In spite of the folks who “didn’t approve” of the Pokémon’s new live-action look, I decided to go and see Detective Pikachu in theatres. Despite all of the negative takes, I had fun watching. The film had a predictable plot, but it entertaining, all the same. Indecipherable with a neo-noir tone. However, it still had a strong emphasis on visuals, and character designs help emphasize some of the strong points the movie had. But does Detective Pikachu accomplish the goals of being the smash hit many fans were hoping to have happened?
I’ll get the Blu-ray special features out of the way since there aren’t a ton of them.
I may come back to this one in the future with the “Detective Mode” enabled. What Warner tried to do, is give fans and even technical filmmaking geeks an insight into how individual shots were attained. What did it take to bring the world of Ryme City to life, in certain spots? Or a comment from cast and crew as to what it was like making the film. It merges the real and the animated in a polished, makes-sense way I haven’t had a chance to experience since the Roger Rabbit or Space Jam days. Like those films, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu keeps true to the characters’ various and in-depth design elements—something I’ll touch more on later. I’m no Pokémon “über-fan,” and I don’t usually partake in DVD commentary or trivia lay-over tracks, but this one might change how I feel.
There’s also a “Mr. Mime Audio Commentary.” Let that sink in. A fully-realized, silent audio commentary that goes over the entire film would have been the best troll job in history! Unfortunately, this one “illustrates” one scene, and is bookended by a ‘hey, ya get it? Do you get the joke? He’s a mime!’ segment with the Pokémon. The character himself does a fantastic job making the prank work. Either way, as soon as I read it on the back of the box, I had a little chuckle.
In “My Pokémon Adventure,” star Justice Smith teases what could have been a broader, more in-depth look at the process he underwent with this film. From growing up with Pokémon (as most of our generation have) to his casting in the lead role. However, I wonder about the filming process, and all the fan events and cons to follow. It could have been a cool featurette. We could see, and live vicariously through, his dream experience of being cast in the first-ever, live-action, big-screen Pokémon film. It seems like a trailer for something else, though—a separate extra feature that isn’t to be found on the rest of the disc. Or, put at the beginning of the feature, and then have a featurette at the end. Or an option to skip specific points of the film. I’ve seen many movies do that.
In “Creating the World of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,” we see all the behind-the-scenes stuff happen. What was it like to make the film? Whether it’s casting the actors, recreating the various Pokémon for their live-action debut, building the sets and the surprising wealth of practical effects, and all the work that went into making Ryme City as alive and believable as possible. How did the crew make it happen? Easily the highlight of the extras reel, franchise fans, and films alike, should give it a watch.
The “Alternate Opening”—oddly enough, the only deleted or alternate scene on the disc. It offers an entertaining, likely ad-libbed performance from Rob Delaney (comedian; minor roles in Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw) as he talks up Tim (Smith). Sadly there’s little else, by way of exposition or story additions. The opening the film already has Tim going out and trying to catch his first Pokémon, throws us in at the deep-end with this world, gets us right into the action. It’s better for it, I think. That’s all. The scene would have been fresh or funny as an intercut between Tim’s opening exchange with Jack (Karan Soni—also a Deadpool alum) over his current, dead-end job.
“Ryan Reynolds: Outside the Actors Studio” is another neat little teaser-esque short that throws in the actor and his real-life wife, Blake Lively, in a mockumentary setting, talking about Reynolds’s “disappearance” into his role as Detective Pikachu. Again, something that would have been neat as a mid-credits gag, but doesn’t offer up much in the “extra features” department on the disc. I feel like I’ve seen this one before on Facebook Watch or something, as a promo for the film. Either way, Reynolds is hilarious and will be in anything he puts his mark on.
Speaking of the film…
I’m not a fan of the “worked-in” exposition dumps that seem to permeate Hollywood these days. But there are still many that manage to work in the backstory the present seamlessly. A recent example I can think of is the newest Tarantino project, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I can look past the expo-dump here thrown at us as an intro video on our way into Ryme City, for the sake of the rest of the film’s developed world. It looks polished, and nothing stands out, visually, as jarring or out-of-place.
The dialogue exchanges, especially between our leads (Tim and Lucy; Kathryn Newton of Big Little Lies fame), when they first meet—is hokey. I’d even go so far as calling it cringeworthy on Newton’s part. Others are well-delivered, though all of Reynolds’s stuff is on-point. And it gets better, as the film goes on. Save Bill Nighy’s villain character’s stereotypical, manic savior lines, in the third act.
Otherwise, I’m glad the Pokémon’s aesthetic was kept from the games and TV shows. It helps bridge the gap between that film’s setting and fans of the ongoing series, as well as newbies (like myself) just entering the fray. The filmmakers did well in hiding Reynolds’ face as that of the missing father until the climactic reveal in the final scenes. Made the twist there more shock-worthy. Also, as I said, the effects are cool, and a lot of them are practical—such as the race through the giant Torterra garden, in the latter-half of the film. Lots of the actors’ stunts were done by themselves, which is cool. Not a lot of young talent look forward—or are allowed—to do their own stunt-work.
On this re-watch, I got a major Zootopia vibe from the proceedings, brought about by my viewing buddy. Something I could overlook, as I got lost in the setting and goings-on. But it’s an interesting parallel, as I’m sure it goes on with other buddy-cup comedies out there (I’m no pro when it comes to that).
This one did well at the box office—so much so that I wouldn’t doubt a sequel, spin-off, or building a massive franchise of it. I wouldn’t mind that being the case. I’ll never be a real fan of the established franchise, but I’m on board with anything that can ground and engross me in its world. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu certainly accomplished that.
Score: 6 out of 10.
Detective Pikachu is now available on digital, Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD.