Director: Rob Letterman
Writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton
May contain minor spoilers.
Pokémon arrived in the United States in September of 1998 (the anime arriving on September 8th and the first generation of games, Red and Blue, arriving September 28th). I was 14 years old and had just started my freshman year of high school (nothing like pop culture to make one feel old)—a time where I started to hide my nerdiness. Believe it or not, there was a time where Marvel didn’t rule the world and kids would get beat up by the “cool” kids for reading comics, playing non-sports games, or watching TV/Film that featured anything found at comic con.
Despite hiding my nerdiness to the masses, my close group of friends were, for the most part, into the same things—Final Fantasy, wrestling, comic books, and video games in general. I forgot exactly how Pokémon entered my life, but it did, albeit only briefly. I’m not sure what came first, the anime or the game, but I watched Ash, Pikachu, Brock, and Misty on their adventures while playing my copy of Blue (or was it Red? I forget which one I ended up getting) and trying to catch (or trade) them all. I even got the special Yellow edition when I upgraded to Game Boy color a year later.
GOODBYE PIKACHU, HELLO DETECTIVE
However, by the time the second generation of Pokémon were released with Gold and Silver, I was 16 and a junior in high school—I officially gave up on a lot of my nerdiness—Final Fantasy (to a degree), wrestling, and comic book movies were pretty much all that stuck. I missed the Pokémon hype train by about three or four years and have, at the age of 34 (going on 35), only recently been brought back in that world thanks to my kids, Let’s Go (we have the Pikachu edition), and the first live action film, Detective Pikachu.
I was all set to originally write this review after my initial viewing of Detective Pikachu, but life got in the way; for the better. I saw the film with my son opening weekend and then both my nephews wanted to see it; so we went again with them. And this is where biggest negative will come into play—I wasn’t as entranced by the world this film setup my second go around. I believe it was because it was so close to my first viewing, but I hardly ever get up when I’m in a theater to use the bathroom or get another drink. On viewing two, I did both (at once).
POKÉMON BROUGHT TO LIFE
What Detective Pikachu did better than I expected, and better than most movies do, is make their world believable. And not just the fact that the pokémon looked real enough alongside the human cast members, but there was actual world building. World building that didn’t beat you over the head, which is the best kind of world building. I’ve read some complaints about the “fourth wall breaking” that this film had and I was legitimately shook over that idea—meta maybe, but breaking the fourth wall? Not at all. It was all world building.
I love that Detective Pikachu sets up a world that treat pokémon as animals that have been around for a long time… maybe even since the dawn of time? While our world doesn’t have a trading card game based on everyday animals (that I know of), there are certainly TV shows (animated or otherwise). And sporting events have games based on them in our world. So, in the world that the film has setup… where pokémon not only live among the people, but train for battles; you better believe their citizens would have created the Pokémon Card Game and the Pokémon anime! If the MCU citizens can buy and sell merchandise featuring the Avengers, then citizens of Detective Pikachu can watch Ash be the best while playing their Pokémon Card Game!
POKÉMON ARE MORE THAN BATTLE MONSTERS
What this film does better than anything else is show us that pokémon are more than just battle monsters you keep in pokéballs; they’re also our best friends and partners. The film did seem to have a hard time where it felt on that line—where they adorable creatures to be kept as pets or where they more than that and considered our partners? Overall, I loved the message the film sent about them. It challenges the “gotta catch them all” mentality; I would never keep my dog or cat confined in a ball. In fact, the only reason I keep them on a leash is for their own safety—in the house and backyard, they don’t even wear collars.
The other big decision Detective Pikachu makes, and that I love, is that this film is not Pikachu’s movie. It’s Tim’s. Pikachu’s story is the b-story (though, and this is one of those minor spoilers you were warned about, his story does interconnect with Tim’s in the end) and the film is better for it. It would have been easy to make this film a PG-13 version of Deadpool and have Ryan Reynolds/Pikachu front and center the whole time. At it’s core, this is a story about Tim and his family—I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
A KIDS MOVIE
Another thing that I really enjoyed about Detective Pikachu is that it’s a kids movie first and foremost. I saw some minor complaints about this film not having many (if any) jokes for adults/parents in it. Sometimes it’s okay for a kids move to be a kids movie. Detective Pikachu would have lost it’s magic if it tried to be like a PG-13 Deadpool or have those innuendo Shrek type of jokes. What makes this film work is that it allows you to get lost in the magic of it’s world… the magic of pokémon.
From the get go, something about Detective Pikachu clicked with me. To the point were I was getting offended by some of the reviews that were nitpicking issues that either didn’t need to be nitpicked or that simply didn’t exist. The magic of this film builds a world that I would love to visit—I didn’t even touch on how inclusive this film felt. Ryme City blended different cultures together to make everyone feel welcomed. If you have children, grew up with the Pokémon brand, or just touched it briefly in the late ’90s, go see this film. It does what all movies should—offers an escape from the real world for an hour and a half or so.
Listen to Me:
Kev is the host of the podcast, Everything is Awesome and is the co-host of The Zombcast. He is the former host of the podcasts Happy Hour with Steel Tip, Creepcast, Happy Hour, 30 Minute Outsider, The Muff Squad, That's Entertainment, 215th Entertainment Presents: Sounds of Philly, Academic Nerds, and OuaT: The Unofficial Once Upon a Time Podcast.
Kev also writes for Dark Knight News and is working on a science fiction series.
Most of all, Kev is a dad to two wonderful children.
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