A young man enlists the help of a talking Pikachu to find out what happened to his father in Pokemon Detective Pikachu. Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an insurance salesman, with former dreams of being a Pokemon trainer, who learns that his estranged father Harry has apparently died in a car crash. Returning to his father’s apartment, Tim is surprised to find a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), who is suffering from amnesia. Together, they decide to work together and try to find out what happened to Harry, whose disappearance seems tied to a mysterious purple gas known as R, which turns Pokemon crazy. They receive assistance from aspiring journalist Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her Pokemon Psyduck.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu is the first live action Pokemon film, with the plot based on the 2018 spin-off video game of the same name. The action takes place in Ryme City, founded by visionary Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), where human and Pokemon live in harmony. However, there is a dark underbelly in the city, including underground Pokemon battles and a mysterious purple gas. Despite being assured by Detective Hideo Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) that his father is dead, Tim is convinced that Harry is still alive and he and Pikachu are willing to do anything to find him.
It has been two decades since the original Pokemon craze and the release of the first anime film Pokemon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. While the video games and anime remained popular towards the core fanbase, it wasn’t until the release Pokemon Go mobile game in 2016 when the franchise began to have a resurgence. This opened the door for the first live-action Pokemon film, where is loosely based on the Nintendo 3DS game of the same name, which was released in Japan in 2016 and North America in 2018.
I do admit that after more than two decades in the public consciousness, there is a certain fun novelty to seeing various classic Pokemon brought to live, through CGI effects, in a live-action world. It is also quite a joy hearing Ryan Reynolds wisecrack as a mysteriously sentient Pikachu, whose only clue to his identity is a detective hat with Harry’s address written on it. While Pikachu is obviously the star of the show, I also have to add that Lucy Stevens’ Psyduck also ends up stealing a number of scenes, with its frantic panicking. There is also an appearance by the mysterious psychic Pokemon Mewtwo, who holds an important key to the mystery of the film. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but there’s a scene in the third act of this film that seems like it was taken right out of Tim Burton’s Batman.
Overall, I would say that Pokemon Detective Pikachu works both as nostalgia for a property that first received mainstream popularity in the late-1990s, while also being an entertaining film in its own right. In fact, I wouldn’t mind it if this film leads to a whole franchise of live action Pokemon films.