Knowing that we’re also getting a Sonic the Hedgehog movie later this year, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, feels like the start of the “Super Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe.” It’s lately been a trend other Marvel-imitators are trying to take on, even Warner Bros. is trying to start its own “Dark Universe” with its latest reboots of Godzilla, the Mummy, and King Kong. This first ever live-action Pokémon movie perhaps exists with that unhealthy mentality. Whether or not if that’s the case, this feature film will quickly turn Hollywood wobblier than it was before.
The passive protagonist of this adaptation off the legendary franchise, Tim, is a lonely young man who apparently feels regret from his father’s death, and by the very end of his journey we see him take, he is still the same person. Any giant, fat, sleepy behemoth would have a higher IQ than him, at least such a beast can go through enough change to wake up for food; Tim never even acts out of free will. To make it even more dull, he gets a completely unnecessary love interest, Lucy, and as they accidentally clash heads as they both lean to pick something up—as a way to push their romance further. But spoiler alert: their love subplot is completely forgotten two-thirds of the way through. A chance to grieve over death never lands, for any information about the demise of Tim’s father only conveys itself via advanced holographic technology run by a shadowed bad guy stroking a feline without reason. It’s the same atmosphere and formula from every bland piece of Saturday morning cartoon entertainment.
Tim and Lucy live in a magical place called “Ryme City,” that was founded with the intent of bringing peace between people and Pokémon without any more battles (like Zootopia or some crap). Some of the cute little critters work there as firefighters and others as sushi chefs, but none of them work as guards around a top-secret facility. How come? Simple: because the kids got to break into it for the climax to happen. If it wasn’t for their trusty plot armor, the two leads’ passionless performance wouldn’t be bogged down enough for you to fantasize yourself in their place amidst such a colorful cast. By colorful though, I meant their exteriors, not their personalities.
Now, Lucy, the sole female character of the entire film, is by far the blandest of the cast, with so little disposition that she does not even care if her city is foremost masculine. In Ryme City, there are some Pokémon with ears used as DJ sound speakers, another muscular one with four arms guides traffic, but there are no feminine professions like beauty salon or flower booth owners to be seen. How is it that throughout production, no women in the cast or crew spoke up about the lack of diversity?
To be fair though, the concept of being distinct from the others is well captured through the digital creations of the Pokémon; well enough so that they look faithful to their classic anime counterparts. You could reach out and stroke the fur of the angry, growling pink bulldog Pokémon, then the special effects of a transforming fuchsia blob balances out the charm with its downright creepiness. In total, every one of these Pokémon gives much joy, and once the credits roll, you will want to keep at least one as a pet. Although others you will not want as a pet, as a gang of ninja frogs with tongues wrapped around their necks match the aura of legit horror.
Still though, as much as the IMAX sight adds some drops of black gesso against the glorious bright neon colors, the visuals only serve as a distraction from the awful writing. Maybe the final narrative twist could be pretty amazing without a thinking cap worn on your head. When taking the visual experience into deeper consideration, it’s still not terribly memorable, aside from one sequence featuring a garden of various turtle-like Pokémon. But not even that has any real plot significance aside from looking really cool. I’d even have to say the awful Jurassic Park sequels have more memorable impact with their even mix of digital and practical effects.
Speaking of that garden scene, it tries to be a part of a failed environmental message about a bunch of genetically manipulated dinosaur creatures that pose a danger to the people. Sound familiar? That kind of environmental message is one big pile of Goldblum if you ask me. But the worst thing of all, the entire script is held together by a tired out neglectful father trope, with sentences about the evil of humanity present for good measure. It’s a bad case of all these ideas tossed together randomly without a goal in mind.
With all this weak creativity reliant on old properties… of course it means exploitative businesses like this one would resort to making bank off a horrific case of brand exploitation. I mean it: Pokémon Detective Pikachu is literally a brand (Detective Pikachu the 3DS game) of a brand (Pikachu in general) of a brand (the Pokémon franchise)!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Debruge, Peter. “Film Review: Ryan Reynolds in ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’.” Digital image. Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC, 2 May 2019. Web. <https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/pokemon-detective-pikachu-review-ryan-reynolds-1203203447/>.
Detective Pikachu Movie. Warner Bros. Entertainment. Web. <https://www.detectivepikachumovie.com/>.