Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman explains why the first ever live-action Pokémon movie doesn’t include Ash Ketchum. Fans were excited to learn that at long last Pokémon would be getting the live action treatment. But it came as a shock when Legendary announced that the film was based on Detective Pikachu, a spinoff game following a talking Pikachu solving crimes without Ash by his side. The decision seemed odd considering how Ash and his journey is as iconic as the Pokémon he trains. Now fans get to know the logic behind the choice.
Instead of Ash Ketchum, Detective Pikachu’s human lead is Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith, who teams up with the title character to find his father. Smith will be joined by actress Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens, a reporter with a Psyduck partner. But the film’s biggest star power comes from Ryan Reynolds voicing Detective Pikachu himself. Production began earlier this year, and it appears to on schedule to release in 2019, despite Legendary shifting distribution rights from Universal to Warner Bros.
During the 2018 Pokémon World Championships, IGN got the chance to question Letterman about the thought process behind Detective Pikachu and why Ash wasn't in the movie. He explained:
"The Pokémon Company, they’ve already made many, many movies of Ash, and they came to Legendary with this idea of using a new character. So when I came on board, I was pitched this character of Detective Pikachu, and I fell in love with the story behind it. It’s a really great story. It was something with a lot of heart, and it was just very unique. And because there’s already been so much work done with Ash, for the first live-action movie I thought it was a really good idea to try something new with a new character but bake it into the universe of Pokémon. So it still follows all the rules, and we get to see a lot of our favorite things."
Although no trailer exists yet, fans at the Championships were treated to Detective Pikachu's first logo and official title. Letterman also discussed a bit more about the Pokémon themselves without giving away which characters fans can expect to see. While Letterman stated that he has a soft spot for the Generation I Pokémon, he said to expect a “good spread” out of the 802 currently in existence. He hopes to make the Pokémon look as real as possible, comparing them to Guardian of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon, saying, “They’re technically, some of the most high-end visual effects in the world. It’s completely photorealistic, like they are alive and in the movie.”
Considering how often Ash’s story has been told, a change of pace could prove to be a welcome one. Some fans may be disappointed not seeing Ash and Pikachu team up in the franchise’s first live-action adventure but with so many characters to pick from, why retread the same material over and over? While the choice feels a little out of left field, the quirky premise alone could draw in audiences. Hopefully, Letterman’s Detective Pikachu does have all the heart he saw in the initial pitch and fans are given yet another great story about their favorite Pokémon, with or without Ash.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019