Detective Pikachu analysis and review (part 1 of 2)

Yes, that’s right; it’s time to take a break from reviewing generation VII Pokémon and take a look at THE CINEMATIC EVENT OF THE DECADE, the movie so many of us have spent basically our entire lives waiting for: Legendary Pictures’ Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (hereafter just Detective Pikachu because… come on, Pokémon Company International; just get the fµ¢£ over yourselves).  Clearly it is my responsibility, as a mad person writing about Pokémon on the internet, to discuss whether I think Detective Pikachu is a successful movie.

…I mean, [spoiler alert], the answer’s yes, but we’re going to talk about why.

I’m interested in this film on two levels.  First, this is arguably the first Pokémon movie that is meant to have mass appeal outside of just fans of the Pokémon games.  A lot of Pokémon movies are, let’s face it, vehicles for featuring legendary Pokémon that play prominent roles in recent or upcoming games, and their writing is… well, let’s call it hit-and-miss.  Guys… I love the Lugia movie as much as anyone, but Casablanca it is not.  Frankly, I think you can make a plausible, albeit facetious, argument that up until now the best Pokémon movie was actually Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Now, Detective Pikachu isn’t Casablanca either, but it is at least a decent movie in its own right (which is a high bar for movies based on video games!).  The second thing I’m interested in is that, aside from just being live action, Detective Pikachu is the first Pokémon movie that is creatively independent from the Pokémon anime (and doesn’t feature Ash Ketchum), which makes it a fundamentally new type of addition to the franchise that has its own take on Pokémon’s core themes.  So, tomorrow I’m going to talk about why Detective Pikachu is specifically a good Pokémon movie, and today I’m going to talk about why it’s a decent movie generally: in short, it’s well-cast and acted, with (I will argue) a coherent theme that ties in with the main character’s arc and its central conflict, and was, at the very least, not a commercial flop.  And, y’know, some significant flaws, which I also am going to talk about because they will eat at me if I don’t.

I was going to start this whole thing with a synopsis, but frankly I tried to write one and it was just too long, and there will be other summaries on the internet that you can read first if you don’t want to see the movie but are still interested in what I have to say, so I’m just going to get straight to analysis.  Please bear in mind that although I took some notes during the movie, quotations are from memory and may not be verbatim, and of course, it should go without saying: HERE BE SPOILERS!

Continue reading “Detective Pikachu analysis and review (part 1 of 2)”

RandomAccess asks:

So, how about that Detective Pikachu trailer?

(Yes, this is how far behind I am; I’M WORKING ON IT)

(I’M FINE)

Well, mostly I’m just really excited that this is apparently a Pokémon movie that is going to try to be a decent movie in its own right, something that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t already die-hard Pokémon fans and isn’t just product placement for the latest event-exclusive legendary Pokémon (which, let’s be honest, is what a lot of Pokémon movies set in the world of the anime tend to devolve into).  Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Pikachu seems promising too; he may not be Danny DeVito, but he’s got a nice balance of heartfelt and snarky that I think should serve the premise of the film well.  I like that, although the most prominently-featured Pokémon are first-generation classics (presumably to draw the nostalgia crowd), there are a few newer Pokémon as well, apparently focusing on the ones who are already big cross-media stars like Greninja.

Jim the Editor is not a fan of the fuzzy, vaguely felt look of the Pokémon in the trailer, and I have to admit some of them are a bit disconcerting.  It’s difficult to put creatures designed for anime into a live action movie, and some level of dissonance is almost unavoidable – I suspect there’s an argument that it’s a bad idea even to try.  On the other hand, there’s still a prejudice against animation in the West that makes it hard for people to take an animated movie seriously or put much effort into it unless it’s pitched mainly at young children, so that may be a necessary sacrifice.  I think we’ll get used to it, though, especially if this isn’t Pokémon’s last foray into live-action.

Also no-one in the trailer can pronounce “Pokémon” (learn to e-acute, people!) but that’s kinda par for the course for English-speakers.