I have been challenged, dearest readers, by my colleague Daniel Lammin to make this review not about my childhood at all - no references, no shaping, no cute anecdotes - no childhood at all. Well, as always, the joke's on him.
Based on the popular video game, ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’ follows Tim (Justice Smith, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’) as he pieces together his father’s disappearance aided by his father's Partner Pokemon - the adorable mascot of the franchise, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, ‘Deadpool’ franchise). Oh, and unlike other Pokémon who can only say their name, this Pikachu talks.There is something afoot in Ryme City, and the pair are joined by investigative journalist Lucy (Kathryn Newton, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’) and her semi-trusty Psyduck to uncover the deeper truth of what has been going on.
The fact that I can write both the words Psyduck and Pikachu in a review fills me with an uncontrollable amount of joy.
So Pokemon is the world's most valuable franchise - sorry Hello Kitty and Star Wars, but facts are facts. In what could be a heartless money grab (in an age full of heartless money grabs) comes a rare gem of a film that fulfils all its absurd promises, and then some! This is the first "live action" Pokémon film, something fans have been waiting for for over 20 years. There are (soon to be) 22 animated Pokémon features, so how to fit a live action into this pantheon is no easy feat. It makes sense to take what is familiar and use a slight deviation to create this world and surprising to me, and hopefully you, it works.
Everything about it works.
The film is teeming with life, with Pokémon present in every scene, but never in an obtrusive way. The world is set up and then the story unfolds from there. What a fun story it is too, with enough twists and turns and heartfelt moments, as well as some very well done action; ‘Detective Pikachu’ is a delight to watch. The script is also sharp with enough for the kids to laugh at and enough that can go over their heads for the adults can laugh at. Let’s be honest, most of the audience will probably be in their late 20s and feeling a huge hit in their nostalgia glands, but new audiences (and non-fans) will find just as much to be excited about.
Fan service is something of a dirty word these days. The fan service in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was epic but also on the nose. The fan service in 'Detective Pikachu' is there, but doesn’t draw attention to itself, leaving beautiful moments for Super Nerds and Pokemaniacs to enjoy along the way. It’s all about how you handle it, and for me 'Detective Pikachu' gets it right. Everything sticks to the (extensive) cannon and is the closest imagining to “what if we did actually live in the Pokemon world” question we have yet to see.
The cinematography is beautiful and combined with the lighting is almost a film noir, which makes sense - it is a detective film, after all. The casting is genius, and Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu was a make or break decision - and it definitely makes. Justice Smith is great, and Bill Nighy is delightful. If there is a way that this could get nominated for a Best Visual Effects Oscar that would be wonderful, because every Pokémon has been brought to life in such astounding and beautiful way that it reminds you of how you first felt encountering these creatures. The only small gripe I had with the film was trying to convince us that the city of London was Ryme City, an amalgam of London and Tokyo; it’s just that London’s skyscrapers are iconic and the "Cheese Grater" is a key location, but instantly recognisable. As is The Gherkin and other London financial district buildings. It’s a very small gripe, but one that must be mentioned
Pokémon instilled in me an inherent sense of adventure, belief and fun that I try and take into my every single day.
So I haven’t spoken about my childhood at all, and as instructed, spoke mostly about the film. But the thing for me is, Pokémon isn’t just a part of my childhood. It's a part of my everyday life. I have a Pokeball tattoo (that recently turned 1), and play some form of Pokémon game every day. For the relatively hardcore fan such as myself, the beauty of the film is that Pokémon are for everyone as they are to me. Pokémon instilled in me an inherent sense of adventure, belief and fun that I try and take into my every single day, and I am reminded of that every time I look at my arm. Yes, I am a fan, but this film will hopefully bring about a whole new generation of fans, beyond what the anime, video games, cards, wearables and all the other merchandise could. This is what I hope is the new phase of the Pokémon universe, a universe in which people and Pokémon work together. Okay, yes, I cried. Yes, it pulled my nostalgia heart strings. But at the end of the day, it's a fantastic film that delivers more than you could ever expect. One might say it’s the very best, like no one ever was.