After over two decades of video games, trading cards and animated TV shows and movies, Pokemon is finally making the jump to the live action realm with Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. The movie is arriving in theaters this weekend, but as is usually the case, numerous critics were able to see the movie early. Following the initial social media reactions, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu reviews are now pouring in, and the reception towards the first live action Pokemon movie is fairly mixed.
Starting, CinemaBlend’s own Dirk Libbey had a more mixed view towards Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, giving it 3 stars out of 5 stars in his review and saying that while you don’t need to be a Pokemon expert to enjoy the movie, it doesn’t hurt. Dirk complimented the look of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, but noted that it’s filled with over-exposition about details concerning each major Pokemon, and the story leaves a lot to be desired, though it’s clear that Ryan Reynolds had a lot of fun voicing the titular Pikachu.
… While exposition is ham-handed and motivations are far from clear, there's a charm in Detective Pikachu that is undeniable. Seeing these creatures come to life is going to be a blast for fans, and while some of the references to the franchise might be lost on non-fans, Ryan Reynolds' charisma combined with seeing one lovingly crafted Pokemon creature after another will likely carry you through.
AV Club’s Jesse Hassenger was also more critical towards Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, giving it a C-. In Jesse’s opinion, the movie fails to effectively mix the classic Pokemon mythology with noir tropes, which is especially unfortunate for Kathryn Newton’s Lucy Stevens. Ultimately, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu “settles into the generic rhythms of a second-tier ’80s cop movie—in other words, noir for dummies,” though the Pokemon at least look good in their “half-realistic, half-cartoony CG.”
The movie tries to sound like a comedy (especially when Reynolds is talking), look like a noir, and act like a big summer blockbuster. It ends up a whole lot of cute, branded nothing—watchable junk for young adults of tomorrow to look back on with inordinate fondness.
On the more positive end of the spectrum, Dan Casey from Nerdist gave Pokemon: Detective Pikachu 4 out of 5 stars, calling it a “super effective” story that helps break the video game movie curse. Boasting “eticulous visual effects wizardry, a delightfully dry sense of humor, and an abiding love of pulp and noir,” Pokemon: Detective Pikachu gives audiences a world where these Pocket Monsters feel like “living, breathing creatures.”
While Detective Pikachu doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of storytelling, it has managed the seemingly impossible of creating a deeply satisfying and fully realized world based on something with so much fan expectation and preconceived notions attached to it.
Back to mixed territory, Empire’s Olly Richards stamped Pokemon: Detective Pikachu with 3 out of 5 stars. In Olly’s eyes, the movie’s plotting is “pretty shoddy,” in that it doesn’t clearly establish the rules of Pokemon and full of characters monologuing about what’s happening and what will happen. The saving grace is Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Pikachu, as his lines are “sharp, silly and knowing.”
It’s impossible to overstate how much this film owes to Ryan Reynolds. Even if you don’t understand Pikachu’s world, everyone can understand a great joke superbly delivered.
Chris Nashawaty from Entertainment Weekly gave Pokemon: Detective Pikachu a C+, calling it “narratively incoherent to the point of being almost avant-garde.” If you’re already a Pokemon fan, you’ll appreciate the movie much more than someone going in with barely any familiarity with the franchise.
As the wisecracking voice of Pikachu, Ryan Reynolds deserves some sort of special citation for doing the best he can without Deadpool’s f-bombs (or a decent script) to lean on. But the main problem is that the film’s gumball-mayhem plot is so frenetic that it’s impossible to determine if it makes a lick of sense. Maybe that was the point.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen was among the critics who took a more positive stance on Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, saying that writer/director Rob Letterman’s “energetic direction,” Ryan Reynolds’ “world-weary” Pikachu and Justice Smith’s “necessarily reactive performance” are just enough to make this an enjoyable cinematic offering.
Those anticipating another Golden Raspberry-worthy contender like last year’s The Happytime Murders, another spoof of classic pulp fiction, can park their preconceived notions at the door. It turns out Pokemon Detective Pikachu isn’t half bad.
Finally, IGN’s Joshua Yehl awarded Pokemon: Detective Pikachu an 8 out of 10 score, complementing how well animated the Pokemon are and how they feel like a “natural part of the world.” The storytelling “isn’t entirely up to par,” but this is somewhat balanced out by a “layered sense of humor” that’s willing to poke fun at itself and paves the way for some deep-cut references.
Detective Pikachu mixes humor, heart, and gloriously-rendered Pokémon to deliver a simple yet entertaining time.
These are just a sampling of the Pokemon: Detective Pikachu reviews available now, so feel free to read what other people thought of the movie elsewhere on the internet. However, working off these examples, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu falls right in the middle when it comes to critical reception. There’s definitely enough for longtime Pokemon fans to enjoy, and some newbies might also be entertained, but there are definitely various issues that prevent this movie from being exceptional.
Looking to the commercial side of things, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu was predicted last month to open between $75-$90 million, so it won’t be much longer until we learn whether it meets, exceeds or falls short of those expectations. Assuming it is a critical success, Warner Bros already has a Detective Pikachu sequel in the works, and there’s the potential for this film series to evolve into a cinematic universe.
You can judge Pokemon: Detective Pikachu for yourself starting this weekend, but if you’re more curious about what movies will be arriving later in 2019, you can look through our handy release schedule for that information. Be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for any updates concerning the future of Pokemon on the silver screen.