Detective Pikachu is one of the many Pokémon spin-off games. Instead of collecting and trading Pokémon for boxing matches (I keep seeing people likening it to cock fights and stuff but these aren’t fights to the death…in-universe anyway) you use them to perform other tasks to help you progress through the game. In this game’s case you play a kid who can understand the title Pikachu (chosen because Ash’s “God-Chu” has elevated that species to popularity even if you don’t play any of the game series) and together you have to solve a mystery. It’s this game that has led to a movie adaptation.
A live-action…movie adaptation.
Live-action video games movies are terrible adaptations. Some of them aren’t even good movies, but that’s a different discussion. Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to translate a video game to a movie, even if the video game already has a deep story and lore as well as cinematic cutscenes. They keep wanting to make it a loose adaptation but sometimes it’s so loose that it barely resembles the game in question. It’s like not-stalgia movies in that way. And they’ve got Ryan Reynolds playing Pikachu and Justice Smith as the kid. (I haven’t played the game but apparently the kid is supposed to be…let’s be honest, not “white” but Japanese. It’s Japan. Black people are rarer there than any joke you can make about a US town. But I bet nobody complains they didn’t get a Japanese teen to play him.) Could this be the game that finally gets a proper live-action adaptation? My guess is no but let’s look at the trailer anyway.
I’ll say this for it. For the first time Pokémon were animated realistically they did a good job. I did read someone complaining about Pikachu’s tail not working like a real tail but that’s because they didn’t get ridiculous with the translation from 2D/3D cartoonish style to “real world” style. It’s just real enough to fit with the live-action but still cartoon enough to be recognized as the Pokémon they’re supposed to be. And they got the age of the protagonist right as well as the game’s plot. That’s mindblowing right there coming from Hollywood. Usually, the trainer you play is 13, but in this game he’s 18.
In the game (granted I researched this because I never even finished Pokémon Yellow), you play Tim Goodman, who is looking for his missing father, Harry. How Tim and Pikachu meet seems to be different than Wikipedia suggests but Tim is somehow able to understand what this particular Pikachu is saying, which is weird because he doesn’t talk, or at least he doesn’t speak (insert language the game is sold in here). However, the game doesn’t seem to end with finding Harry, which I have a feeling the movie might.
I don’t know what else is changed. Is Tim a failed trainer in the game? I don’t really know. Also, I understand getting Justice Smith. No, he’s not one of Will Smith’s kids, but he has acted in enough productions that kids might have seen. But why is Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu? You can’t see the actor. You could have used the performer from the US dub of the game and nobody would have cared. (I could have sworn there was an anime movie but I can’t find it.) I guess they want Reynolds doing the talk shows. Whatever gets him to stop making those stupid Toonblast ads I guess.
Could the movie be good? Trailer looks okay. Will it be a good adaptation? Given the movie industries track record I rather doubt it. We’ll find out for sure next year when it hits theaters.