Thanks to the likes of Pokemon Go and the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon, the Pokemon franchise is back and has taken over the mainstream like it’s 1998. It’s returned to the public attention with such a vengeance that Hollywood and the executives from Legendary Pictures have taken notice by acquiring the rights to a Detective Pikachu movie. Production is still several months away from the projected 2017 start, but the recent announcement has had us all speculating about the potential Pokemon dream team.
We’re excited about Detective Pikachu, but we’re doubly interested in the other story possibilities that different directors could bring to the table. Which working directors out there really have it in them to bring the Poke-magic to a live action film?
Without further ado, lets take a look at our 15 Directors Who Could Actually Make a Live Action Pokemon Movie Work!
15. Wes Anderson
There are few directors out there with a style as beloved and distinct as Wes Anderson. His unique ability to capture the childlike perception of the complexities of adulthood as seen in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel make him a shoe-in for a live action Pokemon movie. His symmetrical camera work along with his use of more traditional sets could make for an especially whimsical Pokemon adventure, to further set this series apart from other films that draw on ’90s nostalgia.
His quick cuts and montages would make for a fun way to have Ash bypass most of the eight gyms in a cinch! As with all Anderson movies, there would be a shot at bringing his cast of regular performers in for supporting roles. Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman,Willem DaFoe, and Anjelica Huston could cameo as gym leaders against a trio of younger, fresher faces in the lead. Anderson’s flavor brings just the right balance of cutting edge and familiar which makes him an ideal pick for bringing such a beloved franchise to live action.
14. Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater has made a career out of working with outstanding child actors in Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and School of Rock which makes him the ideal choice for bringing the high school drama spin to a live action Pokemon movie. Imagine a world where every high school features its own Pokemon league team. Linklater’s writing and direction would likely focus less on the traditional hero’s journey of Pokemon in favor of the dynamics of Ash’s school, Pallet Town High. The Pokemon league would make for a interesting way to explore and understand a teen’s perception of the Pokemon world.
It would be a different type of Pokemon movie to be sure, but imagine Linklater’s spin on “a boy and his Pokemon”. The lighter high school setting could also make for some enjoyable casting opportunities with Patricia Arquette’s return to her role as a mother while Jack Black and Ethan Hawke fill out the other star roles as teachers at Pallet Town High. Linklater’s version of the film may not be playing to the mainstream audience’s expectations, but it could actually carve out an even more valuable niche in the teen drama scene.
13. Jon Favreau
Jon Favereau may have broken into the mainstream with the first two Iron Man movies, but he’s quickly making himself the go to family man with his most recent films Chef and The Jungle Book. His extensive experience with CGI and beloved characters make him a safe and satisfying pick for a Pokemon trainer’s hero’s journey. The Jungle Book featured some of the best talking CGI animals we’ve ever seen, meaning it wouldn’t be difficult for Favreau to pull his connections in the industry to make a walking, talking mouse that puts the “pika” back into pikachu.
Favereau has an eye for impressive visuals, but his biggest contribution would without a doubt be his personable sense of humor. When he’s not using Gary to write in snarky one liners, Jon Favereau could incorporate an endearing if somewhat satirical portrayal of Ash, Misty, and Brock. The film needs to have the necessary drama, but with the Swingers writer at the helm, there’s not a chance in the world the movie would ever take itself too seriously.
12. Lena Dunham
The Pokemon anime series may be led by Ash Ketchum, but let’s not forget that the franchise is actually based on a video game series that gives players the choice to play as a man or a woman. One way to drum up a lady-led Pokemon movie would be to bring in the star, co-creator, and most prominent director from Girls, Lena Dunham.
To make things a little more interesting, lets say the film stars Misty as she struggles to decide whether or not she wants to stay at the Cerulean City gym. Misty is a fan favorite whose quirky and ambitious nature instantly lends itself to Dunham’s sensibilities as a storyteller. After leaving the city to chase the Pokemon championship title with Ash, she will be a fish out of water struggling to adjust to the wild world of Kanto. It has all of the makings you’d ever need for a great road trip coming of age comedy and features a leading lady audiences won’t want enough of.
11. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert directing duo behind Swiss Army Man may be the new team on the block, but hear us out. These guys have the potential to bring a crazy fun artistic twist to a studio produced Pokemon movie. They’ll have access to a toolbox of 151 Poke-gags and an unlimited supply of comedic creativity. Imagine the possibilities!
The movie could be set in Ash’s final stretch on Victory Road before reaching the Pokemon League. After getting lost and beaten by a handful of other trainers (probably those pesky cooltrainers), Ash sinks into a state of cave madness and begins seeing hallucination of talking Pokemon. It would be the trippiest Pokemon movie you’ve ever seen and also makes way for an interesting story about a trainer’s remorse for not giving his Pokemon their due. The film wouldn’t have to end in doom and gloom and could actually conclude with Ash’s first battle with the Elite Four. It’s not the “safest” route Legendary could take, but given the opportunity, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert could make an unforgettable Pokemon movie going experience.
10. Robert Rodriguez
When he’s not busy spoofing or satirizing border patrol in movies like Planet Terror, Machete, or From Dusk Till Dawn, Robert Rodriguez actually has a talent for bringing fun, child-like energy to family audiences. Spy Kids, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, and Shorts are all great examples of movies everyone can find something to love. He always delivers on the lighter family action/adventure that studios love to get behind without sacrificing his own creative vision.
Instead of delivering a completely original story, Rodriguez could bring his eye for visual effects and high energy set pieces to a live action adaptation of Pokemon 2000. The story provides the straightforward plot structure featuring three different pit stops as our characters meet each of the legendary birds before finally confronting the evil Pokemon collector. You can expect a really slick looking film completed by Robert Rodriguez’s penchant for over the top humor.
9. Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith may not be a vocal Pokemon fan, but he is a self proclaimed professional slacker and a huge fan of underdog stories. Imagine if Smith brought the spirit of the original Clerks to aspiring gym leader Brock who at the outset of the story had never caught his first Pokemon. His friends and older sister have already left home to go on their Pokemon adventures while he ends up stuck at the Pewter City Pokemart with his partner Geodude.
The film could take on Mallrat‘s whackier tone by bringing in a handful of Smith’s signature original characters who are committed to creating mischief. The use of the Pokemon brand gives Kevin Smith another means to explore the culture of one of the larger Kanto cities along with some his more eccentric ideas from the likes of Tusk and Red State. This won’t be your kids’ Pokemon movie, but it could make for a surprisingly uplifting story for the Pokemon Go obsessed generation.
8. David Lowery
David Lowery has not reached household name status just yet, but you might know a small film he recently directed called Pete’s Dragon. The critical and box office success he achieved with the story of a boy and his dragon is enough to give him the keys to an even bigger franchise. Lowery’s passion may be for small personal films like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, but he’s proven he has enough directorial chops to handle an even bigger studio project.
Lowery’s experience with Pete’s Dragon laid the groundwork for an even more difficult tale about Ash and his hard-edged star Pokemon Charizard. Fans of the early animated series may remember the feud between the two at the Blaine’s gym on Cinnabar Island. The two have a feud and are at odds until Blaine’s Magmar upsets the volcano. Lowery could use this premise to drum up the quirkier aspects of the franchise while also retaining the heartwarming tone of the Disney film. It wouldn’t be the most daring interpretation, but you better believe Pokemon fans would be sold.
7. Brad Bird
Brad Bird is another one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets who might not immediately come to mind when thinking about Ash Ketchum and Pikachu’s adventures. Despite staying low key over the years, he’s actually got just the resume for the job. He’s proven his knack for family drama with The Incredibles and his eye for distinguishable high stakes action in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. He’s the guy you call when you want a film the whole family can love.
Pokemon has always had a long running theme of surrogate families. Ash spends most of his time with Brock, Misty, Professor Oak, and other wayward Pokemon trainers. This theme makes for the type of story Brad Bird excels at telling. In Bird’s take on the franchise, Ash could be struggling after a loss to Lt. Surge at Vermillion City’s gym. Ash decides to leave his friends behind to explore the possibility of joining of Team Rocket. It’s all looking bleak until Professor Oak decides to get back into Pokemon battling in order to rescue Ash from going down a dark and villainous path. Brad Bird’s direction is safe, smart, and marketable enough to sell to studios without sacrificing too much of what people love about Pokemon.
6. Phil Lord and Chris Miller
When you need a duo to adapt the impossible franchise, you give the directors of The Lego Movie and 21 Jumpstreet a call! Phil Lord and Chris Miller are Hollywood’s go-to guys and it’s not without good reason. They thrive off of seemingly nonsensical story premises which ideal for a brand like Pokemon.
Lord and Miller could bring their signature meta-humor to the franchise by setting the movie in the “real world” 90s where Pokemon is an established Nintendo franchise. What’s the twist? The Pokemon have emerged from the video games and crossed into the real world to attack the world’s most populated cities. Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It wouldn’t be a surefire popcorn flick without the number of celebrity cameos this pair tends to bring with them. Name any working celebrity and Lord and Miller likely have them on speed dial. If we want a live action Pokemon movie, why not indulge and poke fun at the nostalgia of it all?
5. James Gunn
James Gunn was producing top notch movies before getting a mainstream break with Guardians of the Galaxy and once he wraps his time on the sequel, he’ll likely set his eyes on a new non-Marvel project. If he ends up producing another studio picture, the Pokemon franchise would seem like the next best fit. In every film he has made, we have seen his talent for executing exotic science fiction. Pokemon is nothing if not a little bit strange.
Imagine a movie where Ash’s Charizard gets loose and begins raining terror down upon Saffron City. The only people who could stop the fierce Pokemon’s rage is the ensemble made up of Misty, Brock, Gary, and Ash. The destruction of the city will deliver the popcorn spectacle people want to see, but the real emotional driver of the film would be the reconciliation of a boy and his pet. James Gunn’s self-aware sensibilities matched with the right script would make for a perfect night at the movies.
4. Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola may sound like a wildcard choice, but given her impressive handling of an anti-hero ensemble in The Bling Ring, we think she could make the perfect live action Team Rocket heist spin off. Her scripts are especially smart, thoughtful, and never fail to get to the root of what makes social outcasts function. The famed Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth is the definition of social deviance, even within the context of their own gang.
The film could open with a Pokemon robbery gone wrong thanks to the incompetence of the leads. They’re called in by Giovanni and given an ultimatum: catch Ash’s pikachu or die trying. Viewers of the Pokemon anime series already know this is a hopeless venture which makes the plot’s macguffin a bit of an inside jokes for fans. Coppola could use this joke as a means to bring an insightful commentary about criminals and people who live on the fringes of society. Coppola’s movies never fail to inspire reflection, which makes her potential spin on the Pokemon franchise a must see.
3. Guillermo Del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro is everyone’s favorite genre filmmaker. He’s had massive success with iconic comic book characters in Blade 2 and his Hellboy films. He’s also demonstrated his unmatched ability to create fully lived in and fleshed out fantasy worlds on the big screen with Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Crimson Peak. If Legendary wants a director who can bypass the absurdity of the world of Pokemon and throw us right into the middle a great story, Del Toro is the director to call.
If the film dispenses with the hand holding introductions, we think Guillermo Del Toro’s interest in science fiction and intricate creature design could make for a great live action adaptation of Pokemon: The First Movie. Mewtwo’s deeply tragic origins already fit with Del Toro’s flavor of nuanced villain. Mewtwo’s army of cloned Pokemon would provide the perfect opportunity to bring in the creepy intricate designs the director loves to bring to life. Even more importantly than bringing the right world building and aesthetic to the table, Guillermo Del Toro can successfully shed light on the heart of one of the most compelling stories in Pokemon’s 20 year history. It is a surefire hit and one we would pay good money to see.
2. James Wan
James Wan is one of the undeniable masters of horror in the twenty-first century thanks to his work on Insidious, The Conjuring, and Saw. He is certainly not the first name that comes to mind when you think live action Pokemon movie, but what if Legendary Pictures sent him a script that featured the ghost of Lavender Town’s haunted Pokemon Tower? James Wan’s subdued sense of humor matched with his chilling use of setting makes way for some truly ghastly possibilities and grade-A horror.
Pokemon Tower is a seven story tall tomb for hundreds of deceased Pokemon, making it the creepiest place imaginable in Kanto. The setting gives Wan plenty of tools to use to craft an especially spooky atmosphere. There aren’t many Pokemon ghost stories out there, but if the studio really wants to bring a fresh spin to the franchise, they need look no further than James Wan.
1. Edgar Wright
There were a number of really strong contenders on this list, but ultimately the director best suited for the upcoming Detective Pikachu movie is the famed Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. His dry wit and hyper kinetic camera work matched with the right script could make for the perfect larger than life detective caper.
Detective Pikachu is a straight-laced Pokemon who is in over his head. Like Simon Pegg’s character Nicholas Angel from Hot Fuzz, this Pikachu takes no prisoners and is hot on the trail of a massive smuggling operation. The fun twist could be that Ash or the featured Pokemon trainer serves as Pikachu’s #2. Few working directors could pull off such a feat, but Wright’s genius level of comedic timing matched with his command of visual storytelling could serve to tell a dialog-light partnership for the history books. If there’s one director who deserves his shot at the Poke-source material, it’s Edgar Wright.
We’ll keep you up to date on all of the Detective Pikachu news leading up to its 2017 production start date.