Whittled down from a list of 151 things we already like about this film.
Call me crazy, but I think 2019 might be the year we get the first good video game movie — And yes, Mortal Kombat is a wacky, stupid, fun time that I’ve adored since I was eight, seen dozens of times, and own on blu-ray, but if you unironically think it’s a genuinely good movie, please please watch more movies.
But now, we’re just months away from Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, and it looks way better than it has any right to… Could this be the first good video game movie? Here are six choices that might keep this furry flick from being big screen shovelware.
1. A Pikachu, Not THE Pikachu
Detective Pikachu is A Pikachu, but he’s not THE Pikachu, the one that’s been hanging out with Ash Ketchum for over a thousand episodes of the cartoon show, and he’s not even the same Detective Pikachu from the 3DS game released last year who sounded like Danny DeVito, as funny as that would’ve been.
Why is this a good thing? Well, the hardcore fans can’t nitpick this live-action Pikachu not being like the Pikachu they’ve known since grade school, and casual moviegoers won’t feel like they’re missing any backstory — While Pikachu is an iconic cartoon animal, this Detective Pikachu is essentially a brand new character, that we’re all meeting for the first time. And if everyone hates him? Introduce another one.
2. Detective Pikachu Can Speakachu (Sorry)
Another smart choice is Pikachu’s ability to speak to his human co-star. While it would be truer to the source material for Pikachu to only say “Pi-Pika-Pi,” it does also pose some obstacles when it comes to exposition, and the casual moviegoer will probably have some questions about the strange world of Pokémon without the star needing a translator. Instead, this exceptional Pikachu acts as a translator for the audience, since he’s able to understand what the other Pokémon are saying when they moistly howl their own names like self-important idiots.
3. Detective Pikachu: He’s a Pikachu AND a Detective
Giving Pikachu a job was also clever. Everybody knows that detectives solve mysteries, and mysteries are usually a fun time at the movies. So, even if you’re unclear that Pikachu is a sentient rodent that can shoot electricity from its body and sometimes lives in a high-tech ball, you understand what a detective is, and you’re probably excited about that, because detectives are cool. Detectives also have a good reason to get out into a world, ask a lot of questions, examine things, and occasionally spout a whole expositional monologue, and that’s an excellent way of introducing filmgoers to a particularly bonkers setting, as demonstrated in Zootopia and Training Day.
4. Detective Pikachu Isn’t Adapting a Mainline Game
As the title clearly suggests, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu isn’t adapting the original Pokémon Red or Blue, or any of the main entries in the series, and that’s absolutely for the best. The story of a child being sent out into the world unsupervised to capture and document wild animals while training his or her pet to viciously fight other peoples’ pets makes for a great video game, but it’s not the most compelling story arc for a two hour movie — the Pokemon Origins anime tackled that, decently, but even so — it’s a familiar story.
There are some rumors of Pokémon Red and Blue movie or movieS in the works, and I have no idea how that would work, aside from having screening-exclusive scenes, and you have to buy tickets to both versions to see all the Pokémon.
Sidenote: how much would it suck to watch a movie where the main character picked your least favorite starter Pokémon? Or that tedious middle act of the film where you’re stuck looking at their garbage second-stage evolution? You can argue all you want whether Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander is the best starter, but I think everyone can agree that Charmeleon, Wartortle, and Ivysaur are all disappointing and ungainly half-measures, just like everyone was during their horrible adolescence.
5. Detective Pikachu Is Putting Less Emphasis On Enslaving Adorable Animals And Making Them Fight
Another upside to not adapting a core, mainline Pokémon game is that is takes the emphasis off collecting and battling Pokémon. The best part of Pokémon is the titular monsters themselves, and it’s totally possible to have a movie set in their world without framing it around making them constantly kick each others’ asses. The real-life equivalent of a Pokémon master would be somewhere between Michael Vick and a cat hoarder. I’m not saying we need to call PETA, but maybe we don’t need to see Charmander’s death scream in live-action.
6: Detective Pikachu Is One (1) Movie
Finally, the absolute best thing that Detective Pikachu is doing is that it’s not trying to do everything. I am 100% totally on-board for a live-action Pokémon Cinematic Universe, but as a variety of superhero franchises have demonstrated, you can’t rush these things.
This isn’t Pokémon: Pikachu V. Charizard: Dawn of MewTwo — Is Pikachu gonna fight Charizard? Hell YES he is. Is Mewtwo there? You’re DAMN RIGHT he is. But they’re not trying to jam all 800 plus Pokémon into a single movie or set up the next six Pokémon movies all at once. The folks behind Detective Pikachu have said there are like, sixty Pokémon in the movie, and that’s still a shitload of imaginary animals to put in a live-action movie, but it leaves plenty more to hope for in the inevitable sequel(s).
If Detective Pikachu is the Pokémon Cinematic Universe’s Iron Man, what will its Avengers be? We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I just want to see Squirtle Squad movie.
Of course, there’s still the possibility Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a swing and a miss like so many other video game movies, but we won’t know for sure until May 10th. If that’s the case, you’re welcome to come back here and jump in the comments to tell me how wrong I was. If I don’t reply, it’s because I’m busy working on like “8 Reasons Sonic The Hedgehog Might Be An Oscar Contender”
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