‘Detective Pikachu’ trailer a surprise to fans of Pokémon franchise

November 14, 2018 - 2:29 PM
Detective Pikachu
Ryan Reynolds stars as the voice of Pikachu in "Pokemon: Detective Pikachu." (Warner Bros. release)

The recently released trailer of “Detective Pikachu,” the first live-action movie in the Pokémon entertainment franchise that originated from a popular handheld video game series, has surprised fans with its mix of CGI and voice acting from some big names.

“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” tells the story of the son of a missing detective, who partners up with a Pikachu, the species of Pokémon that has been frequently used as the franchise’s mascot, whose speech he is somehow able to understand.

Justice Smith plays the lead human character Tim, who decides to search for his father. Ryan Reynolds meanwhile will provide the human voice for the titular Pikachu.

The selection of Reynolds as the human voice of Pikachu, known for his appearance in raunchy comedies particularly in the ultra-violent R-16 “Deadpool” franchise based on the Marvel anti-hero of the same name, has surprised many fans of the long-running Pokémon franchise.

Others are divided on the CGI versions of the sometimes adorable, sometimes frightening Pokémon.

RJ Palmer, an artist who gained fame in previous years for a series of artworks depicting “realistic” versions of Pokémon, was tapped to join the production team for “Detective Pikachu” and contributed some of the designs. Some have lauded the artistic team for the level of detail used in designing the creatures.

The movie has been compared to the 2012 comedy “Ted,” which featured comedian Seth McFarlane voicing a talking teddy bear that consumes alcohol and drugs, and “Paddington,” the hit franchise based on a series of children’s books about a talking bear.

From Gameboy to the big screen

Pokémon, short for “Pocket Monsters,” was first introduced to the world in through two video games on the Gameboy handheld platform in 1996. The two initial version of the game released, “Pokemon: Red Version” and “Pokemon: Green Version” required players, known as  “trainers” to level up their super-powered Pokémon by battling wild Pokémon and other Pokemon trainers while traveling around a fictionalized version of the Kanto region in Japan.

As the game progressed, trainers were tasked to beat “gym leaders,” expert trainers who awarded badges as marks of a trainer’s progress, capture more Pokémon, defeat an evil organization and eventually become the strongest trainer in the land after defeating the Elite 4, the strongest trainers in the game, and later the Elite 4’s champion, who is revealed to be the player’s rival from earlier in the game.

The latest games in the main series, “Pokemon: Ultra Sun” and “Pokemon: Ultra Moon” were released in November 2017.

The original games’ massive popularity spawned an anime series that is 21 years running, a trading card game, competitive battle leagues around the world, more than 120 video game installments across different platforms, manga and comic books, numerous toy lines and other merchandise.

Pokémon has gone on to beat other media entertainment franchises. It reportedly has amassed $50 billion in revenue since the first video games were launched in 1996, to become the highest grossing media entertainment franchise in history.

Its closest rival, the Star Wars science fiction franchise, has only amassed $42 billion since the first movie in the franchise was launched in 1977.

While the Pokémon anime has been releasing full-length feature films since it premiered in 1997, “Detective Pikachu” will be the first time the franchise will produce a live-action movie. The first full length movie, “Mewtwo Strikes Back,” earned $163 million worldwide when it was released in 1998.

“Detective Pikachu” is set to premiere in May 2019.