Live action movie adaptations of video games have never been the best idea, history has taught us well; it seems agreed at this stage that the forever iconic Sonic the Hedgehog's upcoming adaptation could be yet another rich example of this, despite the studio's admittedly impressive efforts to ensure a positive outcome following some atrocious initial feedback. But, amongst all this, one surprising result has come from Hollywood's bizarre efforts to turn these video game worlds into overly complex live action narratives; one widely praised as possibly the very best effort to date, in the form of Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
Inspired by the titanic franchise that I'm sure almost every soul on Earth has at least heard of, but more specifically a spinoff game for the Nintendo 3DS released last year, Detective Pikachu follows former Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) on a search for his missing father, police detective Harry Goodman; a man presumed deceased by many but who Tim believes is still out there somewhere. On his travels, he soon befriends an incredibly intelligent Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that only he can understand, also learning that he too has a connection with Harry and seeks to find him just as Tim as does.
Arguably the most difficult task when making a film like this is of course bringing the colourful and vibrant designs of the numerous titular critters we're all so used to seeing in 2D artwork, old school sprites, or simple 3D in game models into a live action world, maintaining their core designs whilst making them fit in with the world around them. For the most part, Detective Pikachu does an excellent job of this. Our eponymous hero, performed superbly by Ryan Reynolds, maintains the core look of a classic character without feeling at all conspicuous in this live action setting. This praise can be applied to most of the other Pokémon seen throughout; perhaps there are a few times where the CGI awkwardly stands out, which usually just comes down to the design of the Pokémon itself, but for the most part everything has been exceptionally handled on an aesthetic level. Such credit the film's many set pieces also deserve; some are admittedly rather noisy and do drag a little, but they largely deliver an entertaining and exciting ride.
In terms of story, Detective Pikachu does its best to provide some interesting twists and turns to keep audiences hooked and to avoid being too predictable as it goes on. Perhaps the key flaw with its narrative simply comes down to many events occurring simply because they do; a lot of key plot elements don't always make perfect sense and feel extremely forced. A film like this doesn't need to be insanely complex with its narrative, though certain contrivances can make things feel a bit rushed; several key characters don't always feel as interesting as one would hope they'd be. For the most part, it's relatively engaging and fun, and certainly bolstered by a strong cast who deliver solid performances; key praise in this respect certainly goes to Smith and Reynolds as the leading heroes. Fans of the franchise, and perhaps even those unfamiliar with it, should find much to enjoy here, even if the end result perhaps could've once again been polished a bit more when it comes to the story and supporting characters.