Before seeing Pokémon Detective Pikachu, a friend of mine who loves the franchise told me, “If you’re a fan of Pokémon you’ll love it. . . .” If you are keeping score at home, I do not fall into that category. I am not going to take the time to defend my nerd status. However, I never understood the fascination with any of the Pokémon craze. I did not get into the cartoon, I own none of the cards, and I certainly do not play any of the games surrounding the ubiquitous anime. But that is just my humble opinion, and as a film reviewer, I felt it was my duty to see a movie based on this multi-billion dollar, globe-spanning, cultural empire.
From the outset of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, I knew I was in trouble. Sitting here a couple of days later, I vaguely recall the opening sequence where Mewtwo (not that it really matters, but voiced by Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) breaks free of containment to commit what seems to be a murder, and then goes . . . somewhere. I have no idea. All I wrote in my notes was, “I have no idea what that opening sequence was about.” I guess that is kind of the point in such movies, but neither was I entirely interested in figuring it out before the inevitable conclusion of the film.
Another thing I am unclear about, and this was a question I had both before and after I watched Pokémon Detective Pikachu, was what is the exact relationship between humans and these creatures. Are Pokémon (and is that noun both singular and plural?) slaves to their human companions? There is the whole thing about them choosing their masters, but you never really see that process happen. Would understanding this dynamic have helped my enjoyment of the movie? I doubt it.
Poor Bill Nighy (Howard Clifford) and Ken Watanabe (Lieutenant Hide Yoshida). What were these two decorated actors doing in this schlock? Then again, the film industry is a business like any other, and Pokémon Detective Pikachu was an opportunity for a lucrative paycheck. Ryan Reynolds (voice of Detective Pikachu) I could understand more simply because he is younger and can take chances (look at his non-Deadpool movies to see how many chances he has taken). But even his sharp, witty lines could not save the film from one simple fact: I was completely bored and did not care about any of what was going on in the film. I am sorry. If you enjoy Pokémon, then by all means do not let me sway you.
Still, for all the stomach turning, eye-rolling cuteness of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, I would take it over Us any day of the week.