Detective Pikachu: review

Photo credit: Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Toho Co., Ltd.

* No spoilers*

The premise of Detective Pikachu is nothing Pokemon fans haven’t seen before. It borrows story elements from established Pokémon game storylines. However, the movie makes up for this familiarity through the novelty of 3D animated Pokémon and their ‘realistic’ rendering. The movie boasts excellent animation detail, and a fun story, delivering a fairly entertaining and wholesome experience for the viewer.

Right from the start, the movie wastes no time kicking off with a literal bang, introducing an intriguing mystery that slowly builds into something much larger, with several twists and turns that I never saw coming.

We follow Tim Goodman and an amnesiac pikachu working together to find Tim’s father, as well as discover the circumstances behind pikachu’s memory loss. This quest leads to various obstacles and challenges, beginning with both partners having to get used to a talking pikachu — an unprecedented occurrence in the Pokémon universe. Moving forward, the quest for Tim’s father eventually uncovers a devious scheme that threatens both humans and pokémon peacefully coexisting in the apparent utopia of Ryme City.

The overall tone and feel of the movie is a feel-good one, and it doesn’t tread into much darker, complex themes. The protagonists get discouraged and disillusioned along the way, but they pick themselves up rather quickly. While I like the light-hearted tone, I find the stakes lacking however, and not once did I believe that the main characters wouldn’t survive or win in the end.

The action is fun and exciting, with catchy, pulsating beats that compliment the easy to follow, yet fluid narrative. The visuals are definitely the most outstanding in terms of individual pokémon, they look incredibly realistic, right down to details of fur, and scales reminiscent of the actual animals in our world. Ryme City feels like a living, breathing world, with grimy film noir touches that we don’t get to see in the kid-friendly anime series. 

Ryme City, a play of light and dark. Photo credit: Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Toho Co., Ltd.

Another highlight for me is the witty dialogue and the amusing interactions between Tim and Pikachu. I really love the dynamic between the two as they warily accept each other despite their differences. The duo bounce off each other really well and I found myself chuckling several times at their antics. Tim’s inner conflict is also interesting, torn between truly accepting his father’s death, yet clinging to the hope that he is still alive. All through, he harbours grief and regret for constantly rejecting his father’s invitation to move in with him in the city. This highlights the movie’s overarching theme of hope and regret, and the importance of cherishing our loved ones.

It’s a fast paced movie, with scenes that cut out the fluff, fulfil their purpose and move on onto the next. While I feel that this method is a surefire way of keeping audiences interested, some transitions between scenes are rather jarring, while certain plot points and characters could have been better fleshed out.

Overall, other than the novelty of bringing pokémon to life, this movie doesn’t bring much new to the table. However, it offers a fast paced and entertaining mystery story with a satisfying ending, with sufficient emotional hooks, and life-lessons sprinkled in and shaken well enough to make the viewer care.

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