'Detective Pikachu' Isn't A Pokemon Movie (And That's Good)
For years, Pokemon fans have talked about the possibilities of a live-action movie adaptation of their beloved franchise. I know. I've been right there with them, declaring my wishes with the gleeful naivete of someone who hasn't yet found out that he can't be both Batman AND president. We fill our dream journals with scribbles that give no thought to pesky things like budgets or time, and instead focus on the wonderful delusion that someday Hollywood is going to come to its senses and make a movie based around the original games with perfect CGI, perfect casting, and unlimited fun.
And now, we're finally getting it. A Pokemon movie based on a Pokemon game. The only problem is that the game is Great Detective Pikachu, and if you've never heard of that, I don't blame you, because it was only released in Japan, and there are no physical copies of it. It's solely available on the Nintendo eShop. So 20 years after Pokemon was originally released and 19 years after the height of the franchise's popularity, a Pokemon movie is finally ours to be ridiculously underwhelmed by. To give you a sense of what this might look like, here's a trailer for the game:
It kind of had to be this way, though. I don't want to see Pokemon filtered through the inevitable Hollywood process, as 20 screenwriters use a revolving door system to whittle down Pokemon into something that Warner Bros. thinks Americans would enjoy. "Type differences? Gym leaders? Safari Zone? That's too much. Make it about a kid yelling at dragons, attach the director of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, and put a Pitbull song in the trailer." Unless the stars aligned, a Pokemon movie would probably end up being a lot like The Last Airbender movie: the source material ground into its blandest, most "accessible" form.
But a Detective Pikachu movie doesn't have to worry about losing any awesome Pokemon elements, because there's only really one Pokemon element in it: Pikachu. It's not a Zootopia full of Pokemon, in which characters absentmindedly rattle off names to build the illusion that they're in some kind of carefully planned universe. It's just Pikachu in a deerstalker cap, solvin' cases. Pokemon aren't a thing, and Pikachu is a genetic anomaly, a bastard abomination before God. But he looks so fucking cute in his little hat, guys. Aww, little buddy. I bet you want some ketchup.
Honestly, there's one way to make this movie work. The world around Pikachu needs to have the same reaction to him as we do. "Look at this adorable freak of nature and his Sherlock Holmes costume! Makin' some deductions, little guy?" Meanwhile, Pikachu lives in his own hardboiled reality -- which, to be fair, is pretty easy, since most realities are hardboiled when you're two feet tall and don't speak any language except Pika language, which only you fucking know. He's just got his magnifying glass out, looking for clues, thinking old-timey detective thoughts to himself. A grizzled voice actor narrates Pikachu's internal thoughts, like, "When she walked in. I knew she was trouble. But I was prepared for trouble. And like my scotch, I want it double."
Meanwhile, when Pikachu tries to speak, all the human characters hear is a squeaky "Pika! Pikachu! Chu!" And they think it's adorable, when what Pikachu is trying to say is "The bloodstains! They're on the bottom of his shoe! He's getting away!" This is the only version of this movie I want to see. Otherwise, we're just getting Pokemon Lite, and I'd much rather have a Detective Pikachu movie that turns Pikachu into an annoying DreamWorks side character than a Pokemon movie in which Hollywood has decided which facets of the Pokemon universe I like most.
Forget it, Jake, it's Pallet Town.
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