Forget the trials and tribulations of avoiding Avengers: Endgame or Game Of Thrones spoilers, the real difficulty people will face is avoiding Pokémon: Detective Pikachu spoilers. We're talking Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense spoiler potential with this movie.
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Not only is there a major reveal in the magical sense, but it is followed with a prestige that some people will just blurt out without realizing what a fundamental aspect that having that reveal play out to the audience will have. So, be warned.
This review is a SPOILER-FREE review, not every review that has just gone live after the embargo lifted will be as kind. And the movie isn't released in the US and UK for another week.
So what about the movie as a whole? Well, we have a young man who already lost his mother when young, and raised by his grandmother, having to deal with losing a father who he never knew. And doing so through a medium of a Pikachu that can talk – and wears a deerstalker – finding out what happened to his father, and a conspiracy of power and Pokemon.
Based on the game of the same name, it does quite a successful job of preserving and replicating aspects of that storyline while also going on a much different story with a greater scale. And it achieves that with its portrayal of Ryme City. Now, the film wants to be a great world building adventure but doesn't quite get there. We get glimpses but we don't get as full an idea of what it is to live in Ryme City, as we do in, say, Valerian, Mortal Engines or your average Pixar movie.
However, it does great an interesting place of balance, of Pokémon living and working with each other, and forming special bonds that most remind one of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books, humans and their dæmons. That Pokémon and human can't communicate directly makes this less likely – could you really take orders from a traffic cop if all they could say is 'Machamp Machamp Machamp'? However, it does make the freakouts caused as part of the conspiracy all the more dangerous when there is no way to talk your way out of it. And keeping the cartoony 'unreal' look of the Pokemon, even as they are meant to be live-action CGI creations helps them blend in and create a reality of their own without any danger of dipping into any uncanny valleys. Right, Sonic?
The humour is light, and deftly designed for multiple audiences and is pretty much suitable for all ages – may be a little hand holding during the battle scenes but that will be all. And it's Ryan Reynolds who really bridges this gap, the voice of the titular Pikachu, and who gives this film its sardonic wit and saving it from becoming either too light and whimsical or too laden by it its own self-importance. It's remarkable to see a whole film tied together by one voiceover, but he did it most of the time in Deadpool and he does it here too.
Justice Smith as Tim Goodman opposite Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens seem to be trying a little too hard to replicate the classic screwball comedy roles but thankfully Pokemon serve to fill the gaps. Bill Nighy and Chris Geere make a great double act, the star of Love Actually as Howard Clifford, the loveable genius behind Ryme City and human/Pokémon relations, the star of Ill Behaviour as his ungrateful son Roger with machinations of his own. How this all ties in with 's father's death plays out through the movie. The plot, the conspiracy, the plan gets a little byzantine for its own good, with non-linear reveals stacked on top of each other that comes in such a flurry that they help disguise that not everything makes total or relatable sense but hey, when in life does it?
This film is not one of the greatest films of the year, but it is a lot of fun, is a lot better than it had any right to be, and makes for a good time for all. Just watch those spoilers, okay?
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu will be released on May 10th in the UK and USA. It released in Japan earlier this week.
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