When Pokémon Detective Pikachu came out in May, it catapulted to the top of the list of best video game movies with a reasonably-positive 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Three months later, critics have dethroned it and placed The Angry Birds Movie 2 on a dubiously-lofty pedestal, blowing past its Pokémon-laden competition with a good, if not great, 76% rating.
Rotten Tomatoes’ viewer scores and Metacritic’s Metascore also rank the newest Angry Birds movie above Detective Pikachu. The only notable counterpoint to the movie’s victory is the audience polling firm CinemaScore, which gave Detective Pikachu an A- compared to The Angry Birds Movie 2’s B+.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 involves the titular birds teaming up with their enemies, the pigs, after their homes are attacked by Eagle Island using newcomer villain Zeta’s diabolical ice machine. Screen Rant gave the movie 3 out of 5 stars, saying that it’s “more entertaining than it has any right or need to be,” and it is “gleefully silly, yet unexpectedly clever.”
A better review score doesn’t mean better ticket sales, however. Detective Pikachu grossed $431 million in worldwide box office returns, almost tripling its $150 million production budget. Angry Birds, which no longer holds the brand recognition that it did when its first game was released a decade ago, has so far only made $45 million worldwide after a week in theaters, well short of its $65 million budget.
It’s worth noting that Detective Pikachu actually isn’t the highest-grossing video game movie ever made – The 2016 Warcraft film actually earned $2.5 million more than its much-better-reviewed counterpart.
Both Detective Pikachu and Angry Birds 2 are notable for being the only video game movies to receive a “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that over 60% of critics gave the films a positive review. The other highest-ranking video game movies are 2018’s Rampage and Tomb Raider films, both tied at a 52% Tomatometer rating. These are closely followed by 1995 cult classic Mortal Kombat, which boasts a 46% rating.
With two video game movies in the same year being released to positive regard (if not universal praise), it’s possible that future game-based movies may learn from their examples and finally put a stop to the trend of awful adaptations that have plagued video game movies since their inception.