Hollywood has always had an shall we say, interesting relationship with video games, and movies based on video games. Generally speaking, with the exception of maybe the first 3 Resident Evil movies, any kind of video game movie has always had a reputation of just being just plain bad. Almost never following the source material script, displaying well-known characters in all the wrong lights, terrible acting choices, the list of sins is a mile and a half long. However, it seems things might finally be looking up thanks to the upcoming release of Detective Pikachu.
Detective Pikachu, which releases on Friday, already has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is the all-time highest rating a video game-based movie has ever received on the movie ranking site. And if things hold with the fans ratings, it is on track to be the first movie of its kind to receive the honor of “certified fresh”. Resident Evil didn’t even get that far.
It seems Nintendo made the right choice in entrusting the beloved franchise to WB and Legend Pictures. And then casting Ryan Reynolds to voice the titular character was just the icing on the cake this video game movie needed to really show the fans they meant business. This is no longer some weird rumor on the message boards, nor is it some weirdly expensive marketing ploy for another movie. This is a real, live-action Pokemon movie, and according to the Japanese fans and American critics so far, it’s actually really freaking good and fun.
Nintendo has always been notoriously protective of their franchises after the past failures with Hollywood. When I was a child, seeing a Pokemon movie in theaters was nothing but a dream. Granted we did get most of the animated movies, but that’s just not the same. Fan artists have had a long history of showing us what some of the monsters might look like if brought to life, and one of them actually did have the chance to consult with the real film.
Most fans, I’m sure, would still have preferred they used the script from one of the core series game, but honestly, I don’t see that working at all for a movie. From how long the games are, to the sheer amount of material they contain for a possible screen adaption, it would just be too much. I’m glad they went with the runaway success of the an obscure side-game that Nintendo had so little faith in they only gave it an eshop release and almost didn’t release stateside. Truth be told, the game Detective Pikachu was basically made for a movie adaption. The tale of a boy, looking for his father who happens upon a talking Pikachu that’s also an ace detective. I’m not being sarcastic here, I promise. When I read the plot of the game, I thought I was reading the plot for a potential movie.
Perhaps that’s what Hollywood needed all along for a decent video game movie; a plot that actually translates to a screenplay. Let’s think about this for a moment as we reflect up all the video game movies of the past, the ones were so campy it was hilarious, the ones that made us throw up in our mouths for all the wrong reasons, and the ones that made us wonder why we didn’t just download the cell camera pirate video and save $10. Mortal Kombat: a game that primarily centers around one on one matches that end with spines being ripped out, fun as hell to play, not really much for a movie plot. The Mario Brothers: the games are all about wondering around a side-scrolling kingdom to save a princess, there is somewhat of a movie plot there, but the move we got did… something else. Ratchet & Clank, basically does play out like a wild and wacky CG movie to be fair, but the movie we got didn’t really do much with that and was really just all the cutscenes re-animated. This list goes on. From the wonderfully campy Street Fighter movies that just didn’t take themselves seriously, to Doom, a script that not even Dwayne Johnson’s muscles and sweat could save.
Video game-movies have had an extremely bad rep for the last few decades, and when Sonic the Hedgehog was revealed, all the hope and hype we had gained from the Detective Pikachu trailers was dashed for a brief moment. However, Sonic’s design is supposedly being redone, and Detective Pikachu is already on track to the only video game movie we watch, not because we know it’ll be horrible and we just need a quick laugh, not because we’re hate-watching out of spite of the haters, nor because we have a small glimmer of hope the critics are wrong. And if we want more of these high quality movies worthy to bear our favorite video game characters’ names, then Detective Pikachu deserves a chance to prove to us it is possible to make a genuinely fun, interesting video game-based movie with decent acting and plot that makes complete sense in the universe.
Is the “Video game Curse” finally lifted? Maybe. Maybe this is a fluke. But I for one, am going to march into that theater on Friday, proudly wearing my officially licensed Pokemon Trainer T-shirt and watch that I’ve been waiting for, for over 19 years.