Truth be told, I would consider myself a "non-fan" of Pokémon. Don't get the wrong idea though. I have no problems or issues with Pokémon or anyone who's into it. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that I feel like their fan-base is one of the nicer, less toxic ones, unlike some of the stuff I'm into like 'Star Wars' or 'Game of Thrones', where fans go off like dynamite if something isn't to their liking. I'm sure fans here can do the same, but from my perspective, it's far less noticeable.
When I first saw this, I wanted to experiment and pay close attention as a non-fan to see if I could get anything out of it. And the truth of the matter is, to my surprise, I actually got quite a lot out of it. In fact, this is kind of the perfect Pokémon movie for someone in my shoes. I know just enough for a beginner's pop quiz on the subject, and this does a very good job of not only unveiling their world, but going a direction with it that works for a mass audience.
We're introduced to Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) and his friend, Jack (Karan Soni). Jack is keen on getting Tim back into hunting and training Pokémon, since he gave it up. While trying to catch a Cubone (which we even get a glimpse of a history on with a couple of seconds of dialogue), Tim receives the news that his Father, Harry, was killed in a car accident Cliché. This leads him into Ryme City; a place where Pokémon society and Human society have become integrated , so that he can collect his Father's assets.
Ryme City has an equal rights subtext to it where Pokémon aren't hunted, but work with humankind instead,, and it works very well. Pokémon aren't "pets" here (so to speak) so much as partners. It's neat to see how some of them work too. For example, Squirtles work with the fire department, which makes perfect sense. Anyway, it's here, he eventually meets Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), and is miraculously able to understand him. Pikachu reveals that he has amnesia, and the last thing he remembers was working a case with Harry when the car accident happened. It's further revealed that Harry might very well still be alive, and the film turns into a search for the truth behind that, blended with the investigation of a mysterious gas known only as "R" that makes Pokémon go mad.
The first thing that jumps out to me with this film is the animation style. Although anything I know about Pokémon was learned through a little bit of word of mouth, and about two months worth of playing 'Pokémon Go', these characters were instantly recognizable (at least those I knew about) and looked pretty much exactly as they should. Although Pokémon have always been cute, the animation here makes you wanna reach through the screen and pet them, or cuddle them. Whatever the case may be, they're cute as hell, and Psyduck, was able to give me quite a few genuine chuckles. But it also gets a bit dramatic here and there, marking the film with some genuine heart as opposed to it being just a noisy mess of strange creatures (which it totally could have been).
Other than the awesome animation, comedic and dramatic moments, the big question is "can a non-fan walk away from this movie, still enjoying it?" I'm gonna go ahead and say yes. Even if you know nothing at all about Pokémon, if you just watch and pay attention, you do end up getting a sort of crash-course about the whole deal in the first act of the movie. As the movie goes on, you develop a little tiny bit of an education on some of them as well. For example, going back to the Cubone, I didn't know the skull was supposed to be the head of their dead relative. Or when it comes to Psyduck, I didn't know that he exploded under extreme stress. These may be painfully obvious things to fans, but bear in mind that I'm still pretty much blind to about 80% of it all. I know the very basics of hunting, catching and training, and I can recognize a handful of their faces.
I really don't know for sure how the hardcore fans have taken to this movie since its release. A lot of them seem to overlook this and stick with their hunting. But with that said, and going against the grain of several other reviewers, I might go so far as to say that this film was actually made more for the non-fans, while the regular fans are there more to appreciate a lot of the Easter eggs hidden throughout it. I never actually got lost in this, and everything that was necessary to explain seemed to come through. In the end, I think this is one of the best video game based movies out there. Will fans disagree? Sure. But this a great way for fans to get non-fans to dip their toes into that Pokémon water.