Detective Pikachu viewers may have witnessed the beauty of evolution when Magikarp transformed into Gyarados onscreen, but how it happened is a mystery even to the writers themselves. In fact, evolution was a key factor throughout the film on a thematic level and seeing Pokémon like Magikarp and Eevee literally evolve into their best selves was a fun way of paying homage to that.
But since it is true that Ryme City doesn't allow Pokémon trainers or battles, and that the story itself doesn't introduce the concept of leveling up in any concrete way, that makes Magikarp's magical moment fertile ground for speculation. Obviously kicking one is not a foolproof plan for evolution in the game, but the changes in Detective Pikachu's world may have made the process a little more poetic than simply reaching Level 20.
Screenwriters Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit had fun contemplating the question in an exclusive interview with Screen Rant. While discussing the importance of evolution on a grander scale as opposed to game mechanics like XP or Rare Candy, Hernandez said:
"One question that did occur to me after seeing it was: Where had that Magikarp been that it acquired the experience to evolve into Gyarados? It sort of demands its own side movie of what was going on with that Magikarp that led it to that moment. But for fans who understand those elements of the game, I think they get a big kick out of seeing that stuff."
He's certainly right that fans of the games love spotting moments that serve as callbacks, of which Detective Pikachu has several, and coming up with Gyarados' backstory can serve as a fun game all on its own. After all, being housed in an underground and illegal battle location could serve as harsh life experience for any Pokémon - even if they don't participate in the fights themselves. And who knows where the poor fish Pokémon was imported from before it wound up in that tank? A kick from Pikachu in the midst of a chaotic Charizard's fiery rage may have been the last straw.
While Hernandez and Samit have their own theories and ideas for movie spin-offs, all of which would make for fun family fare, Detective Pikachu is already well on its way to becoming a film universe. A direct Detective Pikachu sequel was already confirmed earlier this year when 22 Jump Street writer Oren Uziel was hired to pen the script. Plus, with potential stand-alone films in the works, there's plenty of opportunities to learn how Magikarp found the inner strength to make the leap to Gyarados. Perhaps a future movie will see Pikachu transform into a Raichu, with or without a Thunder Stone present. Until it's confirmed, Detective Pikachu fans can debate among themselves, but they should remember that even the film's writer doesn't know.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019