Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Movie Review - Cebu X-Geeks


Monday, May 20, 2019

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Movie Review

Directed by Rob Letterman
Produced by Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami, Don McGowan
Screenplay by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly
Story by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Nicole Perlman
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy 

My sibs and I share a special love for the Pokémon franchise. From the early episodes of the TV show we always looked forward to watching Friday nights on GMA (that first opening theme song is ingrained in us like a nursery rhyme), to the handheld Nintendo video games that come out every couple of years or so, to the trading card game, there’s something about collecting fictional creatures for companionship (or sport?) and roaming around beautifully illustrated, environmentally sustainable landscapes that ticked something within and has stayed with us for the better part of the past two decades.

So imagine our sheer delight when we saw the first trailer for Pokémon: Detective Pikachu debut sometime late last year. After the awwws we made fawning over a furry, live-action Pikachu, we kept our fingers crossed. Hollywood has a bad reputation for fucking up video game adaptations, and their attempts at translating Japanese properties for English-speaking audiences haven’t gone so swell either (think 2017’s Ghost in the Shell). When we finally got around to watching this movie after months of anxious anticipation (and still a bit hungover from Endgame, which I will get around to writing about soon), our trepidation was, for the most part, quelled.

The key selling point of the Pokémon franchise is the world-building, and Detective Pikachu delivers on that front on a stellar level. The neo-noir urbanscapes that feature prominently in the trailer are even more stunning in the film, while a certain set-piece taking place outside Ryme City and toward the film’s climax is just the right level of over-the-topness you’d expect from this bonkers world. For anyone who’s always wondered (and wanted) to live in a world populated with Pokémon (who, by the way, are rendered excellently here—neither too real nor too cartoonish), this film will give you a pretty good, fun idea of what it’s like.

The titular Detective Pikachu, voiced by a snarky Ryan Reynolds, is undeniably adorbs. Justice Smith, who plays protagonist and reluctant hero Tim Goodman, interacts flawlessly with the Pokémon around him, who—according to director Rob Letterman—were really just anything from a tennis ball to a bunch of stuntmen jostling him around. Kathryn Newton as reporter Lucy Stevens excellently channels the quick-talking, strong-willed female characters of the anime like Misty and May. On the flipside, veteran actors like Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe feel underutilized, but you can tell they’re having a blast with the material they’re given.

My one major gripe with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the story. For such a sprawling world full of potential, the narrative feels too thin and predictable; the motivations that compel the characters feel either rushed or clunky. Overall, though, whether you’re a longtime Pokéfan or a casual moviegoer looking for a fun adventure, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu delivers. I’m definitely looking forward to a sequel and immersing myself in this world again.

Score: 8.5/10

About the Reviewer

Charles SanCheese is an avid reader, student of literature, and pop-culture vulture. He works as a copy editor in Mandaue City and has lived in Cebu his whole life. 

He has authored several essays, short stories, and lengthier works of fiction, all of which can be found in the grand annals of his personal hard drive. Follow him on Twitter at @charlesancheese.

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