An Adorable Mystery Adventure
By Casey Lee
In a time when video-game adaptations have not tasted the same success as its comic-book counterparts, exactly how would a movie of not just about Pokemon, but also has a Pikachu who is a detective and wears a hat, fare? Well apparently, a box-office success!
When Legendary Pictures and The Pokemon Company signed the rights in 2016 to make the first live-action adaptation of the Pokemon franchise, it was mostly assumed that they would base the adaptation on the animated series that turned the franchise into the phenomenon that it is today. Instead, when director Rob Letterman came on-board to direct and decide what that adaptation would be, he was fascinated by a little spin-off which had a canon-breaking Pikachu in a hat and would speak in a gruff voice. That very decision could have been a turning point that would spell doom for the live-action debut of the franchise, but to our surprise, it became the most probable reason why the movie was saved from a fate similar to other video-game adaptations.
In a fictional world when the rules of Pokemon are known and observed, Ryme City is an exception. Built in search of a cure for a terminal disease, Howard Clifford's visionary city is a place where Pokemon and humans can live side-by-side freely instead of being engaged in endless battles and trapped inside Poke balls. When a detective from the the Ryme City Police Department is presumably killed in a road accident, his estranged son Tim (Justice Smith) is called to the city to settle any remaining businesses of the deceased. There, he stumbles upon his father's partner a.k.a. the titular Pokemon, who seems to have a special connection with him and a lost memory.
For a franchise that is centered on psychic ducks, electrical rodents, and a carp that turns into a water dragon, making the world believable without being too cartoonish would be the biggest challenge for its worldbuilding. However, due to the amount of attention that was put into getting it right, its biggest challenge became its biggest strength. Using the CG team that has been responsible for bringing animals to life in the live-adaptation of Disney classics, the animation does not only depict a photo-realistic version of the iconic Pokemons but also includes their distinctive and trademark quirks, making the presence not just noticeable, but also charming, if not downright adorable. Humans and Pokemons in Rhyme City do not look out of place side-by-side and they even behave naturally as though that is how things have always been in the world. As the voice of Pikachu, Ryan Reynolds still manages to keep an upbeat tone even without the swearing and snarky remarks as Deadpool.
Unfortunately, the plot is like a children's mystery novel at best. Though there are twists and turns to give momentum to the plot, it is still somewhat predictable. That doesn't decrease the enjoyment of the ride though, as the level of villainy is characteristic of the animated series. Nevertheless, the screenwriters still made the effort in creating much coherence in the rather cliche plotline, when other video-game adaptations would have often taken the lazier (and often damaging) way out to make a contrived story. Legendary Pictures and the Pokemon Company may have stumbled upon a viable cinematic universe (with an announced sequel in the works), since they are off to a good start with the movie garnering success.