Detective Pikachu sets up a shared, live-action Pokémon universe, but perhaps not in the way people were hoping. Nowadays, while shared universes have been around for decades, the ideal formula to launching a new franchise consisting of multiple properties is the one put forth by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beginning with Iron Man in 2008, the MCU quickly grew to incorporate dozens of characters from across Marvel Comics.
Other studios have attempted to make their own shared universe in recent years, and some have gone on to become quite successful as well, but Detective Pikachu is doing something different. The Pokémon equivalent of Nick Fury doesn't show up in a Detective Pikachu post-credits scene to recruit Pikachu for a new initiative - perhaps for a live-action Super Smash Bros. movie - but rather the live-action Pokémon movie focuses on world-building instead.
Detective Pikachu has taken the same approach as Iron Man by concentrating on the core story at hand - in this case, of Tim Goodman and his sleuth Pikachu - while also providing breadcrumbs for a bigger Pokémon universe and laying the foundation for Detective Pikachu sequels and spinoffs. It would have been easy for the film to include references to Ash Ketchum or Red in an attempt to set up a Pokémon Cinematic Universe, but the story keeps its focus on Tim and his journey throughout the film. However, Detective Pikachu does offer hints that there are bigger things to come.
A Living Pokémon World Exists & The Rules Of Ryme City
The majority of Detective Pikachu takes place in Ryme City, which follows different rules from every other location in the Pokémon series. In Ryme City, a person is only allowed a single partner Pokémon and all Pokémon battles are considered to be illegal. The strange rules of Ryme City were likely introduced for cinematic convenience, as it explains why the cast don't always have six Pokémon to call on for aid.
The smaller scope of Detective Pikachu is a great way to introduce a new audience to the series without bogging them down in the rules that make up the other parts of Pokémon media, which means that the details of battling can be saved for later movies. Detective Pikachu manages to convey the basics of the setting without needing to explain the details of a journey to defeat the eight Gym Leaders/Elite Four/Champion.
There are scenes that take place in the wilderness outside of Ryme City, too, which shows Pokémon in their natural environment and gives the impression that there is a lot more to the setting than meets the eye. Detective Pikachu offers a glimpse at the larger Pokémon world outside of a city without showing a trainer going on their journey. The audience is only given a taste of what a conventional Pokémon movie could look like.
Mew & Arceus Are Confirmed To Exist
Detective Pikachu is essentially a crime story that involves Pokémon. The tale of Tim Goodman's search for his father and how it connects to a mysterious facility where experiments are performed on Pokémon is the main plot of the movie. The lore of the Pokémon video games involves incredibly powerful (and terrifying) creatures, some of which are literal gods. Detective Pikachu doesn't explore the mythology of the Pokémon universe in great detail, but there are a few tantalizing hints that could lead to cosmic-level stories in the future.
Arceus, Dialga, and Palkia might be the three most powerful Legendary Pokémon in the series, with regards to their role in the lore, as Arceus is the creator of the universe; Dialga and Palkia rule over time and space. The fact that they were referenced in Detective Pikachu, while most other Legendary Pokémon were ignored, could hint at huge things to come in the future.
The Kanto Region & Mewtwo
Mewtwo only briefly appeared in the trailer for Detective Pikachu, but it plays a much larger role in the movie than anyone expected. It's established through dialogue that the Mewtwo in Detective Pikachu was originally from the Kanto region and it was brought to Ryme City in the past. The origins of Mewtwo's creation are only briefly touched upon in Detective Pikachu, and its prominent role in the story could be part of a setup for a Mewtwo origin movie or a tie-in to a Pokémon Red & Blue film.
The creators of Detective Pikachu could have tied Mewtwo's creation into the plot, but the specifics of its background were left open. Director Rob Letterman Screen Rant that the timeline of Detective Pikachu hadn't been fleshed out in connection to the other pieces of Pokémon media. It's possible that Mewtwo's backstory was intentionally left vague in order to bring it back for other movies. If Mewtwo's origins are explored, then that almost certainly will involve a movie that is partly set in the Kanto region.
"R" & Team Rocket
One of the major aspects of the Pokémon franchise that was missing from Detective Pikachu was a villainous gang. The fans might have expected an appearance from one of the "Teams" that appear in the Pokémon video games, but they were all absent from the movie. There is at least one hint that a crime organization is present in the world of Detective Pikachu, though, and it relates to a mysterious drug that appears in the story. In Detective Pikachu, there is a gaseous substance that drives Pokémon into an uncontrollable rage, which is later discovered to be a drug known as "R".
The only way to acquire R is to extract it from the body of Mewtwo. The fact that the drug is known as R suggests the involvement of Team Rocket, whose members wear an R on their uniform. Creating a drug that causes Pokémon to lose control is the kind of scheme that Team Rocket would be involved in and they have a history with Mewtwo. Team Rocket was absent from Detective Pikachu, but it's possible that they were involved in the creation and distribution of R and their reveal could be saved for a Detective Pikachu sequel.
The Sequel & The Rumored Pokémon Red & Blue Movie
The story of Detective Pikachu is going to be continued, as a sequel has already been greenlit by Legendary Pictures. A sequel to Detective Pikachu might not be the only Pokémon movie in development, however, as there are rumors that a live-action version of Pokémon Red & Blue is also being produced. The references to the Kanto region and Mewtwo's large role in Detective Pikachu could be pointing to an adaptation of Pokémon Red & Blue. The initial success of Pokémon Go showed how much value that the fans of the franchise still held for the original 151 Pokémon, so it would make sense for the story of Red's journey to be one of the potential premises for a future Pokémon movie.
Detective Pikachu took a lot of chances in regards to its premise and how it changed the rules of how Pokémon worked. The fact that one of the main characters is a wise-cracking Pikachu who is voiced by Ryan Reynolds is proof of how unconventional the movie is by the standards of the franchise, yet it paid off in spades, with critics citing Detective Pikachu as the film that breaks the video game movie curse.
It might have made sense to start the live-action Pokémon movie franchise with a Pokémon Red & Blue film, but Detective Pikachu tested the waters with a concept that most fans wouldn't have expected, while also introducing the Pokémon world to a new audience in a way that is familiar (a crime mystery), rather than going straight for the premise of the video games. Detective Pikachu has proven that a live-action Pokémon movie can work and it has opened the way for a return to the Kanto region.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019