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Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (Blu-ray) (2019)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-My Pokémon Adventure
Featurette-Making Of-Creating the World of Detective Pikachu
Deleted Scenes-Alternate Opening
Featurette-Mr. Mime's Audio Commentary
Featurette-Ryan Reynolds: Outside the Actor's Studio
Music Video-"Carry On" by Rita Ora and Kygo
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English Dolby Atmos
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
Catalan Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Originating from Japan, the Pokémon franchise encompasses video games, anime, trading cards and all manner of merchandise, attaining unfathomable worldwide popularity. The property has spawned an anime television series and several animated feature films (some produced on the cheap), but 2019's Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the first attempt to realise the colourful, extravagant Pokémon world in live-action, complete with a generous budget and familiar actors, seeking to initiate a new mainstream blockbuster film series. Directed by Rob Letterman (late of 2015's better-than-expected Goosebumps), Detective Pikachu is essentially a mix of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Zootopia, with a neon-soaked visual style reminiscent of Blade Runner to boot. As far as both family films and video game adaptations go, Detective Pikachu is happily above-average; this is a fun, skilfully assembled fantasy adventure with the potential to appeal to both established fans and newcomers.
Tim (Justice Smith) gave up Pokémon training after the loss of his mother, instead taking a straight job as an insurance salesman and leaving his past behind him. When Tim finds out that his police detective father, Harry, has died in a car accident, he packs up and travels to Ryme City, a sprawling metropolis masterminded by visionary billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) where humans and Pokémon peacefully coexist as equals. Inside Harry's Ryme City apartment, Tim meets Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds); a small, yellow, amnesiac Pokémon detective who worked as Harry's partner prior to the car accident. Tim is somehow able to understand Pikachu's speech, and Pikachu is suspicious about the circumstances which led to Harry's ostensible death, prompting the pair to team up and investigate by themselves. Joining them is curious reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her Pokémon, Psyduck, as they discover a type of gas specifically engineered to turn Pokémon into vicious killers.
First introduced in the 1990s, the popular Pokémon Gameboy games were largely plotless, revolving around a player's mission to capture as many of the creatures as possible, progressing from skirmish to skirmish. In addition, Pokémon are not capable of speech beyond saying their own name, making them risky protagonists. Detective Pikachu solves these issues by taking its cues from a spinoff video game of the same name, which has a more defined story and features a version of Pikachu who is able to speak full sentences, while the Pokémon world is more of a backdrop rife with opportunities to depict the creatures in various situations. Indeed, Ryme City is full of Pokémon of all shapes and sizes, giving newcomers the chance to grow familiar with individual powers and temperaments. In other words, Detective Pikachu manages to pull together an engaging story no matter your level of familiarity with the source material, representing an ideal entry point into the franchise for those who never played the games or watched the anime.
From the cinematography to the production design, the filmmakers show astonishing reverence for the Pokémon games, demonstrating that genuine love and care went into the production process. Furthermore, it helps that Detective Pikachu is treated like a legitimate film as opposed to a cheap novelty, lensed by ace cinematographer John Mathieson (Logan), and supplemented with a flavoursome score by Henry Jackman (Captain America: Civil War). In addition, the Pokémon creatures are visualised with superb digital effects, giving these characters fresh life outside of the anime and games, while the choice to shoot on 35mm film gives the CGI a welcomely tangible aesthetic. Pikachu looks especially great; he's insanely expressive and feels real, to the extent that you might forget he is a digital character. It helps that the Pokémon predominantly appear in practical sets and real locations as opposed to fully digital environments, giving the animators a firm frame of reference in terms of lighting. However, the CGI is a bit more obvious during the climax when the scale increases, along with the reliance on digital effects.
In spite of its ample strengths, Detective Pikachu does fall victim to some common pitfalls of contemporary blockbusters - primarily, the second act involving a perfunctory McGuffin hunt is not as energetic as the first half-hour, there's a big climax that feels more motivated by formula than story, and the film contains some obvious world-building which hinders narrative focus. However, most of this is par for the course for this type of production, and what matters is that Detective Pikachu gets more right than wrong with its immense charm compensating for any scripting shortcomings. Reynolds is a big selling point, and he is expectedly ideal for this iteration of Pikachu, able to confidently deliver the wisecracks as well as the more serious material (all the while suppressing his foul-mouthed Deadpool instincts). Newton also makes a positive impression, turning the token love interest role into someone resourceful and charming. This is not exactly an actor's movie, but recruiting reliable veterans like Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe in supporting roles gives the material some gravitas.
For long-time Pokémon fans, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a huge wet kiss of a fan service movie, beset with Easter Eggs, references, and beloved Pokémon characters in cameos throughout. However, this is also a sufficiently satisfying standalone action-adventure in its own right, with brisk pacing and an appealing cast, though some flaws hold it back from perfection. Detective Pikachu has heart to boot, which prevents it from becoming a soulless digital demo reel, but do not expect revelatory storytelling or much in the way of poignancy - in short, it's good, but not Pixar good.
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A moderate box office success, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu debuts on Blu-ray courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment, who present the film in AVC-encoded 1080p high definition, framed at its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. As with many other major Roadshow titles, Detective Pikachu is also available on 3D Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, allowing consumers to pick their preferred format. For this standard Blu-ray, Detective Pikachu is placed on a BD-50, but this is another major blockbuster title which fails to take full advantage of the available disc space - it's mastered with a disappointing average video bitrate of 22 Mbps. Then again, the "Detective Mode" special feature contains an entirely separate encode of the movie, so only 5GB of space is left on the disc. The result falls in line with expectations given the level of compression - it's watchable for sure, and casual viewers won't have any issues, particularly on smaller screens, but videophiles using larger displays (this reviewer included) will have reservations.
Contrary to most modern blockbusters, Detective Pikachu was shot on 35mm film, resulting in a fine layer of film grain. In the movie's opening scene, it's clear that while the transfer is still respectable the image lacks tightness, which is evident in the way the encode resolves the grain - it's sometimes chunky as opposed to fine. But when the transfer is on, it does look good from a textural perspective, particularly in close-ups - just see Tim first meeting Detective Yoshida in his office, which also has more depth to it thanks to the use of shadows and superior contrast. In addition, the Blu-ray looks terrifically sharp most of the time, pleasingly resolving Pikachu's CGI fur, as well as the intricacies of the sets and locations. The digital characters consistently fare the best, with the transfer doing a good job resolving the insanely detailed CG models. However, occasional smoothness and even some softness (see the set-piece at the 66-minute mark) does sneak in, and the presentation struggles to resolve appreciable fine detail when smoke is involved. The inconsistencies continue throughout the movie, with some scenes retaining excellent shadow detail while others look slightly smooth and lacking in highlights. It's never unwatchable, but nor does it rise to the best that the format has to offer. Additionally, I detected some very occasional white specks, but I doubt many will notice them, or be bothered by them.
The colourful, vibrant look of the production pushes the colour space of this 1080p Blu-ray to its limits, capably handling the neon lighting scheme and the colourful creatures. Contrast is respectable most of the time, though the image looks flat in certain scenes, including the interior of the experimental facility. Since this is a Standard Dynamic Range Blu-ray, specular detail is frequently blown out when harsh light sources are involved - just see the morning montage at the 3-minute mark, with the harsh sunlight and blown out sky (which is hugely improved on the 4K Blu-ray). Highlights also suffer noticeably at times. For instance, see the somewhat smeary faces when Tim and Jack try to catch the Cubone at the beginning, or when Tim first meets Lucy at 14:30 - due to the harsh lighting, the actors look like they are made from wax in some shots. Luckily, despite the level of compression, I was unable to detect any serious encoding anomalies - there are no traces of macroblocking, aliasing, black crush, or anything else. It's just a shame that the compression robs the image of pristine tightness and highlights, with grain virtually disappearing in some scenes, resulting in a flat, digital-looking image (which defeats the purpose of shooting on film in the first place). All things considered, Detective Pikachu's Blu-ray presentation is good but not great.
Several subtitle tracks are available, including English for the hearing impaired. I had no issues reading the subtitles, which are easy to read and experience no formatting or sync issues.
Video Ratings Summary
Lords be praised - Roadshow/Warner Bros. have finally ditched their bizarre practise of discs defaulting to a downgraded 5.1 English audio track. When loaded up, Detective Pikachu thankfully defaults to the primary Dolby Atmos mix, though there is also an additional, superfluous English Dolby Digital 5.1 track that I have no intention of ever sampling. Several additional Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included in other languages, more than I can include in the specs for the disc (to be more specific, there are audio options for Basque, Cantonese, Catalan, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Thai). For the most part, this Atmos mix sounds fine, as it ably handles the dialogue, music and sound effects, while there is surround activity to boot. However, it sometimes sounds more like a neutered Disney audio mix, as some of the dialogue sounds slightly muffled and it's not as dynamic as the best Atmos mixes on the market. Still, there is much to appreciate about this track. There is effective subwoofer activity to augment the louder sound effects, such as the car accident, Charizard's roar, or the sound of Pokéballs which exhibit LFE. The dialogue is frequently front-centred, and is always well-prioritised no matter the environment - I had no troubles comprehending the chatter (the slight muffling to some lines feels are likely a source-related issue).
The first act primarily takes place in sedate locations, with not much in the way of environmental ambience to engage the surround channels. However, the audio is given the chance to shine in bigger scenes, such as inside the nightclub at the 39-minute mark, when noticeable separation and panning is evident, while crowd noises and music inhabit the rear speakers. The climax on the streets is also a good demonstration of the track's abilities, with noticeable (but not overpowering) crowd noises, while scenes at the top of Howard's tower are accompanied by the sound of wind after windows are broken. More dynamic range is evident here, particularly when Mewtwo flies around, while subwoofer activity is effective. Furthermore, Henry Jackman's score comes through with pristine clarity throughout, and there are no problems with syncing, drop-outs, popping or hissing. This is a proficiently-mixed Atmos track, and it sounds great on Blu-ray in spite of a few shortcomings.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
We get a pretty extensive "bonus view" mode, plus a collection of featurettes, an alternate opening, and a music video. This a pretty standard, par-for-the-course collection of special features.
Detective Mode (HD; 104:32) When selected, this plays the movie with trivia facts, Pokémon stats, as well as picture-in-picture cast and crew interviews and snippets of behind-the-scenes footage. We also get previz stuff, and the progression of the computer models. This is actually a whole separate video file on the disc due to the extent of the extra material. Scarcely a minute goes by without an interview snippet or some on-set footage, showing how certain scenes were filmed - it's particularly fun to see how scenes containing Pokémon were shot, with plush toy stand-ins and men wearing green screen suits, while Reynolds always interacted with co-star Smith on set. This also serves to point out several Easter Eggs throughout, such as one scene containing the old black & white gangster movie from Home Alone. It's worth pointing out that because this is a whole separate encode, the presentation here does suffer from compression problems, especially aliasing (just see the train station scene at the end). Happily, though, such aliasing does not appear in the main film encode.
My Pokémon Adventure (HD; 2:13) Justice Smith takes centre stage in this first featurette, in which he speaks about his personal passion for the Pokémon franchise (including the trading cards and games), and briefly talks about the making of the movie.
Creating the World of Detective Pikachu (HD; 21:22) Here we have a five-part behind-the-scenes documentary, which was clearly intended to be watched by younger viewers as opposed to serious cinephiles. Each of the five segments is introduced by Smith and Newton. I wouldn't call this boring as a whole, but I wish there was more substance to it.
- Uncovering the Magic (4:04) - Prefaced with an incredibly cheesy intro featuring Smith and Newton as they tease the behind-the-scenes content to come in these featurettes, this first segment covers the film's inception, initial impressions of the project, why the actors got involved, and the approach to the movie (including shooting on film and going with a noir-ish tone).
- Colorful Characters (6:48) - This piece focuses more on the Pokémon characters included in the movie; the actors were sometimes looking at nothing on set, though Reynolds and Smith actually communicated and played off one another during takes. The actors also talk about working with one another, and Newton expresses her fondness for having a Psyduck as her character's Pokémon. There's plenty of revealing behind-the-scenes footage intercut with the interviews to make this worthwhile.
- Bringing Pokémon to Life (3:23) - Here, we see the characters being given life through computer animation. There's test footage, and the visual effects team talk us through the process of designing the creatures. This is very surface-level stuff.
- Welcome to Ryme City (2:57) - The design of Ryme City is covered, which is a mix of Tokyo and London, while the specific noir lighting is also touched upon.
- Action! (4:07) - Another short segment, this time focusing on the stuntwork. Well, more specifically, it focuses on a single scene for which Smith and Newton did their own stunts. I was hoping for something more substantive.
Alternate Opening (HD; 1:41) This alternate opening gives us a look at Tim's monotonous day job as an insurance salesman. It's easy to see why this was trimmed, particularly given the unusually high amount of film artefacts here (lots of white specks).
Mr. Mime's Audio Commentary (HD; 3:00) This is a simple, one-note joke. Mr. Mime shows up to "say" that he was recruited to do an audio commentary for his scene. The scene then plays out normally because Mr. Mime doesn't speak. He pops in at the end to point out how silly the idea was. Ha ha ha.
Ryan Reynolds: Outside the Actor's Studio (HD; 1:32) Reynolds pops in to speak about immersing himself into the role of Detective Pikachu, and into the world of Pokémon. This is amusing and tongue-in-cheek. His wife, Blake Lively, even has a couple things to say.
Music Video: "Carry On" by Rita Ora and Kygo (HD; 3:51) A standard movie-themed music video for the song "Carry On." There are film clips, and Rita Ora shows up on certain sets from the film as well. For die-hard fans of this song, have at it. But if the song doesn't interest you, this extra is worthless.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Extras appear to be the same worldwide. Buy local with confidence.
I had a passing interest in Pokémon as a youngster, though I haven't played any of the later video games, I haven't watched the anime in about 15 years, and I didn't fall victim to the widespread Pokémon Go craze in 2016. This is to say that I'm not a huge fan of the franchise and don't have extensive knowledge of it, but Pokémon: Detective Pikachu worked like gangbusters for me - it's a well-made, frequently entertaining fantasy adventure with a winning cast.
On Blu-ray, the movie receives a perfectly watchable 1080p video transfer, and a satisfying Dolby Atmos mix. The selection of special features is also adequate, though there is room for improvement. All things considered, this is a recommended buy.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, September 27, 2019
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|