While we’ve seen plenty of footage from Warner Bros.’ upcoming Pokémon movie, Detective Pikachu, exactly how the whole thing pans out has been a point of anxiety for many fans. As the reviews start to trickle in, it looks like maybe Detective Pikachu has skirted the dreaded video game movie curse.
Here’s what critics have to say about the flick so far.
The movie does take liberties with the game, introducing several huge set pieces, totally different motivations for the antagonist, a new ability for a truly powerful Pokémon, and a completely different ending. The original game has an unsatisfying, unresolved conclusion, whereas the movie adaptation attempts to wrap everything up. I found it awkward and unbelievable, but the rest of the movie was so much fun that this wasn’t a dealbreaker. The big reveal at the end did make me wonder how they’ll pull off the inevitable sequel. However they do, here’s hoping it packs the same fun.
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu manages to walk the tightrope of appealing to fans who know their Snorlax from their Gengar, as well as people who’ve never caught much more than a cold.
“Pika Pika!” That’s Pikachu-speak for “Go see this movie!”
Despite the film industry’s resistance to video game movies, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu has landed a critical hit. Sure, not everything goes off without a hitch, but the lifelike Pokémon provide a nonstop stream of delights to make the weaker aspects of the movie forgivable. Smith’s character gives the story an emotional weight and Reynolds delivers an endearing comedic performance that’s closer to his subversive Deadpool schtick than you’d expect. While video game movies haven’t had the best track record, this movie is by and far the best example of how to do one right.
Detective Pikachu’s writing isn’t exactly strong or thought-provoking, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be. This isn’t a timeless work of cinematic genius. Instead, it’s a chance for Pokémon diehards to spend two hours inside a universe many of us have invested years in. It’s a hilarious, carefree, fun romp through a familiar place, and it’s just different enough to add a much needed twist to a formula that was growing tired.
Detective Pikachu should prove enjoyable for any and all Pokémon fans, young or old. It presents fun answers to the fantasy of what life would be like if Pokémon were real. It introduces new wrinkles to the world of Pokémon, although not all of them completely work. Still, as the first official live-action trip to the world of Pokémon, Detective Pikachu presents characters I want to see again and a setting I’d like to return to.
In the end, if “Detective Pikachu” is going to make the case that each human is destined to pair with a single Pokémon — a kind of spirit-animal monogamy that contradicts the “Gotta catch ’em all” attitude that’s come before — then at least Tim and Pikachu should have some kind of chemistry. But Smith (who generally comes off sour and stressed out) isn’t anywhere near as affable as Ash Ketchum was in the cartoons, and the movie’s final reveal confuses what kind of relationship he’s supposed to have with Pikachu going forward.
When all is said and done, though, you don’t need to be a detective to spot the film’s greatest asset. Indeed, from the second he appears, Detective Pikachu is Reynolds’ to command, his every wisecrack, protestation and throwaway aside generating a smile, a chuckle or a guffaw. “Case closed – but still open, until I close it!” he declares in one typical moment of linguistic grandstanding. His tearful rendition of the ‘Gotta Catch ’Em All’ theme song, meanwhile, is just one of the creative ways Goosebumps director Rob Letterman celebrates the Pokémon legacy while simultaneously cutting it down to size.
Live-action feature film adaptations of video games have proved a dicey proposition in the past. For every “Mortal Kombat” there’s a “Prince of Persia.” This one just feels like a venal money grab from a mega corporation. You’ve played Pokémon Go, right? Call this one Pokémon Don’t Go.
There you have it, folks, Detective Pikachu sounds like a decent flick, which, in the realm of video game to movie adaptations, could be considered a near masterpiece. Not everyone feels this way – especially Mr “Pokémon Don’t Go” up there – but I feel like this flavour of movie is always going to be a hard sell for those not familiar with its franchise.
Detective Pikachu hits theatres on May 9.