Since I was little, I have dreamed of seeing a live action Pokémon movie, fabricated cast lists, and attempted to write a screenplay. Now, Detective Pikachu is fulfilling that dream. Based on the 2016 adventure game, the film’s premiere trailer promises a delightfully fun-looking neo-noir film, that happens to be set in the world of Pocket Monsters. Zero expectations for the movie shot up with this trailer, hinting a lot of passion and enthusiasm has actually gone into it. Adapting video games and anime in Hollywood has never gone well, with a couple of exceptions.
Now, it would be a obvious to make a fantasy-sports film based on the franchise’s central premise of battling, but Detective Pikachu is a different but welcoming direction to take. Director Rob Letterman said he wanted to do something different with the franchise, and not make a film based around Ash Ketchum. Makes sense to me. There have been over twenty animated films starring Ash, and doing something fresh with Pokémon was a great idea. The film already looks promising, the script written by Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), with Alex Hirsch of Gravity Falls fame having some input in early drafts.
The story focuses on Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who travels to Ryme City upon learning his dad, police officer Harry Goodman, has gone missing. Ryme City (as described by Bill Nighy) is a paradise that emphasizes the union between man and Pokémon. But, it looks like something is amiss in town, related to Harry’s disappearance, and those of several Pokémon.
Tim’s character is very different than expected in the world of Pokémon. Most protagonists aim to become Pokémon trainers and go on journeys. Tim is implied to have tried and failed that adventure, now working as a telemarketer of all things. Hey, no one said such jobs didn’t exist in Pokémon. He makes it clear he doesn’t need a Pokémon (“period!”), further hinting at his failed attempt to be a trainer. This is certainly an original take, drifting from the common story of Pokémon battles; going for a more ordinary character who isn’t associated with the core culture of this universe. The only other time Pokémon has tried this was in the anime’s seventh film, Destiny Deoxys, involving a kid who had a phobia of Pokémon.
Tim’s relationship with his father may also be strained; his father being a renowned cop, whilst he is a telemarketer and failed trainer. Ken Watanbe appears as Lt. Yoshida, rhetorically asking if Tim is anything like his dad, which Tim quickly denies. Anyway, Tim will eventually cross paths with the talking and brilliant Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), who convinces Tim to help solve a mystery and find his dad. In the game, Pikachu is actually Harry’s Pokémon, so that history might carried over to the film. I’m not sure what is weirder: Hearing Deadpool’s voice coming out of my favourite electric mouse, or seeing a photorealistic, fuzzy Pikachu. Still, Reynolds’ role as Pikachu quickly won me over, and no doubt we’ll hear some jokes about it whenever Deadpool 3 rolls around.
The photorealistic Pokémon came as a neat surprise, who have been carefully presented as real creatures, but still identical to their game and anime counterparts. While Transformers went out of its way to disassociate itself with the iconic look of its characters, Detective Pikachu has done the thankful opposite. The talented artist RJ Palmer was hired to design the appearances of the Pokémon. Naturally, some of the Pokémon featured do look a little freaky. Psyduck never looked scary until now, and Mr. Mime’s exaggerated, creepy appearance has only grown worse. A lot of people have been freaking out about Jigglypuff being furry, and I don’t understand why. She is based on a bush baby for crying out loud, and her animated self look like a mammal anyway.
The trailer doesn’t divulge much more about the plot, but Tim and Pikachu will team up with Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), a journalist who is accompanied by a Psyduck. There are hints that Pokémon battling is an underground movement in Ryme City, and our heroes will face off against some evil Greninja and possibly an Aipom too. Tim appears to be the only person who can understand Detective Pikachu. He isn’t speaking English like Meowth, but Tim is interpreting it as English. To others, Pikachu is just talking like regular Pokémon do (with Ikue Otani returning to voice the character). I just hope they explain why Tim can understand his new Pika-pal.
To me, this film could be similar in tone to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, albeit with Pokémon instead of iconic American cartoon characters. The use of light and colouring gives the impression of a neo noir film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if jazz is used a lot in the score. The Pokémon may also fill archetypal roles in noir films, like Jigglypuff as a femme fatal in a coffee shop. Interestingly, Rita Ora has been cast in the film. I wonder if all the Pokémon will speak English around Tim, with Ora playing Jigglypuff.
From beginning to end, my 10-year old self was getting giddy about this movie trailer. Pikachu is adorable as hell, and I love all of the details on the Pokémon, but also the ton of easter eggs and eye candy in the shots around the city and settings. Look at those Bulbasaur, and the fantastically ferocious Charizard, and even Jigglypuff looks amazing! Although I’d love Ash and Team Rocket to make appearance, it is unlikely, considering the direction the film is going. Still, Detective Pikachu looks like great fun, and I look forward to the next trailer. Hurry up and get here, 2019. Now if only I had such enthusiasm for Sonic’s debut movie.