Some things are best left in the realm of idealized fiction. And by that, I mean leaving some fantastical designs to the pages of comic books, mangas, animation cels, or video game frames. Not everything translates well to a live-action premise, and some people are learning that first-hand with the creepy and harrowing depiction of some Pokemon brought to life in the upcoming Pokemon: Detective Pikachu movie.
The film stars Ryan Reynolds as a Pikachu detective who teams up with the diversity-approved casting of Justice Smith. The Pikachu happens to be a sleuth who wants to be a top notch detective, and Smith just wants to find his father. The hook for the film is that Smith’s character can actually understand Pokemon, which allows him to actually hear what the Detective Pikachu is saying. The duo then go on an adventure, getting into various odds and ends in order to find Smith’s missing father. You can check out the trailer below.
Visually the film is way darker than I thought it would be. It’s the complete opposite of the more dime novel visual tone that Nintendo took with the video game Detective Pikachu, which was bright and had a lot of inviting colors.
The movie is dark and captures a lot of angles with sharp shadows contrasted with low-lit neon colors and an almost cyberpunk feel.
It’s weird that Pokemon: Detective Pikachu seems to capture more of the cyberpunk aesthetic than the demo of Cyberpunk 2077.
The only problem is that some of the Pokemon look horribly creepy.
The Mr. Mime depiction managed to trend on social media because he’s designed with realistic looking textures and lighting, but he still has the proportions and mannerisms from the cartoon. It’s safe to say that he didn’t translate into the real world very well at all. Unless, of course, you enjoy Pokemon that look like they would slash you up in the night if they came across you in a dark alley.
Some of the other Pokemon don’t look as harrowing, but it’s still an issue when trying to make cartoons look realistic. Movies like Bumblebee managed to find a fine balance that not only respects the the lore of the G1 Transformers, but also managed to give the transforming robots a stylized enough look that they blend in with the real life actors in a way that looks believable.
The problem is that the Pokemon in Detective Pikachu almost all look like they could be secret murderers.
The director and art designer made some weird choices in how they decided to bring the world of Pokemon to life. It almost reminds me of the Super Mario Bros. movie that also decided to go with a dark, cyberpunk, neon-lit atmosphere as well. I’m not sure what the lure is for making video games attempt to mirror a Gibson novel, but it is what it is.
You can look for Pokemon: Detective Pikachu to hit theaters next summer in 2019.