Last week, the world was treated to a second trailer for Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, the first live-action movie based on the hit pop culture phenomenon. The movie stars Ryan Reynolds as a talking Pikachu, who attempts to help a young man (played by Justice Smith) solve the mystery of what happened to his supposedly deceased father.
The new trailer once again highlights the new locale of Ryme City, described as ‘a celebration of the harmony between humans and Pokémon’ and shows off some more of the cute yet creepy photorealistic creatures, before climaxing with the “very twisty” reveal that the fan-favourite legendary Pokémon Mewtwo will feature in some capacity.
While it was probably a given that one of the most popular Pokémon ever would feature in some form, seeing as other fan-favourites like Charizard and Greninja also seem to have a strong presence in the movie, the reveal does harken back to a rumour that began circulating in January. In this rumour, We Got This Covered claimed that their sources had told them Mewtwo would be the (now not so) secret villain of the film. They go on to posit that the film will serve as Mewtwo’s origin story before Legendary Pictures moves forward with his own spin-off. After that, they say, an adaptation of the original Pokémon Red/Green is also on the cards and that Legendary Pictures would love to bring anime protagonist Ash Ketchum into their new live-action world, while The Hollywood Reporter claims a sequel to Detective Pikachu is also already in development. With Detective Pikachu serving not only as a reintroduction of the Pokémon world to general audiences but also the potential start of a new cinematic universe, we’re going to take a look at how that could turn out.
With Mewtwo so clearly at the forefront of Legendary’s plans, we’ll start there.
The obvious basis for a solo film could be a live-action remake of the original Pokémon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back. The first Pokémon movie saw Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of the anime, summoned to a mysterious island along with other Pokémon trainers, to compete in a tournament as a ruse by Mewtwo to eliminate the trainers and begin a plan to wipe out humanity. If ‘Red’/‘Ash’ is set to get his own adaptation, then it’s unlikely that Legendary would forgo his origin and present him as a fully-fledged trainer battling Mewtwo on his first outing, but it’s not completely out of the question.
Of course, the premise of the story could work with the focus shifted away from Ash and Pikachu and on to Mewtwo, with other, random human characters and their Pokémon teaching him the importance of life. And if the spin-off is successful, they could always bring Mewtwo back in their ‘core’ series down the line as a ‘big bad’ in the same capacity that the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe has employed Thanos.
There is always the issue that the Pokémon Company will already be delivering a CGI remake of Mewtwo Strikes Back later this year, but considering the number of times the games have retold the original Kanto storyline, remaking the movie for the second time in live-action, which will no doubt attract a bigger audience than the CGI variant, isn’t an impossibility.
Assuming Red/Ash isn’t introduced in Mewtwo’s spinoff film, then the adaptation of the original Pokémon games, Red and Green (or Blue, to western audiences), is a lot easier to speculate about.
Or at least, the starting point is. If there’s one moment that’s consistent throughout every Pokémon trainer’s life, it’s that at some point they have to acquire their first Pokémon, usually from a kooky professor named after a tree.
No doubt this is where the ‘Red’ adaptation will kick off as well, although there are a few options on where it could go to after that.
A few years back, the Pokémon Company released an anime adaptation of Pokémon Red, titled Pokémon Origins. The miniseries spanned five episodes and retold the major beats of the original games, such as Red receiving his first Pokémon and challenging the Pewter City Gym, facing off against Team Rocket and Giovani, and, eventually, attempting to capture Mewtwo.
Even with time-jumps in the film, that would be a lot to fit into one movie without making it crazy bloated. But spread across a trilogy of films or a series? That could work.
Legendary would have to introduce more interesting antagonists than just the gym leaders, but if they were to successfully pull this off, the real beauty of it is that every few films they could do a soft reboot, moving to another region, potentially with a new protagonist, and start the process again.
Mewtwo and other legendary Pokémon could serve as the focal point of each third film, creating a formula in a similar way to how Marvel makes their films, but with a host of different Pokémon to base them around. After all, there are currently 809 Pokémon spread throughout the different games, with the new officially announced eighth generation set to debut later this year.
With that in mind, the first film could cover our protagonist getting his starter, taking on the first few gyms and encountering Team Rocket, the second film could see him foil Team Rocket’s major plan or taking on their rival while visiting one of Kanto’s more iconic locations, while the final film could see the hero moving on to the Pokémon League and potentially encountering Mewtwo.
Of course, that formula could easily get quite repetitive, depending on how many regions they guide our protagonist through. Of course, the Pokémon franchise has grown to include a vast array of different facets since its creation over twenty years ago.
Newer games have seen players interact with prophecies, ancient Pokémon wars and trips to other dimensions. The franchise is rife for different stories to adapt, so they could always change up the franchise by focusing on the different legends that occupy the Pokémon universe, or by exploring the different cultures, such as the gym-free, island challenge focused region of Alola, where the players were instructed to combat the various totems of the Hawaii-based region rather than challenging the gyms.
Similarly, they could take a page out of Detective Pikachu’s book by adapting the other various spin-off games. Mystery Dungeon followed a human who had been transformed into a Pokémon, which would allow for more Detective Pikachu-esque talking Pokémon, while an adaptation of Pokémon Ranger could explore the dynamic between humans and Pokémon in a way that doesn’t involve catching Pokémon and competing in tournaments.
Obviously, a successful cinematic universe usually leads to the culmination of its separate stories, and while that could be carried out by seeing our lead Pokémon Trainer battle it out against Mewtwo, an alternate movie idea could be to wrap things up by bringing together the different characters created in the various films for the Pokémon League.
The Pokémon League is one of the last challenges players face in any game, and so bringing it to the live-action world with different characters audiences have grown to love could easily distinguish it from its anime counterpart, where we find ourselves rooting for Ash every generation, and watching him fail so the show can continue to go on with his quest to become a Pokémon Master.
However, supposing that Detective Pikachu is a hit (which between Legendary already greenlighting a sequel and the positive test-screening reactions, it probably will be) the Pokémon Company could play it safe by not tying itself too closely to the rather repetitive video game and just churning out new adventures starring Ryan Reynolds’ coffee addicted electric mouse, hoping that his popularity will continue to charm and attract audiences. But with a wealth of Pocket Monsters to play with, where’s the fun in that?