Game movies have a bad rep. And they kinda deserve it. Between an onslaught of Resident Evil flicks and a series of Uwe Boll produced travesties, it’s easy to see why the bad reputation’s been earned. Thank Arceus, for Detective Pikachu.
Based on a spin-off game outside of the primary Pokemon franchise, Detective Pikachu was a departure from the traditional gameplay of the Nintendo staple. Developed as an adventure game by the same minds behind the RPG franchise, the title features a talking Pokemon teaming up with a player to solve a mystery.
And, on the surface, that is exactly what the Detective Pikachu movie is.
Like all good Pokemon games and adaptations, Detective Pikachu is also a coming of age story. But the common narrative audiences are used to is somewhat subverted for a more dynamic narrative that adds a fresh perspective to a very familiar world.
While many might dread the “Transformers” dilemma where the stories tend to be driven by the human characters more than the robots, Detective Pikachu doesn’t carry that burden by virtue of the games and adaptations always having been about the human characters’ journey first and foremost.
Where most game movies tend to either try too hard to stick to the movies, finding context for gameplay mechanics to make it to a narrative, or completely stray with only the loosest ties to game lore, Detective Pikachu walks the line carefully by borrowing narrative elements from its game namesake, while also leaning heavily into the larger world of Pokemon.
And therein lies its ingenuity. With the understanding that the anime and manga have already drawn from the RPG’s tone and intent extensively, Detective Pikachu adopts the story-telling progress of the spin-off but still ensures that fans of the classic iterations, as well as newer takes like Pokemon GO will be satisfied.
This approach allows the movie to transcend the boundaries of its immediate source material and effectively serve as a backdoor pilot to a series of Pokemon movies. Of course, this does mean having to prepare ourselves for yet another series of films from a possibly shared universe. But between a Pokemon universe or a Super Smash Bros. one with the current Sonic, I’m all for Pokemon.