The Live-Action ‘Pokémon’ Movie Probably Won’t Be Anything Like You’re Expecting

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Nintendo)

The lead actor for the upcoming live action Pokémon movie has been chosen.

Justice Smith, who’s best known for appearing in Netflix’s The Get Down, a show about hip hop culture in the 1970s, will be playing the key human character in the upcoming Nintendo film, alongside a CGI Pikachu.

That said, if you’re imagining Smith as Ash Ketchum, traveling across the land, searching far and wide for all the Pokémon he can find, while battling gym leaders and fighting Team Rocket, you’re thinking of the wrong movie.

Justice Smith
Source: Netflix

This isn’t going to be a film based on the hit cartoon series that introduced the world to Pokémon back in the late Nineties. It’s not even based on the main series of Pokémon video games. Instead, it’s going to follow the story of a little-known spin-off game by the name of Detective Pikachu.

If you’re wondering to yourself what on Earth Detective Pikachu might be, don’t worry – you haven’t missed some big gaming release when you weren’t looking. This video game, the basis for a new American-made live action movie, hasn’t actually been released in the United States.

It’s hard to see the logic in greenlighting a Detective Pikachu movie when Nintendo has thus far not bothered to translate the game into English. The premise is exactly what you’d expect from that title – in the game, Pikachu is essentially Sherlock Holmes, even wearing a deer-stalker to really drive home the connection to the popular Victorian super sleuth.

Source: Nintendo

Perhaps the Holmes link is why Nintendo thinks that Detective Pikachu of all things is the right way to take the Pokémon movie – Westerners love Sherlock Holmes, right? Why not ride that trend by giving audiences a crime-solving Pikachu?

Of course, the Sherlock boom is pretty much over already by this point. We’ve had House and Sherlock and Elementary and Sherlock Holmes and A Game of Shadows and all these endless iterations on the idea of a super intelligent genius solving mysteries. It’s likely that Detective Pikachu is coming a little too late to the party.

It’s also weird that nobody in the movie’s domestic audience has actually played the game that it’s based on. Presumably the strategy here is for Nintendo to release the game at the same time as the film, to maximize publicity, but if that’s the case, it means hanging on to Detective Pikachu until right at the end of the 3DS handheld’s lifespan, or else trying to upscale it to work on the new Switch console.

Either way, this movie is looking increasingly like a bad idea, and certainly isn’t as likely to prove popular as a simple adaptation of Ash Ketchum’s ongoing fight against Team Rocket.

But, hey, who knows? This is a movie based on a beloved Nintendo property, how could that possibly go wrong?