Gotta Catch that Nostalgia Surge!
A review of Pokemon Detective Pikachu by Ahmed Zayani
As a child of the late 80s and 90s, I was fortunate enough to grow up in the golden age of cartoons. Thanks to the few amazing channels like Bahrain TV’s Channel 55 (now Bahrain International), Aramco’s Channel 3, my generation was exposed to some of the best cartoons to grace the silver screen. The likes of Ducktales, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Care Bears, Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, Batman The Animated Series, The Moomens, and Scooby Doo, are all timeless classics that resonated with our pre-adolescent minds, and have stood the test of time. As I grew older, my interests pivoted towards movies and sitcoms, and by the time I reached middle school, cartoons were but a faded, albeit fond, memory. Yet, there was one animated series that was prominent, and noticed by everybody. One which grew to be a cultural phenomenon, the likes of which have not been seen before. Pokemon, a cute little show about pocket monsters, started off as a trading a card game, and grew exponentially, into the vast Pokemon universe it is today. At one point, you couldn’t escape the phenomenon, Pokemon was everywhere – TV shows, animated features, toys, clothing, video games, licensed advertisements, on food, collectibles, and a lot more, bore the cute fighting monsters all over it. In fact, the only arena Pokemon hadn’t entered, till now, was a live-action feature film.
Directed by Rob Letterman, Pokemon Detective Pikachu is the first live-action feature film for the titular characters and follows Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) a former Pokemon trainer who returns to Ryme City after receiving the news of his estranged father’s disappearance. Along the way, he encounters a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), with an affinity for investigative work, and who can communicate verbally with Tim. The only caveat is that Tim is the only one who can hear the Pikachu. Honestly, despite its flaws, I had a really good time watching Pokemon Detective Pikachu. From the beginning till the end, the movie was a surprising blast, and the main reason for that was Ryan Reynolds voicing the titular character. As it stands, Reynolds may be one of the funniest people in Hollywood today, with impeccable comedic timing, and charisma that oozes from the screen, reminiscent of the late Robin Williams. In the hands of any other actor (including Danny DeVito), the movie would not have been the same. I was also surprised by the performance of Justice Smith. My only exposure to Smith was in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in which his performance wasn’t up to par. While he didn’t come off as the second coming of Gregory Peck, Smith did redeem himself in my opinion and was a competent foil to Reynold’s Pikachu. I did also enjoy the world that was created for this movie, and the stunningly gorgeous effects that were used to bring the Pokemon to life.
All that said, as mentioned earlier, this film is flawed. The film’s biggest weakness is its story. I know the narrative was based on a pre-existing video game, but it didn’t translate well on the big screen, to me. As with Aladdin, just because something works on a certain medium doesn’t mean it’ll reflect well on another. The plot thread was also incredibly predictable, with a number of elements being quite transparent from the get-go, which does take away from the film when you realize that that’s what it’s been building up to. Also, despite them having Len Watanabe and Bill Nighy on the cast roster, they did feel insignificant and rather underutilized.
That being said, I did quite enjoy watching Pokemon Detective Pikachu. While it is not a perfect film, it is an admirable first attempt, in what will no doubt be a thriving franchise, and dare I say it may as well be the best film based on a video game thus far.
Verdict – 7/10
The Five: Favorite Films Based on Video Games
- Silent Hill
- Mortal Kombat
- Tomb Raider
- Prince of Persia: The Sands is Time