Right now, just saying the words “Live Action Pokemon City” should be enough to prove that either someone is going to enjoy the latest interation of the Pikachu franchise, or not. If the prospect of a city full of realistic and utopian pokemon living side-by-side with their humans sounds like something you’re excited to see, you will enjoy this movie. The vision of the city of pokemon, full of cameos of all sorts of the odd and disturbingly cute character designs living and working side-by-side with their trusted humans is gorgeous and well-made. It’s a utopian vision of ecologic symbiosis that resonates in an era where cities have your years stripped back nature and removed all semblance of the wild from their concrete spaces, with the exception of the close-manicured trees, often covered in spikes to drive away the birds. The utopia of a world where everyone has a companion resonates, as well, when cities are so lonely. As a cultural critic, I adored this friendly city and wished to walk among the streets full of people who are all constantly with their loyal companion.
Beyond this, is this a good movie? Is it worthy of time and consideration? Is it true to the vision of the pokemon franchise? I shall answer the final question first. It is absolutely true to the franchise. In fact, the film has a plot that seems peeled off the back of a video game. The narrative beats are less cinematic than game-y. Along these lines, it presents the limitations of the game narrative style: By placing us as viewers instead of active participants in solving the puzzle, we are able to be more critical of the holes and gaps of the film. It is never quite clear whether, for example, the Bill Nighy’s character’s son is an active conspirator who refuses to take the last step or a Ditto for much of the film, even after much thought and consideration. But, try not to think too much about that. Just move fast from beat to beat, and keep things shiny and cute and funny. Like a video game, it moves very quickly from one scene to another, to keep the intensity flowing. So, for instance, when one character is standing at the top of a skyscraper, and the other is falling through the air to the bottom, in cinematic time it takes about the same amount of time for one to fall through the sky as it does for the other to reach the ground level of the skyscraper on foot. No doubt the decision was made to keep the emotional intensity high instead of following verisimilitude in a film about pokemon living in a city among humans, but… In a film made with such obvious care and consideration, these little moments where cinematic time runs a bit funny, are glaring. By taking such consideration of the film, perhaps I am arguing that it is worthy of time and consideration. I’m not sure, either way, to be honest. It’s a fun romp, and I don’t feel my time was wasted, but it knows the kind of movie it is, and doesn’t seem to mind the little quirks in plot and timing that other, greater films would address. Is this a good movie? Well, do you like Pokemon and want to see them in a utopian city? If the answer is yes, then it is probably a good movie.
Ryan Reynolds is easily the best part of the film, with his fast-talking, gruff and messy pikachu. If he were my partner, I’d pump him full of all the coffee he could drink and point him at problems in need of solving, just to ride along behind and try to keep up. It’s a light, entertining romp through a candy fun world, with just enough energy to race over the hiccups in the plot.
This film is recommended strongly for families, and for anyone that knows the difference between Mew and MewToo without having to google it.