It might be hard to believe, but the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokémon has been going strong for over 20 years. Starting in 1996, its popularity has reached fever pitch in recent years with the likes of Pokémon Go and the steady output of new instalments in the core game series. Now with the upcoming release of Detective Pikachu, these iconic characters will be integrated into the real world for the first time in the franchise's history. But is Detective Pikachu for kids or is the film suited for everyone? And will people unfamiliar with the Pokémon franchise be able to enjoy the film?
On the surface, Pokémon can seem like it's catered to kids, which can often deter adults from enjoying what the franchise has to offer. And despite the film being tied to a franchise as big as Pokémon, not everyone is going to be as clued in with what on earth these little creatures are or what purpose they actually serve. So if you're on the fence as to whether or not Detective Pikachu is your cup of tea, I've totally got you covered.
Let's start with the premise. The film follows former Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) who comes across a talking Pikachu (played by Ryan Reynolds) that once belonged to his father before he mysteriously went missing after an accident. This particular Pokémon refers to himself as "Detective Pikachu", and teams up with Tim to find his father with the help of local reporter Lucy Stevens (played by Kathryn Newton) and her Pokémon companion Psyduck. The team traverse Ryme City in search of clues, ultimately uncovering something that could jeopardise both human and Pokémon life.
If you're a bit tuned in with Pokémon, seeing Pikachu talk may be a little jarring (they usually just say variations of their names or have a distinct cry). But Detective Pikachu is based on the 2018 Nintendo 3DS game of the same name, which is a spin-off from the core series of RPGs (role-playing games). In the main games you play as a Pokémon trainer, and your goal is to basically prove your worth by catching, training, and battling Pokémon to become the greatest trainer in the region (each generation of the games has a region, and there are currently eight to explore). It's an easy game to pick up for kids, but there's also a lot of strategy and planning involved aimed towards the older generation — especially for fans that have been playing since the nineties.
In Detective Pikachu's case, the game sways slightly from that formula and instead allows players to explore the Pokémon world through meeting and talking to Pokémon across Ryme City to uncover clues, as opposed to the RPG system in the main series.
The creators of the film have pretty much taken the beats of the Detective Pikachu game and transferred them into a live-action setting, and with that comes huge responsibility. Not only are these creatures beloved and recognised by fans across the world, but there are currently over 800 Pokémon in the franchise with more to come in the next instalments — Pokémon Sword and Shield — which will be released later this year.
That may seem like a lot to take in, but the team behind Detective Pikachu have made sure that this film is accessible for everyone — of all ages. "It's really important to have a unifying theme for any movie, regardless of what genre it is. Having that theme of connection was nice. There's a wish fulfilment to that," director Rob Letterman told comic book site CBR. "Companionship is very relatable; it's a great way to tie the real world to this fantasy world. I gravitated towards it quite a bit."
Letterman also noted that the film was made with fans at the forefront, with a focus on making these iconic characters as photo-realistic and recognisable as possible to fit expectations. For that, he made sure that the team behind the film worked closely with the Pokémon Company in Tokyo and with the original designers and artists that designed the specific Pokémon featured in Detective Pikachu. That way, Detective Pikachu would cater to fans of the franchise and also appeal to all audiences of all ages.
"The whole goal was for the Pokémon to stay true to who they are in terms of their original cartoon silhouettes, but to make them photo-realistic. You should feel that they're living, breathing creatures in the real world. We shot on location, and kept the camera work and lighting gritty and realistic. Combine that with the latest, greatest visual effects, and we were able to blend them into the world. Hopefully, the people watching it feel that Pikachu's actually on set and we're just watching it."
Detective Pikachu will be released in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10.