get over some script issues.” But by the end of the movie, I realized that I think kids are a lot smarter than Hollywood screenwriters often give them credit for. Even with a story that requires complex world-building, you don’t need to spell everything out just because the audience are children. You can show kids a world where a bunch of monsters work at a factory and scare children to produce energy, and the kids will just get it. You don’t need an hour of spoken exposition to explain what’s going on and why. Just get straight to the story.
That being said, getting past the labored introduction is worth the wait. Though the plot of Detective Pikachu can seem predictable at times, the story also provides most of the surprisingly charming aspects of the film. Even more charm can be found in the humor; a combination of Ryan Reynolds’s performance as well as visual comedy that sticks the landing more often than not. But the majority of the film’s charm lives in its ability to adapt familiar concepts of the collective Pokémon video games, card games, and animated shows into a hyper-realistic setting in a way that, honestly, is a lot of fun. That ranges to from popular storylines, classic game concepts, sound effects and music, and even individual Pokémon and their powers.
All of this considered, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu could finally be the first hit in a genre that has only seen misses. Even at its worst, it is a film made for fans of every level that shows enormous respect for the source material and those who have enjoyed it for years.
Jake Hardison |Writing Contributor
A.A | Digital Broadcast Arts | Palomar College
Jake is a second year student at Palomar College pursuing transfer to a university to study TV, Film, and New Media. At Palomar’s radio station, KKSM AM 1320, Jake hosts a weekly movie and entertainment news show called Morning Wood on Mondays from 6-9 am. Jake is an avid fan of pop culture and all things fandom, and has been especially passionate about film and music his entire life. Engaging in skills such as filmmaking, singing, acting, broadcast, voiceover, and writing, his interests are diverse, yet revolve around enthusiasm for the art of storytelling. Jake currently hopes to pursue a career in entertainment reporting and eventually break into other forms of media. Instagram: @JakeHardison_17 | View My Project
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