POKEMON Detective Pikachu: the live-action Pokémon movie the world didn’t know it wanted

The trailer shocked many, prompting some to question whether it was joke. It is, in fact, quite real and a major push for the franchise.
The first live-action Pokémon movie is here and it's not what you expected. [Photo from video]
The first live-action Pokémon movie is here and it's not what you expected. [Photo from video]
Published November 13 2018

The first live-action Pokémon movie is here and it's not what you expected.
The trailer dropped Tuesday, lighting the internet like a 10 million-volt Thunderbolt z-move. Nowhere in the 22-year-old franchise's first live-action offering were the familiar faces Pokemon fans have come to know so well. No Ash Ketchum. No Team Rocket. No Professor Oak and no Misty. None of the classic, franchise building characters 30-somethings remember from their mid-90s Game Boy-clutching wonder years.

Weird flex, but okay.

Instead, we see a gritty Ryme City where Pokémon and human alike live side by side. Then, suddenly and with no warning, a wild Ryan Reynolds appears. Well, his voice anyway, answering – in his innately sarcastic and witty tone – a question no one ever thought to ask, "What if Deadpool played Pikachu?"

Reynolds, everyone's favorite big screen "Merc with a Mouth," voices Pikachu, the deceptively cuddly electric yellow rodent most associated with the franchise's pocket monsters. In the film, based off a 2016 spin-off game, Pikachu teams up with failed Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman as the two hunt for Goodman's missing dad, Henry, a detective and Pikachu's old partner. Goodman, played by Justice Smith, is the only one who can hear Pikachu, everyone else just gets that high-pitched "Pika-pika."

The focus on a new story was an intentional move, writer/director Rob Letterman told IGN during the 2018 Pokémon World Championship in Nashville.

"When I came onboard, I was pitched this character of Detective Pikachu and I fell in love with the story behind it," Letterman said. "It's a really great story. It was something with a lot of heart, and it was just very unique. And because there's already been so much work done with Ash, for the first live-action movie I thought it was a really good idea to try something new with a new character, but bake it into the universe of Pokemon."

The trailer shocked many, prompting some to question whether it was joke. It is, in fact, quite real and a major push for the franchise. Some fans hope a live-action film will help cement the franchise's status as a pop-culture main stay in the United States, where it is nowhere near as popular as it is in its native Japan.

"Pokémon hasn't gotten the full pop-culture treatment and recognition that Mickey Mouse, Batman or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have," Chasen Chandler, a 20-year player of the game, said. "For fans, this Hollywood film legitimizes the franchise and brings newcomers into the world to discover the wonder and excitement of Pokémon for themselves."
Though the trailer took many by surprise, the film has been in the works for more than two years. Legendary Pictures and The Pokémon Company International announced they were teaming for the first live-action entry in mid-2016.

Some lifelong fans are still unsure.

Matthew Barker runs the First United Church of Nintendo, a traveling altar to all-things Nintendo, popping up at bars throughout the Bay Area with every Nintendo console imaginable and hundreds of games to choose from. He's been playing Pokémon since the beginning. He fears the film is a money grab.

"I think it's going to be a cool watch, but I'm also skeptical because movies tend to not do justice to hardcore fans of said things in pop-culture," he said. "Ever see the Garbage Pail Kids movie? Awesome idea. Movie was very, well, people have their own opinions on that."

POKEMON Detective Pikachu also stars Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe. It hits theaters May 10, 2019. Check out the trailer and let us know what you think.

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