Review: ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ brings joy to Pokémon lovers

New movie strikes balance between cute, emotional


Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The live-action movie “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” was released on Friday, May 10.

Heavily based on the 2018 Nintendo 3DS game by the same name, the mystery-adventure movie “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” portrays the story of a young man taking over his father’s inquisitive legacy with the help of a special friend. Long-time fans of the Pokémon franchise had low expectations for this video game adaptation but when the movie hit the screens, audiences were blown away by the complex world which emerged.

The Pokémon shown in the environment are adorably charming. Toward the end of the movie, a group of Bulbasaurs can be seen roaming around a forest. The calls of the Pokémon are loved by fans of the Pokémon series, as they give a newer, cuter voice to the calls originally heard in the games. “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” revives old aspects from the games while adding new aspects to the film adaptation. The CGI development of the creatures was nearly flawless; fluffy Pokémon like Pikachu appeared soft to the touch, while scaly Pokémon like Charizard were animated to be smooth.

The director, Rob Letterman, developed the world of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” perfectly. From sweeping shots of Ryme City to detailed sets in locations visited by the characters, the viewers felt immersed in the space of the movie. Each aspect of what the viewer sees has a distinct purpose, either as a reference to the Pokémon games or as a tiny detail which will become instrumental in the plot later. The Pokémon wandering around the streets of Ryme City and throughout the forest make the world feel complete. The dialogue also sets a fully fleshed out stage for the plot to progress. Conversations between the main characters, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), continuously add onto the plot and keep the movie progressing smoothly.

With all aspects that “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” does right, certain aspects of the film were less successful. For the first 45 minutes of the film, the plot is relatively slow-moving and appears basic to the audience. Eventually, it does pick up significantly as the driving mystery for the movie is revealed and developed, but the audience wishes the plot was consistently paced.

Throughout the film, sprinklings of lame, awkward humor are added to the less intense moments. Despite being a uniquely strange comedic style, the movie was able to make viewers laugh out loud several times. The humor focuses on the antics of the Pokémon world, including adorably hilarious scenes of Pokémon and humans interacting.

Along with the niche humor of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” the heavier scenes of the movie added complexity to the plot. Despite the lack of mainstream actors, with the exception of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu, the film does a decent job at portraying emotional situations. However, the acting is not outstanding by any means and merely accomplishes the bare minimum.

The soundtrack for “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” composed by Henry Jackman, is outstanding, sampling nostalgia-inducing tracks from early Pokémon games as an extra treat to the older audience. It plays a role in the plot, too; Lucy plays calming “spa music” in order to keep her Psyduck calm, since a Psyduck’s headache is known to cause problems. This clever use of the soundtrack charmed the audience, keeping the viewers engaged. The battle music is invigorating, while the songs playing during investigative scenes make the audience feel as curious and on edge as the characters themselves. The musical aspects of the film add depth to the experience and immerse the viewers in the scenes and the world overall.

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” was a surprisingly successful adaptation of a well-loved video game series. The movie quelled fan concerns by opening with intriguing world building scenes, then following with the cute flair which could only be captured by the strange creatures of the Pokémon world. This film deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars due to its effective world building and striking cute audio and visual aspects; half a point was deducted for the struggle to move the plot along in the first half of the movie and the unimpressive acting throughout.