Pokémon has a very long history, created in 1995 Satoshi Tajiri it was a game released on the Nintendo Game Boy as Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue (Originally Red and Green) in 1996. To say the game took the world by storm is an understatement, it spawned books, trading cards (original cards in good condition are worth good money now), a still running animated TV show and animated movies. To this very day Pokémon is as popular as ever with mobile phone game Pokémon Go and the recently released Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee for the Nintendo Switch. Despite Pokémon having had several animated films, Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) marks the first live action adaptation of the product. For a franchise that has existed for as long as it has, it is a wonder it has taken until now for this to happen.
Video games being adapted into live action films has always been very hit and miss, with the failure of Super Mario Bros. back in 1993 it seems more often than not these types of films don’t work. 1995’s Mortal Kombat was a fun film that captured the spirit of the games, despite not being a huge blockbuster. Other entries like Silent Hill (2006) and Warcraft (2016) have been received decently well, with fans and non-fans alike finding something to enjoy. There have been many video game to film adaptations since 1993, with every sort of genre being developed. The most faithful do seem to be in the form of animated movies, as with Pokemon’s own entries. Enter Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) into the mix, a franchise with well over 20 years of history, is this something that could be pulled off in live action form? Yes, yes it can.
Our story begins in a world where Pokémon live with human’s, some catch Pokémon, some train then, some battle with them, or all three. They are creatures each have their own type’s, sizes and personalities. The opening begins with some sort of laboratory experiment going wrong, and a Pokémon escaping. This event leads to the main character Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) finding out that what happened at the laboratory led to his father Harry being killed along with his partner Pokémon. Tim decides to go to his father’s apartment and see what’s left there, it is clear that he wasn’t close to his father after the death of his mother. Whilst scoping out the mail he meets junior reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and her partner Pokémon Psyduck. Lucy is looking into what happened to Harry, while Tim is dismissive at first of this, once he gets to the apartment and finds a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who he can understand talking and who is a detective, he hesitantly decides to join forces with Pikachu and find out what happened to his father. Let the adventure begin!
There is naturally more to the story, this is a detective story and there is much to unravel so to say anymore would be heading into spoilers. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a fun film, a delight for long time fans, new fans or those who aren’t too familiar with the franchise. Enough is explained to introduce everyone into this world and to see what Pokémon are and how this world works. Most of the film takes place in Ryme City, a large metropolis where human and Pokémon work side by side as partner’s, battling Pokémon is banned and there is a quest for human and Pokémon to have a good relationship together. There are many fun easter eggs to be found for fans, with references to towns and cities found in the game, to some Pokémon behaviours and backstories, it is fun to try and ‘catch them all’.
What makes this film such a delight is the captivating mystery that moves the story forward, likable characters with Tim and Lucy, both of whom grow throughout the movie and of course it’s main star Detective Pikachu. The amazing designs for the Pokémon (realistic versions) were based on RJ Palmer’s artwork who became the concept artist for the film. Without the design and the beautiful work done to bring them to life, the film wouldn’t not have worked so well. They feel and seem very real, so real in fact that it almost becomes sad that Pokémon are just a work of fiction and we can’t actually have a real one. They each have their own personalities, and most are so adorable and cute, I am sure many will be squeeing with delight as they watch the movie. Pikachu is the only Pokémon who does talk throughout the film, and Ryan Reynolds was the perfect choice for him. He’s a very fleshed out character and an absolute joy to have through this journey. While Pikachu and the other Pokémon naturally steal the show, the human actors do a very good job also. Justice Smith was a really good choice for the lead, with Kathryn Newton being an equally good choice. Other actors who have smaller parts are great, with the likes of Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe showing up.
Overall Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a delight, it has laughs, action and mystery. While it might be a little too much for younger audiences, children 7 years and over will have a blast as well as adults. As mentioned previously whether you grew up with Pokémon or not, there is a lot to enjoy with this film. It is quite amazing to see another classic Nintendo product get the live action treatment and see how far things have come since 1993’s disaster. This is a great film, a fun ride for the family and one can hope this opens doors for more Nintendo adaptations. While the film isn’t without its minor flaws, these can easily be forgotten about because the ride itself is one worth taking and one that is so much fun you’ll be left smiling the entire time. Whether or not we get more live action Pokémon films remains to be seen, with how big the franchise is and how right this one is, there remains hope this will be the first of many.
Review written by Marcella Papandrea