Film Preview: Detective Pikachu

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After filming at the start of this year in London, “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” will be released on May 10, 2019. Based on the Nintendo 3DS video game of the same name, this film looks to be a unique adaptation of the long-running franchise and hopefully give a shot in the arm to the oft-derided subgenre of video game movie adaptations.

While there are some creative liberties taken, the film seems to roughly follow the plot of the video game it’s based on: Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a young man who has come to Ryme City to search for his missing father under the supervision of Lieutenant Yoshida (Ken Watanabe). One night, Tim is greeted in his apartment by a snarky Pikachu in a hunting cap (voice of Ryan Reynolds); and the two form an unlikely bond to help find Tim’s father and unravel a greater conspiracy that could threaten the Pokémon world.

The film, which was originally going to be distributed under Universal Pictures, is now going to see Legendary partner once again with Warner Brothers Pictures. The two companies previously worked together on big franchises such as “Godzilla” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” WB also previously distributed the first three “Pokémon” movies under their Kids’ WB banner. The film will be the first “Pokémon” movie and overall live-action adaptation of a Nintendo game in many years to see a wide release in theaters as a result.

Rather than a direct adaptation of the anime or one of the main games, this film looks to be a new incarnation set in the same fictional universe; with the possibility of a straightforward adaptation at another time (the latest anime film in the series, “The Power of Us,” has been given an English dub and brief theatrical run ahead of a release on home media). Though, bringing the Pokémon world to life was never going to be an easy task, the filmmakers have risen admirably to the occasion.

While seeing the title character and numerous other Pokémon being rendered in realistic CGI may seem jarring at first for some, overall; the characters are represented far more faithfully than many other video game adaptations such as the infamous 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie. Old favorites such as Charizard as well as newer monsters like Greninja are full of personality, and the designs are overall easier to swallow than redesigns in recent live-action versions of “Transformers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” A standout scene in the trailer is a depiction of Mr. Mime that’s savage without saying a single word. Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the title character comes off like a PG-rated version of his role in the “Deadpool” films. Ryme City itself combines natural environments with a fusion of European architecture and neon-lit, Far East-influenced cityscapes that bring to mind the rendition of Gotham City in 1995’s “Batman Forever.”

While it remains to be seen how the film will do, it’s clear that “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” will be an interesting film to keep an eye on when it releases on May 10, 2019.

Story by Steven Pryor

At a Glance:

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Ken Watanabe, Kathryn Newton and Rita Ora with Ikue Ohtani and Bill Nighy
Directed by: Rob Letterman (based on the video game by Nintendo and Creatures, Inc.)
Release Date: May 10, 2019

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