A trailer dropped the other day for a live action Pokemon movie. Specifically, one based on the Detective Pikachu 3DS game. As expected the internet has been split asunder by this staggeringly weird trailer. Honestly though, I think it looks pretty good.
Here’s the thing, sure, live action Pokemon are kind of freaky looking. But of course they are, how else would they possibly look. I even think the people making the movie lean into this by showing a Jiggypuff and Mr. Mime so prominently in the trailer.
Thing is, a western, live action movie based on the Pokemon franchise was an inevitability, so let’s not get hung up on how everything looks. Instead, let’s look at the fact that this movie seems pretty faithful to its source material.
Video game movies don’t tend to be all that great, as a rule. More often than not, video game are really long stories, told over a dozen or more hours. When it comes to adapting these stories to movies, studios oftentimes give the most cursory brush of facts over the events of the movie. Leaving the final result disappointing from a fan’s point of view.
Sure, the movie might be a semi-decent flick, or at least watchable, but the target audience are oftentimes left disappointed. Feeling taken advantage of, as they were used to drive interest for a movie that ultimately doesn’t turn out to be for them. Instead, it ends up being a generic movie with the title of their favourite game.
With Detective Pikachu, rather than adapt the story of the generation 1 games like most people would expect; long, drawn out JRPGs which completely don’t serve well as source material for a movie, they focus on a smaller story, one that is narrative driven.
Not only that, the setting of the game makes everything in the adaptation more accessible. The main character isn’t a trainer, needing to juggle several Pokemon at once, the sole partner Pokemon can speak an understandable language, and the focus is something simple and understandable; to find the hero’s father, rather than something vague and nebulous, such as being the very best (like no one ever was).
Some people still won’t be convinced though. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at another, very similar project in the works that, already, has gotten everything very wrong: Monster Hunter.
Right from the get-go, the premise of the upcoming Monster Hunter movie lets you know that this is not a movie for fans of the long running franchise:
A United Nations military team falls into a portal to an alternate dimension, where humans fight off giant monsters. The two groups work together to defend the portal to prevent monsters from entering the portal and invading Earth.
Sounds just like the fantasy driven, goofy RPG right… I can’t actually imagine a worse adaptation of the franchise than this. It screams of a group of studio executives utterly failing to grasp why the series was popular in the first place, and not caring either.
It sounds like something out of the early 2000s, like that first Resident Evil movie directed by Paul W. S. Anderson… oh…
My point is, it’s rare for video game movies to seemingly really care about representing their source material in a way that feels respectful, wanting to do their movie justice by the fans and the source material. Sure, the Pokemon are freaky looking, but otherwise nothing in that trailer leads me to believe the Detective Pikachu movie won’t be anything but a solid kid’s movie.
It’s in their best interest to get it right too, Pokemon might be the biggest intellectual property in the world, if this does well. There’s no telling what the future might hold for a live action Pokemon movie franchise.