I love anime, and I love video games. Yet people keep trying and failing to make decent anime and video game adaptations. Warcraft back in 2016 was supposed to finally break the videogame curse, but it crashed and burned.
Tomb Raider starred Angelina Jolie and was supposed to benefit from its grounded elements, but it sucked and deserved the cold shoulder it drew at the cinema. Alita: Battle Angel is without doubt the greatest anime adaptation ever produced, but its box office performance was so lackluster that a sequel is unlikely to manifest.
Then came Detective Pikachu. It is fascinating because it counts both as an anime and a video game. The movie was greenlit in the wake of the ‘Pokémon Go’ craze, and it was supposed to tap into the fanaticism that the Pokémon name attracts.
Just in case you did not know, Pokémon is massive. The franchise is worth billions of dollars and in many circles, it goes toe-to-toe with Star Wars in terms of relevance. So, Detective Pikachu should have been a guaranteed success. Director Rob Letterman and his team deserve a lot of credit for the creative approach they took.
The movie takes the Warcraft route by delving just deep enough into the Pokémon lore to appeal to fans of the franchise while also telling a story that has the potential to hook the ignorant.
Rather than throwing audiences into the action-heavy world of the Pokémon of old, where pre-teens took their so-called pocket monsters on the road to partake in a series of challenges, Detective Pikachu takes a more intimate, almost grounded route.
Like most animals, Pokémon don’t speak, or at least they don’t talk in any manner that humans can understand. So when a detective dies, his son gets the shock of his life when he encounters his father’s Pokémon partner and realizes that he can communicate with the Pikachu in ways that should not be possible.
They join forces to solve his father’s murder and unravel a conspiracy involving a mysterious serum that makes Pokémon rabid. Detective Pikachu is chockful of Pokémon, Pokémon talk, and Pokémon action; so, Pokémon fans will love it.
And some like me, who have no real interest in Pokémon, will appreciate Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. But the movie largely fails to engage the adult mind. The story is simplistic and predictable, and makes for a decent 104 minutes of entertainment.