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In 2006 or so, a fan made live action trailer for Pokemon came out called Pokemon Apokelypse. It was disguised as a legitimate trailer that made waves across the community. It was darker, edgier, violent, explicit, ugly, and it certainly didn’t feel like a Pokemon film. It solidified my fear of a live action Pokemon adaptation. How could anyone support the idea of a live action Pokemon movie after seeing that?
Fast forward about a decade later and we get our first live action movie. Detective Pikachu, based on a spinoff title. Seeing the trailer, I had an inkling it hope. It might very well be a good adaptation. The Pokemon look as they should, it was funny and overall, it felt like a Pokemon movie. After seeing it, I can say for certain that this may be one of the best game adaptations in, maybe ever.
Let’s crack this case, shall we?
Detective Pikachu and the case of the rampaging Pokemon
The story begins with our hero, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who attempts to catch an innocent Cubone whilst avoiding cracking jokes about its dead mother (the skull it wears is from its deceased Marowak). After that, he receives a notice from Ryme City’s police that his father was supposedly killed in a car accident. When he visits his old apartment, a mysterious, talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) arrives and explains that it used to be his father’s. Now, they must figure out how he went missing before they become victims to a mysterious toxin that makes Pokemon wild.
While the story itself is kinda dumb, the characters are what make this movie stand out. The interactions between Pikachu, Tim and the rest of the cast are a joy to watch. It doesn’t feel forced and I found myself laughing several times. Tim’s deadpan attitude towards most of it while trying to keep up with Pikachu’s behavior is a treat. I felt like these two need to be in more films together. They have such fantastic chemistry on screen that I want to see more from those two.
The movie itself is based on a spin off game, Detective Pikachu, which came out back in 2013 as a stand-alone before being sold as a complete package in 2016. I wasn’t sure what to make of the announcement but I felt it was perfect for movie format. I haven’t played too much of the game so it definitely takes liberties from the game itself, but it’s not that important. What’s important is the Pokemon designs. I wasn’t keen on them too much but looking at them now, they did a fantastic job bringing Pokemon to life in a convincing way. Granted, there aren’t too many and since this was a pretty short film (shorter than Endgame, anyway) they did what they could, but their offerings were nice and even showed Pokemon that aren’t featured often like Audino, Aipom, Snubbull and so on.
The fact that Pokemon feel real to me is what I wanted it to go for. In Pokemon Apokelypse, it barely resembled the characters and were composed of awful CGI. These actually look like the Pokemon in the games and brought to the real world. I’ve also seen fan concepts of realistic Pokemon ranging from convincing to odd and unrealistic. Hollywood, especially these days, make cartoon characters barely resemble their source material (just look at Sonic, and that isn’t even out yet). I’m honestly surprised how well they nailed the designs and the hopes of seeing more, like Spinarak, Zangoose, Swampert, Litten and so many more actually excite me. I want more now and it’s an unusual feeling.
I won’t go into the story too much since it was pretty dumb. As far as a plot, it wasn’t that intriguing and the villain reveal wasn’t that shocking. Still, seeing Tim and Pikachu interact with the world was enough for me. Seeing all of the nods to the anime and game, while it felt fanservice-y, was a happy nod that would have put a smile on my ten year old self, who would have loved to see his favorite series come to life.
And that’s what makes me love this film. This could have gone horribly wrong with terrible jokes and gags, unrecognizable Pokemon, dark and gritty violence, or heck, just bring the cartoon characters to life and have the military involved. That would have been a “blast.” It didn’t. It was Pokemon all the way through. From the capturing to be battles to seeing their unique personalities shine, it was the dream Pokemon film for me. I actually want more now and I’m sure my past self would say the same. If I would, I could travel back in time and bring him here to watch with me. That’d be fun.
Overall, while this wasn’t a huge wave in the many video game adaptations, it was one of the best efforts I’ve seen in a long time. Prior to this, I enjoyed Warcraft immensely and thought it had a better story and CGI effort, but for a kids film, this was all I could ever dream of. I can’t wait to see more in the world of Pokemon.
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