Video game movie adaptations aren’t exactly popular and for good reason. These movies always add their Hollywood twists to them and what this ultimately does is hurt the quality of the movie. Fans of these franchises notice this because there is a distinct lack of the world’s lore and poorly written narratives. Detective Pikachu manages to dodge this problem and presents the plot that is true to Pokemon lore, right down to the pokedex entries. Of course, the game’s plot and the movie’s plot are told quite differently from each other, so let’s analyze that.
Firstly, let’s look at character motivation and the relationship between Tim and Pikachu. Why is Tim Goodman in Rhyme City? In the game it comes down to a simple reason. Tim wants to look for his missing father, Harry Goodman. His relationship to Pikachu has little complications as the duo works rather well together. There isn’t quite a problem and Tim goes with the flow of accepting his curious ability to understand Pikachu. This doesn’t leave much room for character growth and has a stagnant dynamic between Tim and Pikachu. The movie goes into a completely opposite direction.
Tim, in the movie, is in Rhyme city to collect his belongings from his father’s apartment. Unlike the video game, Harry Goodman has been pronounced dead. Tim grew up wanting to be a pokemon trainer but with his father always working he simply gave up and has no desire to work with pokemon, let alone his father’s Pikachu. Their relationship is much rockier as Tim reacts to a talking Pikachu like any other person would, a small freak out. This gives much more inner conflict to work and grow with making it a more dynamic relationship which is enjoyable to watch.
The video game doesn’t give much conflict between Tim and Pikachu though. There isn’t anything to say about it. The relationship feels much more tightknit in the movie and we can see this. Tim goes from not caring very much about Pikachu and thinking he’s crazy for hearing him talk, to caring about his wellbeing. This is highlighted when Pikachu get injured during the Torterra garden scene and Tim becomes emotional even so far as to say Pikachu is his partner, a notion he previously rejected at the start.
Relationships and internal conflicts aside, we move on the center of the movie’s conflict, R. Before we discuss specifics let’s define R. R is the chemical made from the berserk gene of Mewtwo’s DNA. The chemical bolster’s a pokemon’s power but at the cost of its self-control and sanity. The effect is temporary but the effects are devastating and a good example of this is seen in the movie when Tim discovers R in the movie. He finds it in his father’s desk and once opened a pack of Aipom inhale the gas from an open window. The following chase scene is enough to show just how destructive it is. The substance itself has not been changed but the role of R has been.
In the game R is seen in two states, liquid and gas. The only change made to R was this, it appears as a gas only form in the movie. Other than that, it functions the same way and is introduced right in the beginning of the movie. In the game it takes some time to figure out what R is and it is introduced in the second chapter of the game at PCL. The purpose of R was much simpler as well. Roger Clifford wanted to use R to rule Rhyme City, your typical villain motive. The movie gives a more complex purpose to R as well as a much different villain, Howard Clifford.
In the movie Howard Clifford has been paralyzed from the waste down by an illness and learned about Mewtwo’s ability to switch the souls of people into the bodies of pokemon but to do so he needed pokemon to be in a berserker state. He accomplished this by taking over Mewtwo’s body and using the balloons of the pokemon parade to douse the city with R and forcing people into the bodies of their pokemon partners. His reasoning was from a belief that this was the next evolution for humans. This new take on the plot’s villains felt much more sophisticated and well written compared to the one-dimensional plot of Roger Clifford in the game. His movie counterpart was more of a wild goose chase. Although the plot could be predictable it was a satisfying twist for even those of us who have played the games.
Finally, we get to the ending of the movie and the game. In the game Tim and Pikachu resolve the case of R but Harry Goodman is still considered missing. This leaves the case still open and for the possibility of a future Detective Pikachu game. By the time this article has been published, Nintendo has announced that there is indeed a new Detective Pikachu game coming to the switch. Hopefully we will receive more news on this during the Pokemon Direct on June 5th, so be sure to check it out!
As for the movie, the ending solved both cases. R is destroyed, Mewtwo is freed from Howard’s control, and it is revealed that Harry was in Pikachu’s body this entire time. Mewtwo separates the two and Tim moves in with his father. Both endings were satisfying and there isn’t a need to choose one over the other. If there is any difference it would be the anticipation of future Detective Pikachu games and what they could have in store for the players. With the success of the movie perhaps they could implement elements from there into the game.
Over all the differences may be big but the biggest charm is how loyal the movie is to the source material. Between the two it could be said the changes to the plot in the movie made for a much more mature and enjoyable plot that was full of character dynamics. These two mediums may be different, but it was a blast from start to finish making this video game movie, among all others, a bolt of brilliance.