Review: Detective Pikachu is the best Pokémon movie by far

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Let me open by saying that Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is 100% the best Pokémon movie ever made. Does that mean it’s the best movie ever? No way. As far as purely objective quality goes, this turned out to be a pretty good time at the cinema, but nothing mind blowing. For a Pokémon fan however, this was everything I could ever want, and probably the best time I’ve had with a movie since Avengers: Endgame.

Let’s talk story. Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman, a vaguely teenage-looking kid who lives in a town in the middle of nowhere. Everyone around him loves Pokémon. In fact, everyone has a Pokémon partner besides them. Not Tim. He’s grown sour on the critters because his dad, living it up as a big-time detective in Ryme City, spends more time with Pokémon than with him.

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One thing leads to another and Tim learns of his dad’s passing. Angry and confused, he makes his way over only to discover a talking Pikachu, one who is convinced that Tim’s dad is still alive. And so, the two begin to unravel a huge conspiracy that might just bring about the downfall of Ryme City.

That story is alright, as far as Pokémon movies go. I won’t say it’s the best story we’ve gotten from the franchise — that belongs to the Pokémon Black and White games – but it sure is a whole lot better than most recent animated movies from Hollywood.

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Unfortunately, that still doesn’t mean much. Detective Pikachu never seems to grasp its full potential; it never feels as grand or wondrous as a Pokémon story can and should. It plods along at a decent pace, never finds any high stakes, and reaches a generic climax. It’s all standard and predictable fare, especially after you’re an hour into the movie.

Characters come and go, but no one is given nearly as much development as they deserve besides the main duo: Tim and Pikachu. If anything, those two are played very well by Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds, the latter really earning his paycheck as the little yellow furball. The main mystery that unravels throughout the movie isn’t all bad either, serving up some cool little twists that viewers won’t see coming.

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The movie does one very important thing right, however, and that’s worldbuilding. It successfully sets up the Pokémon universe, while also dropping fun Easter eggs from the old animated films in the process. Every scene has at least one or two cool-looking creatures chewing on the background scenery. If you’re a fan, you may just end up playing a game of ‘Who’s that Pokémon?’ every five minutes.

This world where humans and Pokémon coexist also has a fantastic visual style. Detective Pikachu brings all these fan favourites to life on the big screen in a way I never thought possible. All of them retain their colourful personalities, chattering, moving, and interacting exactly how you’d imagine them to. Seeing Bulbasaur march around in a forest was a huge moment for me — it all just feels so right.

It’s clear that Detective Pikachu was made with a ton of love and care for the source material. At one point, Pikachu sings the original anime series’ theme song. During the credits, the entire cast are animated in the same vein as the anime series, with another familiar theme backing it all up. The Pokémon Company had made sure every aspect would be perfect for fans, so it’s a shame that they didn’t apply the same effort to touching up the story.

This movie isn’t just for Pokémon fans, though. It has such a strong cute factor that I can’t imagine anyone not liking it in the slightest. The CGI and Pokémon designs are so well done that everyone’s going to walk out wanting at least one Poké-partner out of the hundreds shown off on screen (get ready for more crowds at Pokémon Center Singapore).

I can see Detective Pikachu as an Iron Man of sorts, leading a new series of live-action Pokémon movies. However, there was absolutely no room for a sequel at the end, which leads me to believe that this was always just meant to test the waters. Personally, I loved it. I can’t wait to see more of this world down the line, and hopefully with better writing to accompany it.

Movie Rating: 8/10

Tim Augustin

Tim loves all sorts of things. Movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, cats and all that good stuff. What doesn't he love, you might ask? Minestrone soup. It is truly awful.