Detective Pikachu is the best movie inspired directly by a video game. But it's not the best movie about video games: 'Ready Player One', 'Indie Game: The Movie', 'King of Kong' or that wonderful experiment that was 'Bandersnatch' beat you; if they are worth series, sign up also the wonderful 'Hi-Score Girl' of Netflix.
We cannot say that it is the best work inspired by a videogame, because in the comic there are notable examples of good adaptations. And because Netflix's 'Castlevania', if it continues along this path, will make history.
But it is, at least for now, the best adaptation to a videogame's feature film.
The interesting thing is that 'Detective Pikachu' proves that doing well was much easier than it seemed. It was enough to set some humble but noble goals, and apply the standard Hollywood script formula to the finger. As we will see next, 'Detective Pikachu' is almost like a script workshop exercise, very well run. Always apply the simplest and most effective lessons to fit a franchise as difficult as Pokémon, whose nature, unlike many other video games that have made the leap to the big screen, is eminently interactive rather than narrative.
How did Rob Letterman and his team of scriptwriters do it? 'Detective Pikachu' is a well directed film, but without any personality; always pull for the most effective solution of what history asks; It is submissive (good for the script).
The cast, of course, helps; but the film depends surprisingly less on the charisma of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu than we could have thought. Watching the trailers, one imagined a kind of repetition like 'Deadpool 1 & 2', films that can be allowed to throw away the rigor of a conventional script because they orbit at all times around the charisma of its star. 'Detective Pikachu', on the other hand, it's not this. Neither Reynolds nor the great Justice Smith (how good that someone rescues him after his ordeal in the splendid 'The Get Down') rise above the story.
So the whole explanation of why 'Detective Pikachu' triumphs there, is completely due to his script . But its script, as we said, is a workshop exercise, a rigorous application of the oldest tricks of the trade to mount a surprising story.
When one studies how to create the arc of a protagonist in a story, the American school insists a lot on a structural technique that always works. It's called: the lie that your protagonist believes; and it is exactly what he says, a lie that someone believes about an aspect of himself. This lie is the engine that will take the hero to catharsis, because in catharsis he or she will realize where the lie is.
The lie that the character believes can be internal or external to him. The internal is easily explained; Anorexia is the example; a disease that causes the person to have a distorted image of himself. Internal lies tend to throw inside: the brave man who thinks he is a coward (Bilbo Baggins), the nobleman who thinks he is a scoundrel (Han Solo), the insecure man who thinks he is arrogant (Tony Stark). They are tremendously useful because they create a contradiction in the character that causes instant appeal in the audience. How does this character believe this about himself and when will he realize the mistake? It is a hitch to continue seeing a character. This and a bunch of other conventional Hollywood elements are presented in Detective Pikachu's script.
'Detective Pikachu' is the best movie inspired by a video game. But that is not saying too much at the moment.
Of course, 'Detective Pikachu' has left the perfect road map so that, if Hollywood adapts a video game in the future, it can always do so with some dignity.