Pokemon is a franchise that has endured and grown for 20 years now. It has gone through many iterations, generations, and media. What started on the original Game Boy became a powerhouse anime and manga franchise, with numerous tie-in movies and games aplenty.
Now, as the seventh generation approaches, a bidding war is afoot over the rights to make a live-action Pokemon movie. While the idea of a live-action film is’t new, it’s a curious move nonetheless – not all properties transition to the big screen that well.
However, with this likely happening, we offer our thoughts on what we, as fans, want to see from this film. Not just the obvious choices, but the subtle: the aspects that truly have made Pokemon a success over the years.
Here are 13 Things We Want To See In The Live-Action Pokemon Movie
13. New Region To Explore
In the main Pokemon games, the trainer you control explores a singular region. Each region has a professor, gym leaders, trainers, and its own indigenous Pokemon. With six generations, there’s a lot of places to explore. For the films, it may be best to stay away from the established regions and try something new.
This is because each region usually has Pokemon unique to it. This goes especially for regions like Kanto and Kalos. If a live-action movie is to accurately depict a world of Pokemon, a new region would be best. It’ll allow unique story elements, and a Pokemon team for the trainer that isn’t bound by the limitations a specific regions would bring.
12. A True Pokemon World
A great thing the main Pokemon games have established is that though there are different regions, they are all a part of the same world. At any time, a trainer or person from Hoenn can go to, say, Unova, and the various stories of the games are all connected. Professor Elm from Johto can meet up with Professor Kukui in Alola. More than that, both in the games and the shows, there are often subtle nods to what’s going on in the greater Pokemon world. From discoveries, to news reports, to results of contests and League battles, you know what’s going on.
That feeling should not be lost in the movies. Whether it be a new region or one of the established ones, the scale of the world should be evident throughout. Even if it’s just simple dialogue choices, or a Pokemon News story that pops up to tell the main character what’s going on in the region, or regions, these little details will help bring the fullness of the world to life.
11. Fantastic Yet Real Setting
We can’t ignore how the realm of Pokemon should actually look. There will be a lot of CGI in the film, but that doesn’t mean it has to be applied to the region the movie takes place in.
What gets lost sometimes is the fact that the Pokemon world isn’t that different from our own, it’s just modeled a bit differently – and has Pokemon. There’s fields, towns, mountains, rivers, caves, and more that resemble our own world. In fact, the various regions of the games are inspired by real-world locales. Thus, if done correctly, you can film in numerous locations, only have minor CGI tweaks, and still look accurate to what’s depicted in the games and shows. Why not spare the CGI budget, and use what is naturally around to both please fans, and save money?
10. Fun Companions
Regardless of the main character – more on them later – a movie or show is only as good as its cast. Even in the Pokemon games, the main trainer is never truly alone. They have friends and supporters that occasionally check up on them. In Pokemon X&Y, you have an entire group of friends that you see many times.
In the main TV series, Ash always has at least two friends, not including Pikachu, to travel with him on his journey. They help bring out the best in him, and vice versa. This should be no different in the film.
Whether they be male or female, trainer, coordinator, breeder, or any other profession in the universe, they need to have as much story and personality as the main character. Fans of the anime know exactly how to describe characters like Brock, Misty, May, Cilan, Serena, or the others, because they were fleshed out. With the potential for a franchise, they’ll have as much time to grow as the others, so why not make them memorable?
9. A Simple Story
Speaking honestly, if this Pokemon live-action movie comes to be, and it makes even a decent profit, then there’s no doubt sequels will follow. So why not plan this as a franchise from the start?
Using that logic, the story of the main character and his/her journey should not feel crammed, or forced. If you look at what Ash had to endure in the first few episodes of his journey, you’d never think of him being the one to save the world numerous times over. Our character should have the same kind of arc. They should be a novice at the beginning, and then grow and evolve with each battle, each victory, each setback. There shouldn’t be a rush to get to the end when you can make every movie feel special and integral to the growth of the character.
The numerous Pokemon cartoon films rarely tie into the anime for this reason. So, they focus on one Pokemon, usually a legendary, and one area that Pokemon is in, and put the whole story there. With these movies, the opposite could work. Focus on a set section of the journey, then grow it from there.
8. A Worthy Rival
Another key aspect of both the games and TV shows is the idea of a rival. After all, why should there only be one person going out on the journey? From Gary Oak to Serena, the rival has been there to push the main character to get better on their journey and become a more complete trainer. Oftentimes, you battle the rival right off the bat to get used to your Pokemon and get a feel for what’s to come.
With the potential for both a new region, and multiple movies, the rival is even more important. Their growth will mirror the protagonist’s. In some ways, the rival could serve as a secondary antagonist depending on how they build them. Gary Oak is the best example of this, as he was such a jerk to Ash Ketchum in the original series that you hated him just as much as Ash did. You want to see the rival lose, and you’ll be rooting for the protagonist to take them down.
7. Friendship/Partnership With Pokemon
There’s a kind of understated truth about Pokemon in general: that the trainers are the “owners” of the Pokemon, and that the Pokemon themselves are basically tools. This is especially the case for the video games, where personality is downplayed a lot to focus on stats and abilities. In fact, in Pokemon Black and White, this issue was brought to the forefront via Team Plasma, the villains who asked trainers, “are your Pokemon happy when you confine them to the Pokeballs?”
The TV shows show the friendship/partnership aspect of Pokemon, as Ash, Red, and all their friends show love and respect to each Pokemon they have. To hammer this idea home, the TV show creators had Pikachu live outside of his Pokeball; he and Ash would be in constant contact.
It’s unlikely they’d do exactly that for the movie – short of having Ash be the main character – but it is still vital for the main character to show friendship and love for his/her Pokemon. To rally them when things get tough, to comfort them when they fall, to rush them to the Pokemon Center when they’re hurt. These actions show that they are not simple “using” Pokemon, but are in fact caring for them.
6 Legendary Pokemon
Pokemon come in all shapes and sizes. Some, though, are truly one-of-a-kind.
At the end of the first episode of Pokemon, Ash found himself looking up at the sky and seeing a then unknown Pokemon flying across it. This inspired him later, through dark times, as a reminder that there is life and beauty in the Pokemon world. Since then, we have seen, heard, and fought numerous legendary Pokemon. From the original “legendary birds” and Mewtwo, to Yvetal and Xerneas, the legendaries are something every trainer knows to look out for.
It’s hard to predict what legendary Pokemon could appear in the film, or in what capacity, however, it should be done with grace and with reverence to the material. For example, much like Ash, the main character could witness a legendary Pokemon that inspires them to keep going. Or, one could save them, showing that there is “grand design” for our protagonist and their friends. Finally, they could be the object for the antagonist, part of their plans to take over the world. The options are there, and it’d be a little sad to not see one of the grander Pokemon make an appearance.
5. Villains Big And Small
If we’re talking about memorable Pokemon villains, Team Rocket is easily at the top. In fact, even casual Pokemon fans will know about Team Rocket above all others, so it’s not a stretch to say they’ll likely be the antagonists for the live-action Pokemon movie. However, that doesn’t mean they should just appear before the protagonist and announce their plans.
Leaning on the idea of multiple films, Team Rocket should be nothing but whispers at the beginning. Maybe seen in certain areas, but not focused on. Or, if they are a part of the first film, only show the “grunts.” Not higher-ups like Giovanni. This will allow mystery to surround them, as well as mask at first what their true goals are. The TV show gets a bad reputation at times for the repeated beatings of Jesse, James, and Meowth. Through this planning though, Team Rocket could not only be a threat, but one you’ll see unfold through the movies.
4. A True Pokemon Journey
If this movie is about a Pokemon Trainer, then his/her goal should be to become a Pokemon Master. As such, they’ll need to have Pokemon battles and Gym battles, and eventually challenge the Pokemon League. Yes, saving the world is a must. But, if the journey itself gets lost, the point of the films will be put into question.
After all, both Ash and Red not only saved the world, but had several accomplishments each. Whether it be getting all the Gym Badges, beating regional champions, or earning rewards, they do a lot. The movies should respect that and show that there are numerous goal for the main character. Also though, the companions should get that treatment too. May, Dawn, and Serena had quests right alongside Ash, and they grew just as much as he did.
3. Main Character We Care About
Obviously the biggest questions going into this is “who will be the main trainer?” They could put Ash and Pikachu, but that might ward off fans of the anime, as they’ve seen it all. However, if they create a new character, they gain potential for more interesting stories, and potential for having them grow on the audience if done right.
Without a doubt they’ll draw inspirations from both Ash and Red. Likely, they’ll be pure-hearted characters that love Pokemon with all they have, and that’s fine. It’s that spirit that has made Ash and Red so memorable in fans’ eyes. They can’t just say that though, they have to show it. Through the events of the movies they have to make us care about the protagonist, make us root for them. If they’re a cut-out character, fans won’t care, and won’t come back. Make them memorable though, and that’s the kind of character you can hang a franchise on.
2. Intense battles
What has made the animes of Pokemon so popular is how they depict Pokemon battles. They’re often fast-paced, impactful, and very unlike the turn-based video games. At times you feel every hit the Pokemon take during the battles. You might say that each battle is a story until itself. The movies need to amplify this notion, as this will be one of the things fans both hardcore and casual will be looking at the most.
From battles with other trainers, the rival, gym leaders, and the villains of the story, the battles are an important aspect of any Pokemon media. They show how capable both the trainer is, and how he treats his Pokemon. Also though, it shows the strength of the other trainer too. The protagonist should not win every battle, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be close at times when they do lose. It is through battles that Pokemon and trainer grow. So showing these battles in their purest form, with Pokemon and trainer working together as one to try and win is a must.
1. Good-Looking Pokemon
Immediately, when the live-action Pokemon was announced to be possibly happening, many thought, “how are the Pokemon going to look?” True, there have been commercials and ads with Pokemon next to real people, but that doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll look in the movie should it be made. Obviously, they need to resemble the game and show counterparts, but will it truly be that simple?
Will the filmmakers want to add something “realistic” about them in how they look so that they “fit” the world? Will they be shown in a way both familiar to fans, yet unique enough to stand out on their own? It’s hard to speculate, but in truth, this is the most important thing. The movie will likely be built or broken based on how the Pokemon themselves are shown. Movies have proved that CGI creatures can look amazing, and even realistic, so the potential is there unlike years, or even decades previous.
Regardless, whoever picks up the movie rights will have to immediately discuss how to render the Pokemon. The fate of the franchise will depend on it.
It’s incredible to think about how far Pokemon has come as a franchise since it’s launch. Much of the love the series gets is its ability to change and adapt and grow. From simple sprites, to now perfect 3D models, it’s an ever evolving thing. The live-action movie may just be the next true evolution of the series. How will it be? Will it be true to the games and shows that have come before it? Time will tell.