With only weeks to go before Detective Pikachu hits cinemas, (most) fans are in good spirits about Pokémon’s first live-action outing. Thanks to a daringly-different digital reimagining of everyone’s favourite Pocket Monsters, an unexpected choice of source material, and er, massive helpings of Ryan Reynolds, Detective Pikachu is shaping up to be not only a fun Pokémon movie but – dare we say it — the first big-screen gaming adaptation worth watching.
If the trailers released so far are anything to go by, it looks like Warner Brothers just might have captured that Pokémon magic. If you’re like us, you’ve probably already felt called out by Pikachu’s insatiable caffeine addiction, lost it at the badass render of Charizard and had your once peaceful sleep cycle irreparably broken by THAT re-imagining of Lickitung. Yet, while we’ve already seen this beloved universe churn out some grin-inducing gags, there’s still one question on many Pokéfans’ lips: What is Detective Pikachu actually about?
Well, we’re glad you asked, because, after a year of sitting impatiently on a bag full of Poke secrets, we’re finally able to loosen the drawstrings and spill a few plot details we gleaned on a set visit.
While we won’t reveal any of the film’s biggest mysteries, the article below will contain some minor spoilers. So, dear trainers, if you want to go into Detective Pikachu as blind as a Zubat, it’s time to make like an Abra and teleport yourself out of here.
Who is Detective Pikachu about?
OK, we know what you’re thinking, the clue’s in the name – but hear us out. While a particularly sassy Pikachu is absolutely the glue that holds this story together, the two main protagonists in this film are human. And who better to introduce you to Tim Goodman and Lucy Stevens than the actors who play them, Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton.
“I play Tim Goodman, a young insurance agent who has become estranged from his father,” says Justice with a smile.
Bear with us here – because Tim’s far more interesting than he initially sounds: “Tim starts the movie having a particular aversion towards Pokémon. When Tim was younger, he wanted to be a trainer, he was obsessed with Pokémon, but his mother passed away on the day he was supposed to get his first Pokémon [and from then on] he’s associated Pokémon with that memory.”
After his mother’s death, Tim’s detective dad, Harry Goodman, moves to Ryme City in order to make ends meet — leaving poor Tim with his grandmother. Feeling abandoned, Tim grows resentful of his father and vows to keep his distance, but, it turns out fate has other plans: “Tim’s father passes away while working on a case. So I go to Ryme City to manage the affairs of my father’s death, where I meet my father’s Pokémon partner… a talking Pikachu, who basically tells me that my father is still alive… and I need to find him.”
Thanks to the painful pokémemories intertwined with his mum’s death, Tim isn’t exactly thrilled about buddying up with a talking Pikachu. But with his dad clearly in trouble, Tim has to put aside his past and learn to work with Pikachu. There’s only one problem: where do they start? Enter aspiring reporter Lucy Stevens and her (slightly less cunning) Pokémon – Psyduck.
“I play Lucy Stevens, a wannabe investigative journalist at CNM — which is kind of like the news organisation in Ryme City,” reveals Kathryn Newton, “She’s in her 20s… stuck in an internship, trying to climb the ladder and make it to the top, and Tim Goodman is her way there.”
What is the movie about?
So, as we now know, the basic thread of the movie revolves around Tim and Pikachu looking for Tim’s ‘dead’ father. While the official reports say Harry Goodman died in a tragic car accident, Lucy thinks Harry faked his own death. Sniffing a hot story, she tracks down Tim Goodman and sees what clues she can uncover.
For Pokémon fans, this is where things start to get really interesting. As the trio’s investigation into Harry’s disappearance gets underway, they soon discover something sinister lurking in Ryme City’s seedy underbelly.
“Lucy gives Detective Pikachu and Tim this tip that there’s this gas that’s making Pokémon go crazy. they go to find out where this is coming from and it leads them to this underground arena — where people are battling Pokémon illegally.”
OK, we know what you’re thinking. Illegal Pokémon battles?! How does that work? Well, despite there being proper, regulated battles in the rest of Detective Pikachu’s world, the cast reveals that in Ryme City, Pokémon and humans exist harmoniously. Now though, thanks to the use of this gas, Pokémon have started to become uncharacteristically aggressive.
Fearow-eyed fans may have noticed an odd-looking purple glow in certain Pokémon’s eyes, with Mewtwo, Charizard, and Aipom looking seriously p—ed off. Yep, you guessed it — this is the effect of the mysterious gas Kathryn Newton mentioned, which enrages and enhances any ‘mon it comes into contact with.
“… they’re drugging these Pokémon and making them fight against their will, which is really messed up!” Justice adds. Agreed dude, agreed.
With our studio visit also giving us a sneak peek at a set featuring a partially destroyed lab, fans of the original game will probably know where this is all heading.
Yeah, yeah, evil Pokémon. Whatever. But will there be proper Pokémon battles?!
OK, OK, cool your jets, trainer. Now that we all know the basic thread of the movie, it’s time to answer the main question that’s been bugging diehard fans: will we see Pokémon battles?!
In the final full-length trailer, a pretty peed-off looking Charizard faces off against Pikachu in a familiar Pokémon arena-esque setting. During our set visit, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this scene being filmed. Here, Pokémon trainer Sebastian (sporting a pretty gnarly-looking Charizard chest tattoo) offers to give Tim, Lucy and Pikachu some vital information about what’s happened to Harry Goodman – but on one condition. Pikachu has to beat Sebastian’s Charizard in battle.
“What I can tell you is this battle is actually a rematch because months [earlier] Pikachu and my Charizard had a battle… and he wrecked my Charizard and wrecked my coat! So, I’m very excited to have a rematch, “explains the actor playing Sebastian, Omar Chaparro. “I told Tim that if he gives me a rematch I will tell him everything he needs to know [about his father]”
Taking place in Ryme City’s underground fight club, the roundhouse, a cheering crowd of fans surrounds the arena. In a fun nod to the games, as the fight rages on, big screens announce each Pokémon’s move in a familiar-looking font, chiming in with fan-pleasing battle commentary like ‘critical hit! .With Charizard taking a bit of a beating, Sebastian aims to tip the scales in his favour by giving his prize Pokémon a whiff of the performance-enhancing gas — and then it’s up to Pikachu to hold his own. Unfortunately though, according to Kathryn Newton, it looks like this might be the film’s only big, traditional trainer-style battle.
“This is the biggest Pokémon battle, like the for real, ‘I choose you’ kind, you know?” says Kathryn. “But there are still some other Pokémon battles [in the film], I can promise you.”
While that news may be a little disappointing to longtime fans, more importantly, Detective Pikachu seems to nail what matters most in a Pokémon movie — the ‘mon themselves. From what we’ve seen so far, even in the briefest clips, each Pokémon’s drastically different personality manages to shine through. And that’s where a spot of good news comes in.
Despite the massive costs in rendering this disarmingly realistic ‘mon, we were surprised to learn just how many Pokémon the team has managed to squeeze into the movie. Director Rob Letterman reveals that while he and the team had the unenviable task of choosing which of the 800 Pokémon would make the cut, somehow, Detective Pikachu will feature over 60 of the critters.
With this universe featuring an impossibly vast selection of different creatures, inevitably many fan favourites won’t make the cut (come on Mudkip!). If everything goes according to plan, however, this Ryan Reynolds vehicle won’t be the last time you see Pocket Monsters waddling around on the big screen. Just as we prepare to leave Warner Studios, we ask about the future of the franchise — and whether we could see a Pokémon Cinematic universe come to fruition. Producer Mary Parent smiles: “Absolutely, I think there are a lot of opportunities. We’re trying to get the first movie right, and then once we’ve done that, we’ll see where we go from there.”
Detective Pikachu hits theatres on May 10th.