The constant reinvention and resurgence of the Pokémon franchise is impressive, with the company finding ways over the years to remain relevant and appeal to its audience decade by decade, in a fast-growing world with a short attention span.
'Detective Pikachu', then, has a lot riding on it as the first live-action film interpretation of the world this phenomenon has built... So how does it fare?
That's a pretty loaded question, considering the amount of things to break down, but the short version is: This film is a success.
'Detective Pikachu''s main setting is a place called Ryme City, a landscape filled with skyscrapers and neon-lit alleyways, and the world-building here is impressive. It's a place where Pokémon and humans coexist, and honestly... Heaven. I want to live here. It feels incredibly real, not only as a location but as a place with personality and depth.
As for the Pokémon who inhabit Ryme City, they're all gorgeous and more importantly, they don't all feel one-note. There are shy Pokémon, Pokémon full of attitude, sassy Pokémon. The detailing of their features is admirable, with a lot of work evidently having gone into their creation. Some of them look so fluffy you just want to cuddle them and never let go.
Casting is pretty spot-on too. It took a second for Justice Smith to warm up, with a scene or two in the beginning feeling a little forced, but I believed him more as the movie progressed. Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu was a decision met by raised eyebrows and question marks above heads, but it works. If you're worried you're going to be watching 'Deadpool' in Pokémon form, let go of that worry. Ryan is famous for a particular type of humour so though it does border on feeling awfully familiar, there's something fresh about his portrayal. And charming.
Kathryn Newton is a wonderful addition to the 'Detective Pikachu' cast with her willingness to solve a case, and on-screen chemistry between her and Justice Smith is evident here too. She plays the role of confident and independent woman stunningly, presenting herself as something of a figure which little girls can look up to.
Bill Nighy and Chris Geere are well-cast too, and some random cameos by music producer Diplo and pop artist Rita Ora are pleasant surprises.
The plot moves at a great pace, and the action is injected marvellously throughout, making the film an enjoyable watch with plenty of well-written dialogue and some great interactions between not only human cast members, but Pokémon too – an exchange in the back of a car between Pikachu and Psyduck is particularly hilarious.
For die-hard Pokémon fans, there may be one or two deal-breakers, for example there's one – count it, one – Pokémon battle throughout the entire film. But in saying that, this plot isn't about Pokémon battles, it's a side-step from the classic “gotta catch 'em all” stuff which aims to expand what, say, the general public already know about the franchise. And it's based on a 2016 game of the same name.
In conclusion, expect to be surprised by just how good the treatment of this idea is. The characters are beautiful and genuinely feel like real animals wandering the streets. Though it could certainly stand on its own as a singular entity, I would not be surprised if 'Detective Pikachu' was the beginning of a string of films. Nor would I be angry. Bring them on.