Heading into “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” without a necessary knowledge of the world at all doesn’t take away from its enjoyment as its metaphoric parallels definitely key into many universal themes. Going into the film with no true ideal beyond the fact that Ryan Reynolds was playing said Pikachu gave an interesting structure but not decidedly so. Justice Smith in the initial viewing does bear an undeniable resemblance to Will Smith who he is indeed not related to but this is only a compliment since the acting chops are there, though his technique needs to fall away since the inherent charisma shines through. It also makes the eventual resolution play quite well. While the reasoning of the Pokemon makes sense, it is only in later scenes including with a newspaper intern and her pokemon: a very nervous duck that it indeed registers almost as an Id of the person it connects with. This allows many of the scenes to work quite well. Reynolds did motion capture but was not on set per se but it is quite intensive how well it is created to make it feel that way. Pikachu is inherently Reynolds persona but it would have been nearly impossible to make it work in the room simply because of the size of the character.
Backing away from the technical though, a lot of the scenes feel organic while others are implemented for maximum FX effect. The ending is decidedly overwrought but the break in and escape from a facility from its trajectory to overall impact actually gives a true conception of the world, heart and all. It is in that moment that the Pokemon universe, even to the untrained, feels symbiotic. Reynolds slightly off-cut humor, which still stays inside PG bounds, works well though it would be interesting to perceive how much was improvised or actually recorded before the film shot. Justice’s reactions are fairly believable but it is interesting to debate what came first: Reynold’s performance or his. Reynolds also offers a bit of drama at one point which sometimes he downplays because there is a small divide between snarky and melodrama. Nevertheless the inherent themes of the film ring true even if the ending battle (despite having a hark back to the original 1989 “Batman” film) feels slightly empty. That said, “Detective Pikachu” plays the gamut of a complete story within the Pokemon gumshoe genre while still appealing to a multi-national and generational audience.
By Tim Wassberg