Updated: Sep 15, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Justice Smith, as Tim Goodman, Detective Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds, and Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens.
“POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube(4K)
Best extra: “Detective Mode” play option
WHAT – no hugs? No pats? Nothing for Pikachu, that irresistible yellow fluffball in this neo noir-like outing?
Nope. Lead human Tim Goodman, 21, played by Justice Smith of “The Get Down” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” is a determined grump, long estranged from his police detective father, Harry. Tim has given up Pokémon training to be an independent "grown-up” selling life insurance for a living. But changes are in store once he learns his father died in a car accident, and he travels to the Pokémon/human metropolis, Ryme City to gather his effects.
That’s where Tim runs into Pikachu, Harry’s Pokémon partner, who presumably died in the car crash with his dad. Pikachu’s memory and powers are gone, but he knows something’s not right and is determined to solve the problem with Tim’s help. Pikachu is voiced by Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds, so the kid-acceptable dialogue is fast and snappy. Reynolds’ improvised a lot according to the making-of extras. Good idea – and well done by Mr. Reynolds, who has two young children of his own and knows where to draw the line.
Tim and Pikachu are joined by Lucy Stevens, a clumsy intern reporter played by Kathryn Newton, along with her Psyduck, whose powers seem to be anxiety and migraines. (Keep him calm or he’ll explode!) It’s quite a contrast to Pikachu, who uses static energy to paralyze opponents, and gathers electricity to shoot lightning bolts – when his memory is working.
(1) Tim (Justice Smith) a 22-year-old insurance adjuster and his friend Jack (Karan Soni) try to catch a Pokémon, a Cubone. (2) The Pokémon wears a skull. (3) Tim arrives in Ryme City, the Pokémon/human metropolis to settle the affairs of his father Harry Goodman, a detective, who died in a fiery accident. (4) Lieutenant Hide Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) will give Tim the keys to his father's apartment.
The mystery surrounding Harry’s death and the strange purple gas that turns Pokémon crazy and angry, forms the hub of the story that involves big business villain Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and his son, Roger (Chris Geere). It’s complicated, and may confuse younger Pokémon fans, and many adults. But the visuals are great, Reynolds is great. Just go with it.
Plot points are based on the 2016 Nintendo game. For those with only a cursory understanding of the internationally popular series, Warner Brothers has provided a “Detective Mode,” picture-in-picture viewing option with explanations of the Pokémon characters and world, behind-scene footage, trivia, easter eggs, and cast and crew interviews. It moves super-fast, but is perfect for the novice.
Viewers have the option between a 2160p, standard 1080p, and streaming in either format. The movie (2.39:1 aspect ratio) was shot on 35mm film to reproduce the look of classic film noir, using a Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 camera, with Panavision E-, T-Series, ATZ and AWZ22 lenses.
Upgraded to 4K with HDR10 (disc) and Dolby Vision (Digital) from a 2K intermediate, the movie is at its best in the UHD presentations, but only by a little yellow hair. There isn’t that much difference between it and the 1080p save color toning. “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” looks great during the first half of its 140 minute run time, but derails when the CGI really get going, with multiple creature and human interactions. Even so, the pace is so fast you might not notice.
(1) Inspiring reporter Lucy Stevens, wants to uncover the case behind Harry Goodman. (2) Tim finds a strange capsule, with an "R" letter. He opens it, causing a mysterious purple gas to leak out. (3) Tim runs into the wiseacre Detective Pikachu. (4) Pikachu has a feeling that his partner Harry Goodman is still alive. Tim only wishes to turn home, but Pikachu convinces him to join in the case. Cinematographer John Mathieson bathed the scene in neon lights.
There’s some difficulty, too, when Ryme City first appears. Director Rob Letterman (“Monsters vs. Aliens,” 2009; “Gulliver’s Travels,” 2010; “Goosebumps,” 2015) and cinematographer John Mathieson (“Logan,” 2017; “Gladiator,” 2000) briefly change course to letterbox box format. It should enhance the visuals, but details are lost during the sweeping intro. There are gorgeous bird-like Pokémon flying, but it’s difficult to make them out unless you have a wall-sized screen. Fortunately, they drop into close-up mode at street level.
A good deal of the story unfolds at night and in darkened room scenes, all the better to incorporate that neo-noir look. Matheson uses more of a soft, grainy picture as well, but again, it’s problematic as characters become less defined.
HDR10+ comes fully into play during daylight scenes – the intro to Ryme City, a parade – where color pops in vivid yellow, blue, and orange. Objects shine, and the battles with the Charizard and Mewtwo are fully loaded. There’s good use of neon brights during some night scenes as well.
All formats offer Dolby Atmos and default TrueHD 7.1 channel soundtracks. Clear dialogue is delivered front and center, but effects bounce all around the room, achieving ceiling height with Atmos. The effects, ambient and special in chase, battle and fight sequences, are dynamic and nuanced putting viewers into the heart of the action. Sound is energetic and subwoofer-friendly. Alert or invite the neighbors for a viewing.
(1) The case takes Tim and Pikachu to the Ryme Wharf docks. (2) Tim and Pikachu start to unravel a conspiracy and arrive at Sebastian's Pokémon fighting ring where their matched up against the Charizard Flamethrower and the Gyarados. (4) Bill Nighy as tech mogul Howard Clifford. (5) Clifford shows Tim a hologram recreation of his father's accident.
In addition to the “Detective Mode” option, there’s a two-minute “Ryan Reynolds: Outside the Actor’s Studio” featurette, and three-minute “My Pokémon Adventure” with Justice Smith. A five-part making-of, “Creating the World of ‘Detective Pikachu” has interviews and behind-scenes footage. Most of the content is strictly PR material. Pokémon “Mr. Mime” provides an audio commentary for his scene. There’s an alternate opening and a music video, “Carry On” performed by Kygo and Rita Ora.
Final thoughts? Embrace the Pokémon – and this comes from a non-player/non-collector. Those little characters promote a sense of goodwill, and becoming the best you can be without joining the U.S. Army. The story supports teamwork, courage, friendship, and how the most insignificant person can become the best!
— Kay Reynolds
(1) A hologram recreation of Dr. Ann Laurent's team extracting the DNA from Mewtwo. (2 & 3) Tim convinces a herd of Bulbasaur and Morelull to lead him to a Pokémon who can heal Pikachu. (4) The little fellow gets better.
(1) Clifford transports his mind into Mewtwo's body and uses his newfound psychic powers to restrain Tim. (2 & 3) The Pokémon Day Parade.