At some point you’ve probably tried to catch them all. Whether it was via playing cards, on your cherished Gameboy, or via the world-dominating app many of us will have wrestled with a Pokemon at some point.
The global phenomenon, which ran for more than 1,000 TV episodes and was gifted new life by Pokemon Go, now has a live action film to add to its expansive repertoire. Thankfully, it’s a fun, dynamic affair, even if the story lacks a bit of bite. Above all, a Snorlax this ain’t.
Following the death of his detective father Harry, 21-year-old Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is pulled into the fray to work out what happened. Having long since given up his dream of being a Pokemon trainer, Tim is reluctant to be drawn into his father’s world; a world which sees Pokemon and humans living harmoniously within the sprawl of Ryme City.
It is only the appearance of intrepid reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and the titular hero (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) which prompts him into action. Along the way he encounters benevolent creators (Bill Nighy), gruff detectives (Ken Watanabe) and, somewhat out of the blue Rita Ora, who plays a pioneering scientist. Unsurprisingly, Tim discovers that the paradise of Ryme City is under threat, with an iconic Pokemon looming on the horizon.
Despite its impending doom, Ryme City is a stunning canvass for the action. Featuring a fusion of metropolitan London, futuristic Tokyo and a lashing of steampunk, there is a compelling texture to the whole place. This is accentuated by the presence of the Pokemon, who bring pops of colour and mischief to every frame.
This visual splendour continues into some really arresting set pieces. An underground battle arena pops and fizzes with imagination. Meanwhile, a tentative walk through an abandoned testing facility allows the film to lean into its noirish, mysterious elements effectively.
Narratively, the noir element to the film is slightly less taut. Though there are occasional twists and turns, the overall arc does feel somewhat predictable. Now, if this was being marketed as solely a kid’s film this would be understandable. Yet, the film’s focus is slightly muddled. Arguably overlong for children, the film is more comfortable appealing to nostalgic 90s kids. There is fun for everyone here, it’s just not clear who the film is pitched at.
These narrative wobbles are sured up by a fun interplay between the main characters. Justice Smith brings a laconic, droll energy to Tim, something which melds nicely with the caffeine-addled hyperactivity of Ryan Reynolds’ Pikachu and the earnestness of Kathryn Newton’s reporter. It is to the film’s credit that the human elements are able to work so well independently of the Pokemon.
And though the film’s closing salvo is fairly standard superhero-esque fare, the rest of the film bounces charmingly. Reynold’s voice work anchors the film comedically, but he is surrounded by a talented, charming cast. Though Detective Pikachu may not quite catch them all, it gives it a valiant effort.