With the recent commercial and critical success of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, now seems like a good time for some speculation as to where the future of the Pokémon movie franchise may lie. Pokémon has been a viable product for over twenty years now, and despite multiple animated movies under its belt, Detective Pikachu is the first live action/CGI Pokémon movie to be released. The success is sure to spawn more films of the same genre, but where could they possibly go next in terms of its cinematic ventures?
*Warning: Spoilers for Pokémon Detective Pikachu ahead
Detective Pikachu Sequel
A sequel to Detective Pikachu has recently been rumored to be in development by Legendary, but those who have seen the film will know that a story with a similar set up is going to be impossible. At the end of the movie, Mewtwo reveals that Tim’s dad, Harry, was merged with his Pikachu following a car accident; Pikachu willingly allowed Harry’s consciousness to be absorbed within him. This caused Harry’s memories to be erased, and only Tim could understand what he was saying. It also meant that Pikachu adopted Harry’s behaviours, such as a penchant for solving mysteries and a love of caffeine.
Mewtwo undoes the process and successfully separates Harry and Pikachu, but this means that Pikachu is now just a plain old Pikachu instead of the wise-cracking detective we just spent the whole movie with — perfectly adorable, but still only Pikachu. He no longer has the razor-sharp wit and detective prowess of Harry, and he can no longer share humorous banter with Tim. And despite what his snazzy hat may suggest, Pikachu is no longer a detective. The story could continue with Harry and Tim solving mysteries, with Pikachu as a cute and cuddly companion whose electrical abilities come in handy, but he can’t be any more than that. I would happily watch more adventures in Ryme City (the city itself is unique in that Pokémon are considered companions and therefore not confined to pokéballs or used in battle), but if a sequel is indeed in the works, I’m not really sure it can be classed as a Detective Pikachu movie anymore. Or maybe the hat really is the only credential he needs? Only time will tell.
Red and Blue
There are a great deal of Easter eggs in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, but one of those in particular caught my attention: we see Dr Ann Laurent discussing Mewtwo’s origins, and she mentions that it was known to be from the Kanto region before it disappeared twenty years ago. The Red and Blue games were released around twenty years ago and the player has an encounter with Mewtwo towards the end of the game, suggesting that Detective Pikachu could be canon to the original Pokémon games. If so, then twenty years have passed since the events of the games, and it is unknown as to where Red and Blue may be in the world, but perhaps Mewtwo could be the factor to bring them together for a film. It would be great to see the characters and story that started it all, and it is interesting to see the hints towards the Red and Blue games.
Even if we don’t get a Red and Blue movie, perhaps they will still exist within the universe somewhere, as we did get a character that bears a striking resemblance to an older Red in the film (though it could be just another subtle homage to the original games). When we are shown a brief set up of a Pokémon battle in a stadium, we see a trainer (played by Japanese actor Ryoma Takeuchi) wearing a good deal of red with the traditional red baseball cap. This nod to Pokémon Red was a nice touch, even if it was incredibly brief. Many of us grew up with Red and Blue, so for nostalgia purposes it makes sense for this to be the direction that the Pokémon Company goes in. However, Detective Pikachu was considered by many to be an odd and somewhat ‘out there’ choice to start the franchise, so they may go with another obscure title instead of the better known ones.
If you wanted to make a Pokémon film that focuses on what most people know about the Pokémon world (battling, catching pokémon, collecting badges etc.), then a Pokémon Stadium feature could be an interesting option. The Pokémon Stadium game was released for the Nintendo in 1998 in Japan and 2000 internationally, and it was pretty simplistic in terms of gameplay. As the title suggests, the game focused on the player choosing six pokémon to battle their way through stadium tournaments with, collecting badges and becoming the best pokémon trainer of all time. There were also mini games and different modes, but that was pretty much it.
The lack of story means that a film adaptation would have a tremendous amount of freedom. They could create any kind of story that they wanted to, whilst implementing the core battling theme that runs throughout the franchise. We did get a glimpse of a battle in a stadium setting (in the same scene where we see the trainer dressed in red), and it looked pretty awesome. There are definitely an array of options here, but maybe a film that follows a trainer through the various stages of the tournament, interspersed with epic battle sequences, would make sense? Or a story of an up-and-coming trainer driven to prove their worth and be allowed to enter the tournament? Maybe they could go the other way and have a character that is against pokémon fighting, and is determined to bring the stadium battles down from the inside? The possibilities are pretty endless due to relative blank slate that a Pokémon Stadium movie would be. As long as you get the pokémon battle scenes in, you could go anywhere with it.
When a Pokémon live action movie was first announced, a good deal of people assumed that it would be a retelling of the anime. The anime series began way back in 1997, and is still going on today in its twenty-second series. I do think that it would be interesting to see live action versions of the anime characters that we know and love on the big screen; I grew up with Ash, Brock, Misty, and Pikachu, and I was entirely dedicated to their journey. However, I don’t really think it would be necessary to retell the story in live action, as it seems somewhat pointless to do. But what could be interesting would be a reworking of the anime storyline, with the same characters — or the incorporation of such — within another setting.
In the actual video game of Detective Pikachu, there was a reference to the anime storyline when Tim and Detective Pikachu have a small encounter with another pikachu. Detective Pikachu chats to him, and though we only hear his renowned “Pika Pika,” it is suggested that this is Ash’s pikachu when Detective Pikachu instructs him “make sure to be the best, like no one ever was.” If Ash and his pikachu exist within the game world, what’s to say he doesn’t already exist somewhere in the cinematic Detective Pikachu world too? However, whilst the use of the anime characters and locations could be an interesting premise for another Pokémon movie, I don’t think a straight-up remake of the anime would be as interesting.
Regional Spin Offs
There are several regions across the Pokémon universe, and it is possible that another film could take place in one of them, either with entirely new characters or as a setting for a Detective Pikachu sequel. Dr Laurent mentioned the Kanto region, where the 150 original Pokémon reside, and this is where Harry traveled to in order to capture Mewtwo. If Mewtwo continues to play a role in the next Detective Pikachu movie, it is entirely possible that Tim, Harry, and Pikachu’s investigations could lead them back there. If not, a fresh new story with brand-new characters in any of the eight regions (including Johto, Hoenn, Alola, and the new region of Galar, featured in the up and coming Pokémon Sword and Shield games) could be a fun and original way to continue the Pokémon franchise in the movies.
Pokémon Cinematic Universe
Since cinematic universes are very much the ‘in’ thing to do in Hollywood at the moment due to the huge popularity of the Marvel Cinematic universe, any of these ideas may well lead into a cinematic universe. Seeing as Detective Pikachu is doing really well at the box office currently, it seems likely that more films will be greenlit. Some cinematic universes tend to overstretch themselves and fail before they even get off the ground (looking at you Dark Universe), but the popularity of Pokémon and the vast potential of its franchise suggests a promising future. No matter what direction the future films first go in, it is possible that the ideas that I’ve listed could be used at some point if a cinematic universe gains traction.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu may not have been a perfect movie, but it was a perfect first entry into what could soon become something much more for Pokémon in cinema.