Movies based on video games often get a bad rap — they can be exciting for fans but disappointing for everyone else.
Mexican actor Omar Chaparro disagrees. He says that “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” which opens Friday, will surprise everyone.
“You don’t have to be a big fan of Pikachu to love this movie,” Chaparro told NBC News. “You will have fun because this movie is full of adventure, friendship and heart.”
Fans know Pokémon as a multibillion-dollar media franchise that grew from an original Game Boy release in 1996 to a worldwide business that now includes cartoons, card games, comic books, and more video games.
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For those who have never played, the idea is simple. Players acting as trainers catch these fun little creatures by throwing a metallic ball at them. Once caught, they can be trained and released to battle other Pokémon. The goal is to become a master by catching and defeating all of your opponents.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” taps into that childhood fantasy of becoming a master trainer. For Chaparro, who plays a trainer named Sebastian, his 14-year-old son helped him reconnect with that youthful excitement.
“My son, Emiliano, taught me everything about Pokémon,” he said. “When he was a boy, he dressed as Pikachu for Halloween. He read the whole script. And made me feel excited about playing Sebastian in the movie.”
Similarly, the live-action film relies on a father-son relationship to drive the story. Tim Goodman, played by actor Justice Smith, is a small-town insurance agent who travels to Ryme City after his estranged father disappears. He soon teams up with an over-caffeinated Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, and they set out on a quest to unravel the mystery.
Video games are often described as an oasis for people who don’t feel at home in the real world. But Chaparro points out that Pokémon is not just about creating a world to which to escape. The movie also shows how video games can be platforms to connect with people.
“I did not realize how big Pokémon was until the movie,” Chaparro told NBC News. “Some fans in Mexico saw me in the trailer and they sent me art and letters. It made me see how so many people connect through Pokémon.”
The movie also channels this community spirit — Ryme City is presented as a utopia where Pokémon and humans need to coexist so that they can evolve together. The idea of becoming someone better, being fulfilled, is at the core of video game culture.
And “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” reminds viewers that no matter how many characters you play in a video game, how many adventures you go on, the values are universally the same.
So when Pikachu persuades Goodman to join him on an adventure, he is also asking us — fans and viewers everywhere — to connect with our inner Pokémon and unravel our own hidden mysteries.