Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Pokémon: Detective Pikachu)

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Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is owned by Warner Bros Pictures and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

Directed by Rob Letterman

We knew this was coming and yet it still feels totally unreal, doesn’t it?  They’re FINALLY going forward with a live action Pokémon movie and frankly they seemed to have made the smart move by going with one of the Pikachu spin-offs rather than try to encompass the entirety of the Pokémon experience into one movie, but hey!  Just give it a few years and we’ll surely get our Pokémon Trilogy followed by a Pokémon Expanded Universe, so for now let’s take a look at the trailer for what will surely be one of the biggest films of next year!  The first thing I’m sure everyone noticed is HOW FREAKING DARK THE TONE OF THIS MOVIE IS!!  I mean sure, it’s not Bladerunner, Sin City, or even Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the aesthetic here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen associated with Pokémon; even that Pokémon Coliseum game with that broody looking protagonist.  It’s ridiculously incongruous in so many ways; especially where this dude who looks MAYBE sixteen is supposedly a grown ass man on the police force (maybe?) and lives in Daredevil’s apartment complete with overbearing neon lights constantly seeping through the cracks of his blinds, and we have moody cinematography with wistful music over freaking Pokémon posters on his walls!  It’s utterly ridiculous and frankly feels about on par with the Super Mario Bros movie as far as strange yet oddly compelling design choices for such a kid friendly franchise.  Yeah, I said it!  Super Mario Bros THE MOVIE looks pretty cool!

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Is that the Umbrella logo!?  THE EXPANDED UNIVERSE IS ALREADY HERE!!

Things only get stranger from there which is a pretty bold statement considering what we’ve seen so far, but then Pikachu starts to talk and I feel like I’ve somehow landed in some bizzaro world where fan fiction writers are helming billion dollar franchise adaptations.  Ryan Reynolds DOES NOT sound right in this part.  Like… at all.  It’s not just that the voice doesn’t sound anything like Pikachu’s normal voice (made famous by Ikue Otani who’s version of Pikachu can also be heard in the trailer), but his specific affectation coming out of THIS character doesn’t even seem to sync up.  It almost feels like more viral marketing for Deadpool where his character broke into the recording studio and is forcing the director at gunpoint to let him play the little cartoon mouse which… if nothing else is a UNIQUE direction to take this.  Now sure, maybe it’s WAY too soon to get a read on this particular Pikachu and their personality, but so far he doesn’t seem particularly jaded or world weary enough in his animations and mannerisms to sound this sarcastic about everything.  As far as his design he looks pretty good, but I think they need to touch up the eyes a bit.  I first saw pictures of him on my phone, and at that size it’s kind of hard to tell that he has brown irises rather than just cold dead black eyes (like a shark’s eyes).  On a big screen it’s much more distinct, but if doesn’t take much squinting for him to look like a horrifying demon, or perhaps more appropriately an evil plushy.

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“Hey, guess what!  If you don’t buy me a chimichanga, I’m gonna swallow your soul!”     “Wait, you can do that?”     “Of course not, silly!  I’ll just call down the power of Zeus and fry you with a bolt of lightning.”     “How may did you want?”     “Let’s start with a baker’s dozen!”

The rest of the trailer is about what you’d expect this early into the marketing campaign.  The plot as far as we can infer is that good ol’ Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a… let’s go with young adult (seriously, is he supposed to be a teenager?) whose father APPEARS to have been a cop and has disappeared.  For whatever reason, a Pikachu in an adorable deer stalker cap (or I guess in this world it’s a Sawsbuck stalker cap) breaks into his apartment AND can communicate with our young hero so they team up to solve the mystery of the missing dad and presumably get sucked into untold mayhem in the process.  You’re not here to see that though as we have PLENTY of time to hash out the particulars of this buddy cop movie!  No, the whole point of this trailer is finally seeing Pokémon in something approaching a real life context with them not only being integrated with live action actors but their models being updated to blend in with their environments; unlike in Roger Rabbit where they were still distinctly animated characters.  It certainly is very cool to see Pokémon like Jigglypuff and Mr. Mime, but most of them still fall into the Uncanny Valley with Charizard probably having the most… unsettling redesign.  Also, how are battles supposed to work in this universe when they’re so much more realistically designed!?  There’s always been that slightly problematic aspect of the premise where humans are essentially having animals fight each other, but the fact that it’s all cartoony and hyper stylized kind of kept it from coming to the forefront.  In THIS movie?  Let’s just say it’s gonna be an uphill battle if they try and put that aspect of the franchise into this film.

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“HELP ME, TIM!”     “Well why don’t you CALL UPON THE POWER OF ZEUS!?”     “I see what you did there…”

So when we put all the pieces together, what have we got?  At worst, I’d say this is a strange Frankenstein’s monster of disparate parts crammed awkwardly together with a tone that diverts so heavily from the source material and just some absurd decisions throughout that make me question who the heck is driving this thing and why is no one slapping the camera away from them!?  However, that go for broke mentality on big budgeted movies has led to some of my favorite films of all time including Jupiter Ascending (Let’s make the most LGBTQIA+ space opera imaginable and put in sexy wolf-boy Channing Tatum!), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Capitalism has sucked all the meaning from Christmas to replace it with ceaseless consumerism and apparently THIS is what a Grinch movie should be about!) and even The Happytime Murders which is probably the closest contemporary comparison to make.  Okay this is obviously not gonna be a hard R sex comedy, as amazing as that would be (they ALREADY got Ryan Reynolds!) but the juxtaposition of something that’s intended for rather young kids being put into such a dark and murky world is ripe with possibilities and I can’t wait to see what they come up with here!

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“What’s he saying?”     “I think he’s saying ‘Are you talking to me?’”     “Well tell him yes!”     “Just because he doesn’t talk doesn’t mean he can’t hear you.”

We’ve seen some TRULY awful kids movies based on nostalgic eighties properties like Jem and the Holograms Alvin and the Chipmunks, but maybe things will be different now that we’re taking our first steps into nineties nostalgia on the big screen.  The ambition is CLEARLY there to make something that’s not just another cookie cutter kids film and it even has a degree of self-awareness to its own absurdity (I didn’t even TALK about the film using Happy Together for its music), so I do really hope this movie is good so that studios can maybe take a few risks on OTHER nostalgic properties from that era (*cough* Megas XLR *cough*).  Even if it is an utter disaster of a film, well at least it looks like an INTERESTING disaster!

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