This article contains Pokémon: Detective Pikachu spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here.
It’s been long established in Poké lore that Mewtwo, a Frankenstein-like creature created by man in an attempt to clone Mew, is the most powerful Pocket Monster in existence. But his role in Detective Pikachu took what we knew about the loquacious psychic to a whole new level. By the time the movie is over, it is revealed that Mewtwo has captured the soul of Harry Goodman and is responsible for putting it in the body of Pikachu… hence Ryan Reynolds’ personality inside of an adorable electric rodent.
To take a step back and walk through this entirely unexpected twist, it’s best to look at why Mewtwo was so sought after by the villainous Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and how that has resulted in an ending where humans’ minds were placed in the bodies of their favorite Pokémon partners.
In the original Pokémon animated series, Mewtwo is debatably the most powerful being on earth–although fans still argue whether he or his progenitor, Mew, an ancient psychic Pokémon who derives from a fictional South American jungle, is stronger. In fittingly 1990s post-Jurassic Park logic, an evil organization named Team Rocket hired a man named Dr. Fuji to clone Mew for nefarious reasons. He agreed, however only so as to improve his attempts at cloning his dead daughter (all of his previous clones died shortly after creation). By cloning one of Mew’s eyelashes and tampering with its DNA to make it obedient, they got more than they bargained for, and Mewtwo revealed himself to be a Pokémon able to understand human language (and mentally read scientists’ thoughts). Since Mew has an immortal life force, Mewtwo did not die like the other clones, but grew wrathful that humans had made him to serve. So he escaped his tank and destroyed Dr. Fuji and everyone else in the lab.
Which brings us to Detective Pikachu. Howard Clifford has been experimenting on the genetics of other Pokémon like the creators of Mewtwo. He turned Torterra into a giant, geography-warping creature in some unspecified land grab scheme that wouldn’t be out of place in real noirs like Chinatown. And Howard ultimately planned to harness Mewtwo’s relatively unlimited psychic power to give his consciousness a new home away from his aging and disabled body. He apparently had hired Harry Goodman, who it is revealed late in the movie to have been played by Ryan Reynolds all along, to track down Mewtwo. But once Harry and his Poké partner, Pikachu (likely chosen because his son Tim grew up loving Pikachu), realize Howard’s plans, they help free Mewtwo.
In the escape from Clifford’s lab, Greninja Pokémon drive Harry’s car off a bridge. It is unclear whether Harry was mortally wounded or not, but that is the impression I took away when Mewtwo felt compelled to place Harry’s life force/soul into his pet Pikachu. In order to save Harry, Mewtwo used the same abilities that Howard thirsted for. Albeit Howard’s use of these talents is much more rudimentary, relying on a toxic gas that turns Pokémon violent in order to make them susceptible to having a human consciousness enter their bodies. Mewtwo didn’t need gas when he literally placed all of Harry’s essence in Pikachu and then wiped the memories of both to protect himself.
It did not fully work out though, since Harry’s son was able to hear Harry’s soul inside of an adorable ball of yellow cynicism. Now why didn’t Tim (Justice Smith) immediately recognize the voice of his father coming out of Pikachu? Um… I’ve got nothing for you there. Maybe it’s because he and his father hadn’t seen each other since he was a child? They had a falling out after Tim’s mother died and Harry moved to Rhyme City leaving others to raise his son. Harry’s choice of Pokémon was even a concession to his son’s interests—conversely, Tim lost interest in Pokémon because his father picked Rhyme City over raising him. Still, you would think that his father’s voice would be burned into his brain even more so due to dad’s untimely absence.
In any event, after Harry/Pikachu help save Mewtwo from becoming the permanent vessel of Howard Clifford, Mewtwo separates Harry from the rodent, suggesting he might’ve never been mortally wounded or simply that Mewtwo was able to fix him while he was trapped in a furry body of electric fluff. Like Pikachu and Jigglypuff in this movie, it’s all a bit fuzzy.
Whatever the case may be, Tim and Harry are free to reconcile as father and son at the end, and Pikachu is back to his adorable self. Meanwhile Howard Clifford’s son, Roger (Chris Geere), concedes that he was aware of Howard’s lab and experiments but not of his father’s plan to stuff balloons with poisoned gas at their company’s parade. So despite being part of a corporate entity responsible for mayhem and destruction, he tells the press, who work for him and are embodied by Lucy (Kathryn Newton), that he bears no personal responsibility and is awfully sorry.
Perhaps the true ending is about a subversive dig at corrupt corporate entities walking away with a wink and a shrug from their crimes while the very news organizations they own simply watch? Now that’s an ending you don’t see every day in a summer blockbuster! Pika, pi!