Detective Pikachu 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review
Detective Pikachu is a much better movie than its name and premise might imply. It’s surprising that it took over twenty years for a live-action Pokémon film to emerge. Although the built-in franchise appeal makes the film somewhat of a safe bet, it is also forced to work overtime to justify its existence. In this respect, the movie is largely successful in finally bringing the Pokémon universe to life.
Director Rob Letterman offers a surprisingly tactful approach to both the storytelling and world-building in Detective Pikachu. Letterman brings a nice mixture of realism with elements of pure fantasy. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the film only works because of the earnest sense of heart that balances it out. While the comedy is rooted in character, the vivid onscreen world is also a highlight of the film. Each frame of Ryme City is so meticulously crafted that it is quite staggering.
Unfortunately, the script is the film’s biggest weakness. While the core story is effective, the actual execution of the plot is somewhat predictable. The film utilizes the classic detective story structure, but it never adds anything new to the formula. But just because something is predictable doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad – especially if the film features well-executed storytelling that invests the audience in the journey of our main characters. But there’s not much happening thematically beyond a heartwarming tale about the bonds of family.
Although the screenplay is heavily reliant on exposition, the earnest performances from Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, and Ryan Reynolds are enough to carry the dramatic weight of the story. Without the excellent chemistry between the lead trio, Detective Pikachu would be far less engaging. There are numerous reasons why the film shouldn’t have worked. Somehow, Letterman and company managed to find a way to appeal to die-hard Pokémon fans, while never pushing newcomers away. Despite a few weaknesses, Detective Pikachu manages to strike a fun viewing experience that holds up – even on a second viewing.
For more thoughts on Detective Pikachu, you can find our original review here.
Detective Pikachu is one of the few modern movies to be shot on 35mm film. Even though the image on this 4K Blu-ray was scanned at 2K resolution, this choice surprisingly helps the transfer. While it’s naturally a bit softer as a result, the image detail and clarity in this 4K upscale remain outstanding. In particular, the level of detail on the titular character is absolutely stunning. Some of the textures and fabrics – especially with some of the digital characters – come off as a bit cartoonish. Regardless, the facial textures, skin tones, and overall sharpness are all noteworthy.
Although Detective Pikachu was intentionally shot with a film noir look that often uses heavy contrast, the brightness is excellent throughout. Dolby Vision clearly makes a significant impact on this 4K disc, while offering a distinct improvement of both highlights and shadows. Similarly, the film’s color spectrum also excels with Dolby Vision, while providing a significant increase in color saturation. Luckily, there are no artifacts or banding to be found in this super clean image. It largely retains the theatrical aspect ratio 2.39:1 with a 2.40:1 ratio on this 4K disc. Overall, the image quality on the home video release of Detective Pikachu is splendid.
The audio mix for the 4K UHD release of Detective Pikachu is equally as potent. It features a superb Dolby Atmos mix that accentuates the picture in numerous ways. Put simply, this track rocks. While the disc naturally reverts to a 7.1 track for those without the setup, the Atmos track is clearly preferred. Channel separation is prominent throughout its tight runtime, especially during the battle scenes where the various Pokemon use their powers. These effects allow the mix to feel oddly organic.
The clarity, positioning, and overall immersion are all outstanding. No volume calibration is necessary with this disc, which strikes a surprising and effective balance between depth and finesse. Henry Jackman’s score also integrates into the mix nicely, by offering a great showcase for the composer’s subtle but effective music. If there’s one slight disappointment, it’s that the low end of the track never feels prominent. It’s certainly present within the action sequences, but the subwoofer never truly punches as it should. Regardless, the Atmos mix for Detective Pikachu is still impressive. It’s a near-flawless transfer that engrosses viewers.
The Special Features
The special features for Detective Pikachu are passable at best. This release features some mildly interesting surface level exploration of what it took to make the film. Aside from a few neat tidbits spread throughout, there’s not much of substance in the supplemental material. But it’s the lack of a real director commentary that ultimately hurts this disc.
Detective Mode (1:44:32; 1080p): A feature-length trivia track that is easily the most worthwhile supplement. Hosted by Letterman, Detective Mode features a variety of information that includes pop-up trivia, animatics, and B-roll footage. Along with pointing out Easter eggs and various Pokemon cameos, this feature also showcases some small vignettes of crewmembers discussing the different production elements.
My Pokemon Adventure (2:13; 1080p): A short featurette where Justice Smith talks about his affinity for the franchise. It’s good to know that the filmmakers hired someone who loves the world of Pokémon for the lead role. However, it’s basically a quick commercial for the franchise’s various products throughout the years.
Creating The World of Detective Pikachu (21:22; 1080p): A series of behind the scenes featurettes. Played individually, these short videos don’t add up to much. Played as a whole, they form an all-too-short making-of documentary. Hosted by Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton, these EPK-style features include floating head interviews. There are some great BTS shots and useful information here and there. But aside from a few small moments of gold, these featurettes are mostly disappointing.
- Uncovering the Magic
- Colorful Characters
- Bringing Pokémon to life
- Welcome to Ryme City
Alternate Opening (3:19; 1080p): As the singular deleted scene on this disc, it’s easy to see why it wasn’t included in the edit. The scene features Tim working at his insurance job, as mentioned in the first act.
Mr. Mime’s Audio Commentary (3:16; 1080p): Based on the title alone, this special feature has the potential to be either the best or worst supplemental material ever. Unfortunately, the latter happens to be the case. The idea of doing a “commentary” from Mr. Mime could have been downright hilarious with thought and care. Instead, this supplement feels like a pointless afterthought.
Ryan Reynolds: Outside The Actors Studio (1:32; 1080p): This quick featurette offers a hilarious look at his “method acting” to get into the role of Pikachu.
Music Video: “Carry On” by Rita Ora and Kygo (3:51; 1080p): An obligatory music video for Detective Pikachu.
As a whole, this 4K Blu-ray release of Detective Pikachu is solid. The movie itself is entertaining enough for all to enjoy. Although the audio and video quality on this disc is notable, the special features are a letdown. Surely the first live-action interpretation of one world’s most popular and enduring franchises could have done better. Depending on whether you’re a fan or not, your individual mileage may vary with this release. Despite this, this disc is worth picking up for the technical specs alone, while also being an absolute must-buy for Pokémon fans. As a result, the Detective Pikachu 4K Blu-ray is recommended.