Pikachu's Imagination Wins Over Its Lackluster Script
There is an incredibly unique world filled to the brim with majestical cute animals living amongst a Tokyo like metropolis coinciding with humanity. Underneath that spectacular environment, however, is a cliched uninspired script that's more invested in the visuals than its story — having grumbled over that my time spent with "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" was original enough in its charm and design where I would recommend it to almost anyone looking for a casual fun time. Dissimilar to most video game adapted films "Detective Pikachu" aims for something imaginative opposing it to recreating our favorite levels from the material which the film is based on. The failure in many video game to film adaptations is their inherent need to recreate elements from the game only slightly altered to what the director thinks will translate to film. "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" attempts the same but with the exception that the translation of these elements serves a purpose for a world that is different but doesn't stray too far from the original material. It's not like "Super Mario Bros" from 1993 that took everything everyone loved about Mario then tossed it in the garbage dimension that King Koopa inhabited. It's also not like "Doom" from 2005 that seemed to be only made for its first-person perspective scene with a plot negligently written around it. From my limited knowledge of Pokémon, I was dumbfounded by how such an unadaptable property for a live-action American film was successfully translated into a tangible dynamic landscape. This is one of the very few times when watching a video game to film adaptation that I didn't feel the need to get up from my chair in the middle of the movie. There is another film which I believe does achieve its credit where it was lambasted despite its achievements, "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" but that's another discussion to be had.
Even with my glowing praise for its originality a film can either live or die by its script. The script of "Detective Pikachu" was written by four men, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, and Derek Connolly. The overall story was structured by two of those men, Samit, and Hernandez with THANKFULLY the assistance of one woman, Nicole Perlman and lastly was based upon the material made by six people from Japan. With so many hands in the pot, it might have been challenging to write something concise amongst a committee. The result is an adequate script that shares itself with the likes of "Tron Legacy" where much of the audience's interest will rely on how much someone knows about the material. It's almost like "The Force Awakens" if "The Force Awakens" never had a moment to breathe (which it almost didn't anyway). So often are our characters moving from one point to another that we are not allowed any time to invest in them. The committee is too busy referencing things that I don't know or care about with an extremely simple plot to supplement itself with as the foundation for its references.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) has a distant tumultuous relationship with his father; he finds out his old man has been killed in a fatal accident. The information is given to the audience via a phone call where we can't hear who's on the other line. Through the masterfully worded dialogue that will surely stand the test of time next to Rhett Butler's ending taunt "frankly my dear I don't give a damn" Tim says "There was an accident. My father's dead." almost directly to the camera. Such brilliance! Tim gets sprayed with magical purple smoke allowing him to understand his late father's Pikachu turning our protagonist into a semi "Dr. Dolittle." Through Pikachu, Tim realizes his dad may be alive. He runs into a girl/love interest who can help him on his quest. There's a conspiracy by an evil corporation, a series of flashbacks, the villains master plan, a climactic CGI fight and resolution with a predictable plot twist, oh and time travel, because everything in every movie these days can be fixed with time travel.
Each step of this script is predictable. We know the next scene that's going to happen ten minutes before it occurs. The biggest sin of all is that we barely get to know our characters. They're too busy quipping, trying to win our approval that we don't know any of their flaws or what drives them other than what is vital to the plot. Screenwriting 1.0.1 always states that your character needs an apparent fault. We don't have that. What makes a property like "The Avengers" work is that we know our central character's weaknesses. Iron Man has an inflatable ego where he has trouble listening to others. Captain America can't let go of his past causing him to make selfish choices in the present. With no depth, even in a film about Pokémon, we have a luminous environment marred by a dank story.
The young actors in this film try so hard bless their souls to be as enjoyable as possible. I appreciated how quirky Justice Smith was. Kathryn Newton seems to have the potential to make more out of her character Lucy Stevens but is limited to her gender, probably because a group of four men wrote her and didn't know how to add a woman into the story. Ryan Reynolds who voices Pikachu carries the film with his PG rendition of a "Deadpool" persona sending quips that land more than everyone else. He's a natural improviser and deliverer of comedic dialogue. When he needs to be serious, he can be genuine. Reynold's voice acting provides a depth to Pikachu that saves the film from sinking the audience's attention. Everyone else is just an archetype; Ken Watanabe is the Japanese character because the material was written in Japan, Bill Nighy is the CEO who I'm confident won't turn out to be the bad guy. Chris Geere is the CEO's son who's our Trump Jr. Nothing much to see here folks.
Luckily there was enough imagination in "Pokémon Detective Pikachu" to win over my cynical heart. As a kid who never got into Pokémon, I watched this picture then said to myself "yeah I get it." The Pokémon are cute yet sturdy. I want to collect more of them on my Pokemon Go app now. MY GOD WHAT HAVE A I BECOME?! You see kids commercialism works. Despite a murky script, an absorbing world crawls its way out of the muck providing this old grinch a slight warmth in his heart, but more work needs to be done for future installments. Characters need to be developed beyond the surface. There's a tremendous potential for a sequel that I wouldn't mind seeing. Gotta catch all those bucks. Pikachu was cute enough to catch my attention at least for a little while.