By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
Man, those Detective Pikachu trailers! I mean, I’ve never really been all that interested in Pokemon since the original middle school lunchroom card duels, but who is immune from the a quippy Ryan Reynolds in a gawwwwww cute Pikachu package?
So many layers of hug fantasy.
In Detective Pikachu, Pikachu is a detective who’s lost his memory in a car crash that also ostensibly claimed the life of his partner Harry. Harry’s son, Tim, comes to the big city where humans and Pokemon coexist peacefully, to find out what happened, foil an evil industrialist, and other such 80s kids movie boilerplate bullshit.
Director Rob Letterman and Ridley Scott’s post-2000 DP John Mathieson show an array of influences in their admittedly eye-catching world-building. The clearly Blade Runner-indebted city design is pretty cool.
Otherwise, Ryan Reynolds is clearly trying his hardest to salvage what he can. I can report that the stuff that was funny in the trailers was, well, funny in the trailers.
Not exactly what you think of when you hear “Ridley Scott’s DP”, but ya know…
A lot of critics are praising Detective Pikachu for being weird, but really it’s just as weird as the Pokemon designs themselves. Outside of a mime interrogation scene that springs out of the fact that some sociopath made a mime pokemon card, there’s a clear dearth of original ideas that aren’t just transposed from other Pokemon properties- such as the 2016 Detective Pikachu 3DS game.
A lot of critics are also saying it’s for fans as an excuse for all its clear deficiencies elsewhere. I’m not sure that’s true, either- why overexplain all the stuff even casual and non-fans probably already know, but underexplain the world-building stuff, like the fact that every person is paired with their very own Pokemon and its weird not to have one even though not a single pairing appears particularly beneficial nor emotionally-driven?
What we are given instead of true originality is a paint by numbers coming of age plot template with obvious twists and rising strings meant to take the place of real emotion. If the screenwriters say they took more than a day to outline this thing I’d start auditing their expenses immediately.
Rob Letterman is going to go down as a particular type of popular Hollywood director who makes bullshit product with no soul, mark my words- like Raj Gosnell or Peter Hewitt or Jonathan Liebesman I bet he’ll be churning out sequels to this and other 4-quadrant-friendly bullcrap for the next decade at least.
Oh, look what else is on his resume…
What the film really suffers from is a weightlessness and lack of gravity and consequence all around. Everything is plastic and artificial, and I’m not just talking the overly smooth CGI cartoons roaming about. Literally nothing on the screen or in the plot makes you feel anything except for almost hilariously recent pings of nostalgia for Pokemon fans (presumably).
The starring duo, I guess, of Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton are pretty rough actors. Particularly Smith tries his hardest to add some pathos to this soulless mess, but both are certainly not cut out for hard-boiled dialogue or emoting to tennis balls on strings.
Remember, neither was Natalie Portman- it’s hard.
Ryan Reynolds does indeed try his best, but it feels like his quips were extemporaneous and added in post for much of the film. It’s clear there was essentially no humor that worked in the original script, so I figure several of the cutaways to a throw-away line from Pikachu were shot well after principal filming.
SPOILER ALERT IF YOU’RE IMMUNE TO THE MOST BASIC OF FORESHADOWING
Reynolds shows up in human form in the end, and he’s so haggard it’s disturbing. I think the making of this film drained his essence in a way even Green Lantern couldn’t.
Also… htf did Tim not recognize his own father’s voice coming out of Pikachu, like, ever?
Detective Pikachu is a soulless, predictable, largely boring CGI spectacle that may only be for die-hard fans, but not ones that are also film fans.
Detective Pikachu (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Pikachu drinks coffee
Take a Drink: every time a new Pokemon gets a solo shot
Take a Drink: every time we’re reminded that Psyduck freaking out is bad
Take a Drink: every time Mewtwo shows up
Do a Shot: for every reenactment of the car crash