By Alex Skrapits (Wantagh)

 

Pokémon continues to be a growing franchise where it appeals to generations old and new. It also had a history of animated movies based on the longest-running anime. That is until, a U.S. live-action Pokémon film, based on a spin-off Nintendo 3DS game, was announced. As always, people were hyped yet worried and skeptical and always had the same reaction: “Oh, no. This is going to be one of THOSE movies where the filmmakers take artistic liberties and change a lot from the original source material.” Video game movies are commonly a bad trend of a curse in Hollywood since the Super Mario Bros. movie…with occasional exceptions.

However, when the trailer for Detective Pikachu was released, people were more hyped than ever for many reasons and admittedly, I was on the bandwagon.

To kick things off, the movie is based on the Detective Pikachu game that was released last Spring. It was a serviceable game with a neat concept, solid voice acting and simply decent gameplay that educate and entertain children on problem-solving. It is almost like describing Scooby-Doo. But, in comparison between the game and the movie, the movie is a vast improvement.

While the story may have its predictable moments, it maintains the story of finding Tim’s missing father in a more straight-forward and action-driven pace. The movie also provides an emotional weight and a message that fans would relate to about growing up and remembering the love they had for Pokémon during childhood. Not to mention some winks and nods from the games and anime throughout. As for newcomers that have little history with Pokémon, I wouldn’t recommend it as a strong introduction to the franchise…for obvious reasons. However, its creative world and atmosphere will make them feel welcome and entertained throughout.

The main highlight of the movie that is definitely worth praising since the trailer: the visual effects on the Pokémon. This is a prime example on visually crafting a character from game to film done right. Animated by the same studios that worked Guardians of the Galaxy and The Jungle Book (2016), the animators preserve the original Pokémon designs while giving them photo-realistic fur, feathers, skin and scales. The results make the Pokémon look more alive with NO sense of the uncanny valley. As for the environments, the aesthetics of Rhyme City and the natural landscapes combine and capture the feel of film noir and the Japanese cultural setting. At times, it felt like watching a Studio Ghibli film.

Without spoiling, most of the characters are basic and relatable while a couple of characters provide interesting depth and commentary on the world around them. The acting from the human cast is solid. But, the crowning-achieving performance goes to Ryan Reynolds as the titular character. With his quick, witty delivery and subtle motion capture, his portrayal of a coffee-drinking, talking Pikachu provides a lot of charm and heart to the film.

There are NO other words to describe this movie, but generally speaking, it is the best video game movie of all time! Here’s to hoping to aspiring filmmakers to look at this movie for reference on how to make a video game movie done right. If you’re a hardcore Pokémon fan, you’ll have a great time! If you’re new to Pokémon, it’s an entertaining flick to watch with family, kids and or friends.

FAN RATING:  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
GENERAL RATING:  RECOMMENDED

Rating: 4/5

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