Connor Bynum // Film Critic
POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU
When POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU released in theaters earlier this year, we gave it a favorable review with much of the high praise directed at the meticulously loyal live-action depiction of the characters that captured the imagination of a generation. Now that the film is receiving a 4K release, it’s time to catch all the clues you may have missed the first time around.
Movie Grade: B-
From our theatrical review:
Possibly the most outlandish concept in director Rob Letterman’s POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU isn’t that cute, crazy CGI creatures co-mingle with humans in a real-world environment; it’s that the filmmakers dare to give it a heartfelt story about a son working to solve the mystery of his estranged father’s disappearance. And they pull it off with surprising aplomb.
21-year-old insurance adjuster Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) isn’t looking for a Pokémon to train and befriend. He’s terrible at capturing one and getting it to consent to training, as per the rules. But boy is he destined to find one. After his mom died years prior, he gave up his childhood dream of becoming a world-champion Pokémon trainer, eschewing such whimsical notions in favor of practicality. Around that time, he and his father, Detective Harry Goodman (a superstar cameo this builds towards), grew apart as his dad put career above family.
However, when word comes from Harry’s superior, Lt. Hide Yoshida (Ken Wantanabe), that Tim’s estranged father has died in a car accident, Tim reluctantly travels to Ryme City to clean out his apartment and put the past to rest. Only Harry’s Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), is hiding out there. He’s come down with a frustrating case of amnesia and a story to tell about the curious circumstances in which Harry disappeared. Also on the trail is an amateur reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton). Something strange is afoot, and the fuzzy yellow caffeine addict, dogged junior journalist and reticent worrywart are about to get to the bottom of things.
Though the picture isn’t perfect, it’s a perfectly suitable jump-start to a blended live-action/CGI cinematic universe.
Video/Audio Grade: A
POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU was captured on 35mm film and finished on a 2K digital intermediate, thus requiring an upscale treatment for its 4K debut. However, Warner Bros once again proves their ability to go above and beyond with an upscale. The film would not work if the Pokémon themselves were not believable and that sentiment is even more prevalent with the increased resolution. With that in mind, fans can rest easy and know that these creatures look as believable as ever (especially the titular crime solver). Pikachu’s fur is insanely realistic. The way it bounces as he walks, blows in the wind, and gets increasingly dirty throughout the film is wonderfully clear from start to finish. What helps make these computer-generated monsters so easy to believe is the fact that the film’s natural presence of grain is seamlessly integrated over every one of them. Having a noticeable amount of film noise not only helps sell the movie as an homage to detective films of the past but creates a perfectly natural way for the Pokémon to feel just as alive as their human counterparts.
The inclusion of HDR10 is almost essential for this kind of film. So many of the scenes take place in dark alleyways, and neon-filled city streets and the increased range of both bright and dark tones is a feast for the eyes. The clouds of purple gas that play a vital role in the story also look much more saturated than on the 1080p version.
Lastly, the Dolby Atmos audio track is simply fantastic. The battle between Pikachu and Charizard about halfway through the film is a perfect reference scene for how much fun the filmmakers had with this track. The menacing fire-type dragon roars and stomps its way towards our heroic electric mouse, making excellent use of the subwoofer while the chaos of the screaming crowd fills the rear channels. Meanwhile, the pulsing sounds from the Loudred (Pokémon that essentially act as stadium speakers in the film) fill the ceiling channels with wonderfully chaotic clarity.
Extras Grade: B-
There are no extras included on the 4K disc, but all included features can be found on the included 1080p Blu-ray Disc. The standout feature is the picture-in-picture commentary track titled “Detective Mode.” This gives fun bits of trivia that pop up either in text or a member of the cast filling the audience in on things they may have missed. It’s certainly not for people who have yet to see the film for the first time. However, it is definitely worth a look for those with a passion for Pokémon (even if some of the things being said do more to get in the way more than provide actually useful information).
Additionally, the package includes a 4K digital copy with Movies Anywhere and a collective trading card of Detective Pikachu himself.
Special features are listed below:
- Detective Mode
- Alternate Opening
- My Pokémon Adventure
- Creating the World of Detective Pikachu (a series of features that break down various aspects of the filmmaking process, but ultimately fail to go deeper than surface level shout outs)
- Mr. Mime’s Audio Commentary (This one is more of a joke than an actual feature. It essentially just plays the scene with Mr. Mime exactly as it is during the movie since, you know, Mr. Mime is a mime.)
- Ryan Reynolds – Outside the Actor’s Studio
- Music Video
Final Grade: B
DETECTIVE PIKACHU is arguably the greatest video game based film ever made, and this 4K release makes it all the more enjoyable. If you have even the slightest interest or remaining nostalgia for Pokémon, buy this film tonight.