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Detective Pikachu is the film that finally does justice to video games

Video game movies, I choose you!

detective pikachu in front of taxi
Image: Warner Bros

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Editor’s Note: There are some mild spoilers in the following text, nothing big, but worth noting.

Video game movies have had an interesting run. When I was 10, my parents took me to the movies to see Super Mario Bros. It was the earliest point in my life where I can say I felt embarrassment for being hyped up about something.

Since then, there hasn’t been a lot of success with video game movies. A while back, it was announced that Detective Pikachu was getting a movie, which was weird because it is a game that is often glossed over in the Pokémon library.  The trailer looked OK, the Pokémon look disturbingly realistic, and expectations were minimal. I mean, it is a video game movie.

When I took my family (minus my bratty 5-year-old that loves Pokémon) to the theater to see Detective Pikachu, I went in thinking anything but a dumpster fire would be a success. Within the first 30 seconds of the film, The Pokémon Company logo popped up. Honestly, I realized that if their branding was in the movie, they (and Nintendo by association) weren’t going to let this movie be passable at best.

Detective Pikachu isn’t going to be the best movie you see all year

It may, however, be one of the most fun family movies that you will see. For roughly two hours, my adult responsibilities of the world washed away and I was able to immerse myself in a world where Pokémon and people lived side by side.

Justice Smith’s Tim and the Ryan Reynolds voiced Pikachu are the stars of the show and they carry the story throughout the film. With that being said, seeing Pokémon in the world is an absolute joy and a treat for anyone that has ever enjoyed Pokémon in any way.

While the actors advance the plot and make the movie’s story work, the Pokémon in the movie are what makes the movie in a quite literal sense. In most cases, Pokémon in the movie exhibit behavior that seems like it has been taken right out of the Pokedex in the game. From the sad background of a Cubone to flocks of Pidgeys and Pidgeots following a Pidgeotto and Arcanine working with law enforcement, the world Detective Pikachu paints is alive.

Yes, the Pokémon look a little creepy when compared to their animated counterparts, but that should be expected

Charizard, for example, is a large scaly dragon. It’s intimidating and kind of ugly, but it is unmistakably Charizard. Each and every Pokémon look like a real-life version of their video game counterparts.

As a veteran of Pokémon, I had a blast catching some of my favorite Pokémon in scenes throughout the film. My oldest son, who learned to read so he could play Pokémon Omega Ruby, was wide-eyed as he saw the same. Even my wife was smirking as she saw Pokemon she liked from Pokémon Go.

There was a fair bit of fan service and seeds planted for sequels as well

Early in the movie, while the world of Detective Pikachu is being established, Tim discusses the sport of Pokémon battles. During this scene, a trainer that strongly resembles Red (from the original games) is battling in a coliseum. Tim wanted to be a Pokémon trainer as a child, so these events are clearly in the past.

Along with references to in-game events throughout the movie, this puts Detective Pikachu in the timeline current with Pokémon Sun and Moon, or even maybe Pokémon Sword and Shield. Remixes of classic Pokémon songs pop up on occasion and the anime’s original English theme song even makes an appearance. For a family movie, there was some deliberate stuff thrown in to do more with the Pokémon franchise in the future.

This is probably the most exciting thing about Detective Pikachu. There’s already a second movie in pre-development in the Pokémon Universe. The team behind Detective Pikachu set out to show a city where Pokémon and humans live side-by-side, but the far more traditional Pokémon-reality is brought up fairly often.

The existing world of Pokémon has great stories to tell and if Detective Pikachu is any indicator, the Pokémon Company and Legendary Pictures are going to pull out all the stops to make this happen.

As I said before, Detective Pikachu is a really fun movie. The story is cliche and the characters outside of Tim and Pikachu are one dimensional at best. However, the bar has been set for what a good video game movie is and it’s set well above anything else you can find. I’m looking forward to seeing more Pokémon in the future.

Have you watched the movie yet? What did you think of it? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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