Now, I'll start off by saying I was never really big into Pokémon, so this review is from the point of view of someone who watched this purely as a movie. There is no influence of nostalgia, and I had no previous connections to any of these characters going into the film. I don't know if this has a huge impact on my opinion of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, but I found it difficult to see what all of the hype is about.
Originally, I thought the basic concept behind this film was interesting. Basically, Pokémon live in the same world as we do, and humans collect them and force them to battle each other. It's essentially a gladiator fight but with Pokémon (and the loser actually survives, at least from what I could see). Anyway, this guy Howard Clifford has created Rhyme City, a place where humans and Pokémon can coexist, and this is where our story takes place. Not a bad idea for the basic setting of a Pokémon film, and it did set up for some fun moments. In fact, this movie is at its best when it is simply bringing these Pokémon to life, creating some very cool scenes.
It's when we go beyond the basic concept to the actual story of this movie where things start to go downhill fast. Tim, the protagonist here, seems to be a normal guy (at least, normal for this Pokémon world) except for the fact that he doesn't have a Pokémon companion. I guess it's a "thing" for people in Rhyme City to bond with a Pokémon, kind of like a pet, and the human and Pokémon go everywhere and do everything together. However, also like a pet, humans have no mean of understanding their Pokémon, though it seems the Pokémon can understand them. Anyway, Tim gets a call from the police telling him that his dad, a detective, has died in a car crash, along with his Pokémon. Tim gets the keys to his dad's apartment, where he goes to look around at what he may have left behind. Here he finds Pikachu, a Pokémon that he can mysteriously understand, but no one else can. This sets the plot in motion, where we find out that Tim's father may not have died after all. Tim and Pikachu team up to discover who is behind all of this, and where Tim's dad is.
Now, maybe that doesn't sound too bad (though I found it to be a pretty weak premise). But the farther along we get through the story, the more ludicrous it gets. I mean, maybe I should have known what I was getting into with a Pokémon movie, but some of the things in this film were just flat-out ridiculous. This was also an incredibly predictable movie. Almost every major "twist" I had predicted from the very beginning of the film. It's one of those movies that make the most predictable move every single time; it's almost like they were trying to use as little creativity as possible. The plot here isn't just bad, it's outright horrendous.
The ending of this film is also just terrible. A Pokémon is used as a deus ex machina. A hopeless situation is reversed completely in a matter of seconds. We literally hear the line, "I will undo everything that has been done." Again, how unimaginative can you get? There was so much creativity when it came to bringing this weird, interesting world to life, and then it all vanished as soon as they had to actually write the script.
I was shocked when I learned that this film was only 104 minutes long. I was so incredibly bored at so many points that it felt well over two hours. That is, of course, never a good sign; you never want a movie to feel LONGER than it actually is.
This film had a $150 million budget, and it was very apparent watching it. The CGI is stunning; the Pokémon look amazing and Rhyme City is beautiful. The problem with the film is certainly not the visuals; it is, in fact, visually a very impressive movie. However, like so many great-looking films these days, there is no substance in the script to make the visuals be much of anything beyond something pretty to look at.
The character of Pikachu was actually quite dynamic and fun to spend time with. Beyond him, however, the rest of the characters are incredibly bland and one-dimensional. The main protagonist himself is unlikeable and does nothing to justify his screen time; he is simply an uninteresting character. The character of Lucy is one of the most annoying on-screen presences I've seen in a while. Again, an unlikeable character that I had no incentive to root for. When you find yourself not caring whether or not the main characters will succeed, there really is no longer a point in watching the movie. In that sense, the makers of this film failed miserably.
The one bright spot here is Ryan Reynolds as the titular character, Pikachu. He brings loads of energy and enthusiasm into this role, and even though we can't actually see his face, I could see that he was really into this character. I applaud him for that, especially considering he may have actually saved this from being among the worst films of the year with his performance. Perhaps the one thing keeping me awake was the energy Reynolds brought into each scene. There was a noticeable change in the mood and atmosphere when Pikachu enters the film; it goes from boring and lifeless to vibrant and even a little fun. I don't even want to think about where this film is without Reynolds.
As for the rest of the cast, it felt like they were straight out of a Nickelodeon show, other than Ken Watanabe (who I wish had a much bigger role). There are several "actors" in here that I don't see having much of a future in the acting business. Justice Smith was just not good. His performance was lifeless and created a character that I found it very hard to like. It was even worse because his performance was very important for the film. He really had to nail his role for the movie to work the way it was intended, but he came up way short of where he needed to be. No one else stepped up either, so the film was put almost entirely on the shoulders of Ryan Reynolds, and despite his talent, he can't carry a movie by himself.
Before I end this, I would like to say that this whole Pokémon movie concept was actually really cool, and I might watch a sequel to this if they can apply more imagination to the script, and maybe cast better actors. It just seems a shame to waste this cool, interesting idea on whatever this film was. Maybe they'll figure out how to properly do this some day.
Overall, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a massive disappointment. The film's budget allows for some incredible CGI, and Ryan Reynolds provides a fun, energized screen presence. But an unimaginative plot and bland, unlikeable characters make for a decidedly boring movie.
Review by gandalf_theWise14 from the Internet Movie Database.