Nostalgia abounds in Pokemon’s first venture in live-action films. While the first half of the movie excellently builds a world brimming with potential for spin-offs and sequels, the pacing of this film struggles to remain consistent, resulting in stretches of uninteresting set pieces taking away from some of the more interesting reveals.
Undoubtedly, Ryan Reynolds provides the strongest performance in this film as the one and only Detective Pikachu. Reynolds is able to keep his crass humor, even though this film is clearly targeted towards children. Innuendos abound from the words of the electric mouse addicted to caffeine. At points in the first half, audiences will be laughing at the hysterical mix of the iconic Pokemon and the wit of Reynolds. However, when the film takes more serious turns, this combination is not as effective. It was hard to believe some of the later battles, given what has already been established in the film, albeit this is a movie about Pokemon, so that cinema flaw could be forgiven.
This is undoubtedly a strong success for the video game franchise. No one was expecting a riveting murder mystery from this film, and the movie’s plot has enough twists and turns to keep viewers invested. I won’t divulge into non-trailer spoilers, but I want to highlight the fantastic use of Mewtwo, harkening back to some of his initial intrigue in the first Pokemon animated movie.
In a way, I am more excited about the world surrounding these characters than the plot itself. The pacing is disappointing as the film originally excels at swiftly moving between action and comedy beats, yet a dull set piece completely takes the life out of the film, setting up an expedited climax and resolution that will likely leave viewers somewhat confused and exhausted. A focus on the famous Pokemon battles would likely benefit this franchise going forward. Hints at league championships and special Pokemon bonds will cross the nostalgia boxes for many fans, but this winds up being a case of too many conversations and not enough demonstrations.
The cast surrounding Reynolds is serviceable and doesn’t detract from the narrative. Everyone plays their part and allow the scene-stealing Pokemon to take over. Honestly, this is the smartest decision by the creative team as a world where people and Pokemon co-exist outside pokeballs is an interesting concept that also allows for comedic mayhem to thrive.
Remembering the target audience is likely younger than even the Marvel comics’ films, the clumsy plot and pacing can be forgiven. Kids will likely focus on the comedic utterings of a nervous Psyduck and a grizzled Pikachu, rather than the political and socio-economic repercussions of the cohabitation of Pokemon and humans. Lowering expectations will allow you to enjoy the film as a carefree entry into the world of Pokemon.