Every video game that comes out, there always is doubt and scrutiny before its release because of bad precedents such as Mortal Kombat: Annihilation with a whopping 2 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, or more recently the critically slammed Pixels with a 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
A recent example of this is the strongly negative backlash against the Sonic The Hedgehog movie trailer. Usually, video game movies fall into the pitfall of the fact that it is more fun to play the game than to watch the movie.
Unsurprisingly, there was a huge wave of scrutiny on the first trailer of “Detective Pikachu” where people were very against furry Pikachu and Mr. Mime’s shoulders that look like dodgeballs. Then after a few more trailers, the critics suddenly flipped in the other direction and there was big anticipation for the movie.
“Detective Pikachu” revolves around Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, Jurassic Park) and Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool) investigating a mystery to find Tim’s missing father. The film was green-lighted after the roaring initial success of Pokemon Go and has received mixed reviews. Starting from Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back in 1998, there have been 22 movies in total up to 2019. “Detective Pikachu” is a standalone movie as it is based on the video game Detective Pikachu and it is the first live-action Pokemon movie. It makes certain nods to the first film, such as Mewtwo’s involvement in this film.
The movie painted beautiful depictions of the Pokemon. They had a tactile feeling to them while maintaining their cartoonish look from the anime series. Ryan Reynolds can’t quite put Deadpool down, so there are cruder jokes and pop culture references for the parents in the audience. For example, it contains a subplot about the dangers of state-run media and plenty of dirty jokes.
The film takes place in Ryme City, a Blade Runner esque city where Pokemon and humans coexist with each other. Thus, there are no legal Pokemon battles. The jobs of each Pokemon and references were all clever, such as a sleeping Snorlax blocking traffic, Machamp directing cars away from the Snorlax with its four arms, and Squirtles teaming up with firefighters. However, it became too much.
“Detective Pikachu” is a film where the CGI ultimately overshadows the plot. The makers of “Detective Pikachu” focuses too much on force-feeding nostalgia with cramming new Pokemon in every shot, while the storyline crumbles. Any time the story becomes interesting, the story went on needless detours to introduce new Pokemon. As a result, the plot becomes more and more convoluted and half-baked with every detour.
I left the theater feeling that the movie was tame. As a franchise built on Pokemon battles in action, the actual abilities used was painfully scarce. Instead of using attacks, most scenes just showed Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) running from everything. Although the creators had to make the concept of Pokemon more kid-friendly,(like saying that Pokemon are caught in a Pokeball by a bond with the trainer instead of damaging the Pokemon until near unconsciousness) it still isn’t quite a Pokemon movie.
Moreover, there is no real sense of risk or danger in any of the scenes. Every problem they face is solved in a second, and it soon became a bore to watch. In addition, one of the main failings of this movie is character development. For example, the movie tries to pull at the heartstrings of the audience with Tim’s father’s death, but the audience knows almost nothing about the father from the exposition, and the effort falls flat.
Another example of the insufficient character development is that the movie begins with terrible first impressions, with Tim being portrayed as an awkward kid who refuses help from everybody, and the other protagonist, journalist Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), appears with the cringiest tabloid journalist stereotype. This improves significantly as the audience gets to know the characters, but the character introductions get off to a rocky start.
The emotional plot mainly hangs on loss and grief of Tim, but the awkward acting throughout the movie through Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton led to potentially powerful scenes feeling hammy with Justice Smith’s less than convincing crying.
Some of the jewels of Ryan Reynolds’s performance, such as a scene where he sings the old Pokemon theme are too brief and fleeting. Ryan Reynolds is perfect for the role of Pikachu but it isn’t enough to hold up the acting of the real actors.
This movie is a classic example of how overreliance on nostalgia and CGI can really harm a storyline. As a Pokemon lover, I had fun trying to find all of the Pokemon in each shot. However, the real reason why we watch movies, the storytelling needs some looking over. With success in terms of box money and a potential sequel on Warner Bros’ hands, hopefully, the story will be better and more palatable.
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