MonMon: Hey. Enjoy my post and enjoy Detective Pikachu. All hail the Pokemon Cinematic Universe (PCU).
It was 1 in the morning. The day was Friday, May 10th. I woke up to a call from Q-ichi. When I answered the call, I was greeted with childish jeering and he told me that he has just finished watching Detective Pikachu. Turns out that the movie airs on May 9th in my region. That idiot found out about it in the evening and just managed to book a late night showing. I hung up on him before he could gloat anymore. So in the afternoon, I bought a seat and watched the first live action Pokemon movie.
The movie starts off with the main character.. Uh.. Something Goodman. Dammit.
Tim Goodman! Thank you, Wikipedia.
So, Tim. He is the lonely kid in his town. He has some bad history. Anyway, he received more depressing news about his father, Harry Goodman. His father had died in a car crash and Tim is called to collect his belongings in Ryme City.
Ryme City. A haven for humans and Pokemon. A Pokemon Zootopia.
Tim finds himself in his dad's apartment, confused with the loss of his father. Then a noise in the other room. Armed with a stapler, Tim checks it out to find...
The most adorable realistic CGI Pikachu. Thank you current year technology.
Suddenly, much to Tim's surprise, the Pikachu starts talking to him. When Tim talks back, the Pikachu is surprised Tim could understand him. Then Pikachu tells Tim that his father is alive. And thus the unlikely duo begins an investigation adventure in Ryme City. Encountering all sorts of Pokemon and interacting with them. Following leads and uncovering clues to the disappearance of Tim's father.
Pokemon Detective Thriller!
Based on that short summary, the movie should be pretty interesting, right? Well, yes, it is. The Pokemon looks amazing. Updated with realistic fur and voices, the Pokemon look so real that showing them beside real humans is not a contrasting experience. Heck, watching the scenes Ryme City made me wish I could live in the world of Pokemon.
I don't care what kind of job I'll take in that world. I'd be a farmer just to live in a world of Pokemon.
.. And that's it. That's all the praise I can give. The experience is.. Okay. As in the good kind of 'Okay'. I went in expecting cool Pokemon redone into a live action setting and I got what I wanted. And that's it. The rest of the movie; the story, the characters; they come off a bit disappointing. Because frankly, the story and characters are nothing great to talk about. The investigation adventure that the movie hinted at? It is just aimless fumbling from one lead to another. The heroine of the story.. Uh.. Tim’s human partner in his adventure is also not that much of a character. She has an assertive persona, but that blows away pretty quickly into the movie and her presence is not significant; often overshadowed by Tim and Pikachu.
Lucy Stevens! Damn, I can only remember her Psyduck.
The antagonist, which is supposed to be the main driver of the story, is also highly incompetent. There are so many instances where the antagonist unnecessarily expose themselves or just allow the heroic duo to foil their plans in the most contrived way possible. There is one scene where the villain carries out their plan and the only thing stopping them is just a few feet away from Tim. Ooof, that part of the movie just solidified the sheer incompetence of the villain.
There are many ways the villain could carry out their plan, but they chose to give the heroes the ‘self-destruct button’.
Understandably, the movie may have been simplified to appeal to a broader audience. Tim, Pikachu and the other pokemon seems to take the center stage for the movie. This is an admirable focus, but at a cost of shallow characters and a shoddy plot. Tim and Pikachu are the only ones who have some depth to their character and many scenes center on them.
A bonding scene between Tim and Pikachu.
Other characters played minimal roles. They just do their part in driving the story and then leave. Literally. There is one scene where Lucy literally just excuses herself from the scene even though it makes a lot more sense for her to stick together. That logic was jarring as I watched it. There is also one scene that dragged one for too long and it is entirely unnecessary. If that scene is cut out and the scenes that come before and after it are tweaked a bit, the movie can still progress as normal. It only serves as a punchline to a previous joke and forces a dramatic scene that loses its impact rather quickly.
That scene was a CGI obstacle course and it annoyed me the entire time.
Now, this is where my gripes come full circle. I did mention that the best aspect of Detective Pikachu, the stars of the movie, are the Pokemon, right? Well, even though I like them the most in the movie, I still have a problem with them. Because the Pokemon were so beautifully crafted in the movie, they were doing what they were designed to do. Stand there and look pretty. That's all?! There is a plethora of ways to showcase Pokemon! And they are barely featured in the one thing they are known for.
Pokemon are amazing creatures with amazing abilities! When you showcase Pokemon, you should also showcase their abilities. And these abilities are really put forth in Pokemon battles. Sadly, they are extremely rare in the movie. Obviously, this will put a hefty load on the movie budget, so the movie only showed some Pokemon abilities spread out through the movie. Alright, I’ll overlook this since the budget is a limiting factor. But I will not overlook Ryme City. A city that make Pokemon battles illegal when Pokemon battles are synonymous with the Pokemon brand. A sly way to excuse yourself of making Pokemon battles in the movie. Shame on you!
There is also this moment that was shown in the trailer. Turns out that this is not in the movie. The clip is made solely to dramatize the trailer since what comes after is not suitable for the kids.
Whoof.. A huge chunk of this post is criticizing the film. Detective Pikachu is a good experience. So let’s put more focus on the best part of the movie. The Pokemon. Calling them ‘beautifully crafted’ is not enough to describe them. Each Pokemon is unique and is modeled to be similar to animals of the real world. Pokemon will have their own groups. Reptilian, mammals, birds and the such. And their voices are redone to mimic animal calls instead of using voice actors to give Pokemon a human voice.
Some Pokemon still talk in their own respective names, though.
Genuine effort, attention and care was put in researching and creating the Pokemon models. For over a year, director Rob Letterman and his team flew back and forth to Tokyo to meet with The Pokémon Company. With creative input of the direct creators of the Pokemon, they recreated the Pokemon that looks real while retaining their original appearance. A quote from the Letterman:
"We wanted it to be authentic. It's a love letter to Pokémon fans, first and foremost. To get that right, we really had to get it right with the original creators of Pokémon. The original designers of the characters gave notes directly on all the concept art."
Have a look at Psyduck’s eyes. To make the eyes realistic while maintaining its dopey look, the iris of the eyes is enlarged and colored white like the sclera of the eye. Magnificent craftsmanship.
And boy did it pay off. The public loved the designs and the box office echoes similarly. $ 58 million opening weekend, making it the biggest opening weekend for a video game adaptation. The movie is a likely success and the very start of an ambitious project, the Pokemon cinematic universe. Since Marvel cinematic universe have been smashing the box office for over 10 years, every franchise have been gunning for a cinematic universe. Pokemon is looking to have a good shot to have one.
Can you imagine it? This universe will be HUGE. May even trump Disney’s MCU in the future.
With many video game titles as well as a long running anime series, there is so many material for them to work with. And what’s more, the Pokemon models used in Detective Pikachu can be reused again in future movies. This literally slashes the production budget by a significant margin and more Pokemon can be added to the roster as more movies are made. And it doesn’t even have to be a series. Like the video games, the movies can be a standalone with its own story in a unique region with its own Pokemon.
That is an ambitious plan of epic proportions.
So that’s why it’s grating to see the first movie stumble in the story and characters. I guess they are showcasing the Pokemon alone. Much like Avatar selling its CGI that was revolutionary at the time. Look at Avatar now. Highest grossing movie of all time but everyone hardly remember it. However, Pokemon is a different story. A completely different story. Future movies will be better. Pokemon battles will finally be added. I will forget my gripes with Detective Pikachu and remember it as the movie that kickstarted a massive Pokemon cinematic universe.
So should you watch Detective Pikachu? Absolutely. I may be airing my disappointments in this post but this movie is one that you should at least experience once. Preferably in a cinema. You can make a more educated decision on whether to watch it again, buy the dvd/Bluray when it releases, or stop after your first watch.
Is this movie good enough for the kids? Yes. Show them Detective Pikachu. It will be the greatest thing in the world for them. And if they happen to be fans of Pokemon? This movie will blow their minds. So bring the family to watch it. It is a good family experience to remember.
If you are a Pokemon fan, watch it as much as you like. This movie is made for you. Be it fans that grew up with the first generation, up to the kids that played with the latest version of the Pokemon game, there is something in the movie to enjoy.
Now a call to arms.
Be sure to put your opinion out there. All of it. Your satisfactions and disappointments. Make sure they reach Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, and The Pokemon company. This is their first movie in their attempt at a Pokemon cinematic series. They should be doing the smart thing and listening to feedback about the movie. There is room for improvement and improving where they are lacking is a benefit for everyone. Do it. Do it for the Pokemon cinematic universe.
PS: Bulbasaur is incredibly adorable. The cutest thing in the entire movie. With its cute design and a cute animal call, I ‘aww’ed out loud in the theater.
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