WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Detective Pikachu, in theaters now.
Detective Pikachu feels like three distinctly different films, fused together to present the far more interesting Pokemon world to a wider audience. The first act is a self-aware take on noir, elevated beyond simple parody by the cute Pokemon and silly humor. The second act becomes a more typical Pokemon adventure, in which the characters are brought into nature and must deal with the ramifications of a world where Pokemon are real. While less engaging, it's nevertheless an entertaining story. However, the final act isn't just confusing, it's straight-up bonkers.
The villain's ultimate motivations, Mewtwo's ill-defined abilities, and the final twist that Detective Pikachu was actually Tim Goodman's missing father the entire time are decidedly strange storytelling decisions.
Why Is This The Villainous Scheme?
Bill Nighy's Howard Clifford spends most of the film as an affable ally to Tim and Pikachu. However, it's eventually revealed that Clifford is actually the secret villain, and he's done more than simply try to capture Mewtwo. He has also used Mewtwo's genetic material to create a gas that can turn Pokemon feral. Once a Pokemon has been exposed to the gas, then Mewtwo can combine that pocket monster with its human partner. To accomplish that, Howard uses a mind-control harness -- briefly introduced earlier in another exposition dump -- take over Mewtwo's body.
There are a lot of weird plot conveniences in a row, leading to the genuinely surprising development in which many of the characters on the streets of Ryme City are fused with their Pokemon. That includes Lucy (Kathryn Newton) combining with her Psyduck, and Detective Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) with his Snubbull. Taking over Mewtwo for a body-swap makes some sense, given Howard's declining physical health, and his desire to "evolve." But why is he determined to target everyone else in the city? He mentions wanting people to evolve like Pokemon, but there's no motivation for him to make that literal. He's portrayed as a selfish monster of a man, so why is he trying to spread this "gift"?
Mewtwo Can Do What Now?
Mewtwo is explicitly the most powerful Pokemon. The genetically modified creature was created in a laboratory by cloning the remains of the legendary Mew into a new Pokemon. He's psychic, telekinetic and can fly; he's even capable of forcibly changing minds. That's a lot of powers to reveal over the course of the film, but Detective Pikachu never actually explains what Mewtwo can do, and what his limits are. That, in turn, leads to a lot of strange moments in which Mewtwo appears to randomly, and confusingly, exhibit new powers. He can apparently heal wounds, like when he restores an injured Pikachu. He can also sometimes fire balls of energy.
The strangest of all, however, is his ability to merge Pokemon with their human partners. That requires the gas made from his genetic structure and an apparent blast of his power. During the film's climax, the Howard Clifford-controlled Mewtwo tries to cause the residents of Ryme City to combine with their Pokemon. But once he's released from Clifford's influence, Mewtwo simply returns everything to how it was before. It casually dismisses what the film was, just moments before, attempting to convince the audience was a huge deal.
So, About That Twist
The disappearance of Tim's father, veteran Ryme City police detective Harry Goodman, is central to the film's premise. Tim and Detective Pikachu, Harry's former partner, are hot on the trail, but their hopes dwindle. Ultimately, however, Mewtwo reveals that Henry has been there the entire time: After the car crash that seemingly killed Harry, Mewtwo took his body and fused his mind with the Pikachu. Unknown to, well, everyone, Tim has been on an adventure with his father because Detective Pikachu technically is his father. Yes, you read that correctly.
It also means that Pikachu has been behaving in a way a father probably shouldn't: He offers advice on how to flirt with girls, complains about peeing a little in a restaurant, and points out that he's naked. He even jokes about leaving his son to be torn apart by rabid Aipoms. It makes their relationship fundamentally weirder, and a little tone-deaf. It also invites the question of where Mewtwo was hiding Harry's body while he "repaired" it. Can he simply turn bodies into energy and reconstruct people? It turns the connection between Pikachu and Tim into a child-parent relationship, except that the parent here is ... a coffee-drinking, talking electrical yellow mouse.
Directed by Rob Letterman, Detective Pikachu stars Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy.