I Don’t Choose ‘Detective Pikachu’, And Neither Should You

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I Don’t Choose ‘Detective Pikachu’, And Neither Should You

Sebastian Hunt, The Forum's Head Writer Of Film & TV

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★★

It’s hard to comprehend why I, of all people, am disappointed with Pokémon Detective Pikachu. I mean, it’s not as if I’m some huge Pokémon fan who went into this film with wild expectations – I haven’t played a Pokémon game in my life thus far and couldn’t name any more than three Pokémon characters if my life depended on it.

And yet, I’m disappointed in this film. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, despite the highly entertaining trailers, excellent effects, and presence of the always-likable Ryan Reynolds, is a merely average and above all else uninteresting cinematic debut for the Pokémon that’s really not worth seeing unless you’re a huge fan of the franchise.

But that’s not to say everything in this film is completely uninspired. As the trailers suggest, the film boasts some superb effects. The effects are pretty great all-around – but it’s the Pokémon themselves that are given the best treatment. Each and every creature is perfectly realized; never once do you believe that they are anything but real, breathing creatures.

Pikachu himself is given serviceable voice-over work by Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds’ performance is by no means an instant classic a lá Deadpool, but is enjoyable nonetheless. In case you haven’t caught on, the Pokémon really are the highlight of this film (as they should be).

Unfortunately though, the charm of the Pokémon doesn’t entirely rescue Detective Pikachu from it’s barrage of flaws – flaws that while not entirely derailing the film, make it an unsatisfying experience and hardly the one we were promised in the trailers.

The script is a major issue. Penned by four writers, Detective Pikachu’s screenplay is painfully surface-level and trite. Major story beats are entirely glossed over and rushed, a lot of the dialogue is poor, and the human characters are painstakingly archetypal.

Which brings me to perhaps the greatest of the film’s issues: the characters. Pikachu himself is fine; he’s not the problem. Rather, it’s the human characters that really cripple this film.

Lead actor Justice Smith gives a fine performance. Everyone acts fine – it’s their characterizations that really bring them down. Smith is given little to work with; his character is pretty forgettable. What’s worse is that, out of all the human characters, his is probably the best realized – other characters are given far, far worse treatment.

Take Kathryn Newton’s Lucy Stevens, for instance. Her arc is completely forgotten midway through the film, then picked up again near the end in an incredibly jarring and awkward scene. Not to mention that her onscreen romance with Smith is painfully forced.

But that’s nothing compared to the worst character in this film, Bill Nighy’s Howard Clifford. It’s hard to speak about his role without delving too deep into spoilers, so I’ll try to keep things as vague as possible. Without giving too much away, Nighy’s Clifford is without a doubt one of the worst-written, uninteresting, and mind-bogglingly stupid characters of his kind to appear in a blockbuster this decade.

I suppose this is the part where I say that the film actually has a lot going for it and isn’t as poor as I made it out to be, but I really have nothing else to say. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a mediocre, contrived, ultimately bland and forgettable film only made watchable by the charm of its central creatures. Unless you really love Pokémon, I’d pass on this one.

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