By KYLIE YEATMAN
I know that I’m prone to hyperbole, but I can say with absolute certainty that “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is the single greatest film in cinematic history.
Okay, maybe not.
Still, sitting in the theater with my $12 ticket in my pocket and a plush Eevee in my arm, I began to ponder the merits of this viewing experience. As a long-time fan of Pokémon, the stress I felt towards the quality of this film far exceeded any stress I felt over taking the SAT. How would I face the internal dread of one of my favorite series being ruined by a film adaptation?
While looking at a film like “Detective Pikachu” through any lens other than that of nostalgia might be difficult, it’s important to keep an objective view while watching the film so it may truly be analyzed for what it actually is: a haunting tale of deception, Eldritch horror and a surprising lack of toilet-related comedy.
The truly haunting film opens with Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), who has learned of the death of his father Harry. While the pain of this horrifying incident lingers closely on our protagonist’s mind, he is encountered by a woman and her Psyduck, a duck-like Pokémon. (The creature quacks ominously throughout the exchange.)
All the more horrifying is the first meeting between Pikachu, voiced by the bizarrely casted Ryan Reynolds, who lives as a detective with amnesia. Through general hijinks and a clear overarching thesis statement surrounding illegal dog fights, a “Black Mirror”-level twist reveals the true whereabouts of his deceased father—something that must be seen to be believed.
On its face, one might not find much substance in “Detective Pikachu.” Sure, the film clearly plays to nostalgia, but the true message behind this haunting piece of media is simply impossible to ignore: the inevitable future of genetic splicing will likely result in 3D renderings of animalistic creatures with Ryan Reynolds’ voice.
I mean, right?
The most blatant example of this in the film is the character of Mr. Mime, a mute creature in the Pokéverse, who takes the form of a shady, humanistic mime who acts out various emotions. Reduced to a performative act for the enjoyment of humans, it’s unknown if Mr. Mime has any true motives, feelings or goals: his whole life is to perform for the enjoyment of humans.
This clear form of abuse cannot be ignored, nor can the complacency of our protagonists—even Pikachu himself, one of two speaking Pokémon in the film—that consistently benefit from unpaid and untrained labor performed by these creatures, whose mental capacity is not only undetermined but also unexplored.
I’m not saying that being Pokémon is tantamount to coerced labor, but there’s no denying that the correlation is there. Knowing this, a new sheen of disturbing implications is rubbed on the world of “Detective Pikachu.”
Nevertheless, if one sets expectations low, the heart of the film is something entertaining, though at times very crude and, in true children’s movie style, extremely heavy-handed with its grand theme regarding society. Pikachu himself, a character beloved to many, doesn’t feel as bastardized as one might have feared from the film’s trailers—so long as you can overcome Ryan Reynolds’ voice.