Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Tim Goodman always wanted to be a Pokémon trainer.  Apparently, not everyone is cut out to do that.  The Pokéman has to want it.  So, Tim became an insurance salesman.  It’s not a bad career, but there is a sense that Tim gave up on his dream.  We’re reminded of that when his father, Harry, goes missing.  Tim is called to Ryme City, where Harry was a detective.  Inside a room meant for Tim is a bead with a pair of distinctive yellow ears at its head.

Moments after seeing those ears, Tim hears a crash in his father’s apartment.  Armed only with a stapler, Tim confronts a Pikachu.  Specifically, it’s his father’s Pokémon partner.  The thing is that this Pikachu can talk.  Both are confused, as all Tim should hear is, “Pika Pika.”  Everyone else does.  So, why not Tim?  It could be genetic.  It could be that purple gas Tim accidentally inhaled moments earlier.  Detective Pikachu has amnesia, so answers aren’t forthcoming.

Both decide to team up, as they have the same objective:  Find Harry Goodman.  Detective Pikachu would also like to recover his memory.  Since Pikachu lost his memory right around the time Harry went missing, but that should work itself out as a result of their investigation.  The two meet Lucy Stevens along the way, who’s an intern at a news organization.  She’d love to break a big story, but seems to be relegated to getting coffee.  It’s perfect because Tim needs a local to help him out.

I don’t want to give too much away, mostly because there was so much about the movie that I didn’t see coming.  I know this is based on a video game, which I haven’t played.  The world of Pokémon is relatively unknown to me, so I was able to come to the movie fresh.  (I suspect that this is a good thing most of the time.)

I will say that the relationship between Detective Pikachu and Tim was great.  This is no small feat considering that one of them is animated.  The expressiveness on Pikachu’s face was great.  The coming attractions show you this pretty well.  The characters look emotive.  They look like you might meet one of them walking down the street.   The effect is seamless.  Justice Smith reacts as if Pikachu were actually standing there, about to hit him with that big yellow tail.  Even a minor breakdown in this dynamic would break the illusion.

It’s difficult to say who the movie is for, probably because it has to play to such a large group of people.  This is the latest installment in the Pokémon franchise.  It’s the first predominately live-action film for Pokémon, but there have been animated movies, an animated TV show, manga, video and mobile games and a CCG.  I think there is an element targeted at younger demographic, but Pokémon was introduced in 1995.  There are going to be members of the audience that were members of that demographic 20 years ago.

Then, there are also going to be people like me that got excited by the coming attractions.  It may not have been an overly meaningful or deep movie, but it did keep my attention.  I don’t know that I could see a direct sequel coming out of this movie, but I could see other in-universe features coming about.  I’m curious to see what those would look like.

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