Warning: The Following Contains Spoilers For Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Pokemon Detective Pikachu is finally out and in the wild. It's no secret that the film has been hotly anticipated by Pokemon fans for quite some time now, and the wait appears to have been well worth it. Reviews for Pokemon Detective Pikachu have been largely positive, and it's now clear that the film has set the bar in terms of the quality to be expected from a video game adaptation for the big screen. It's been so well-received, in fact, that the clear question remaining is "what's next?" and "how long will it be?"
There are a few different directions that studios Warner Bros. and Legendary can take the franchise next, with Screen Rant even asking about how the writers behind Detective Pikachu would set up a Super Smash Bros. film. Despite the fact that a crossover scenario of that magnitude is unlikely to happen, the film actually does a good job at referencing various aspects of the core Pokemon games. But one major proclamation in the film actually helps to set Detective Pikachu in the existing Pokemon timeline.
One of the head scientists in Pokemon Detective Pikachu performing experiments on Mewtwo makes the claim that the creature was last seen after it escaped the Kanto region 20 years prior to the events of the film. This is a fun nod to the happenings of the original Game Boy titles (Pokemon Red, Blue, and the Japan-exclusive Green Versions) as Kanto is where those games take place, but it also helps establish the movie within a theoretical timeline. Not only does it bring the villainous Team Rocket into the limelight by making them a part of the on-screen world without mentioning them by name, but it also means that Pokemon Detective Pikachu likely takes place after the events of those original games.
How long after is anyone's guess, and canonically the events of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green could play out years after Team Rocket allowed Mewtwo to escape – it could even follow Pokemon Detective Pikachu since Red is known to have at least done battle with the creature. But the elements that help establish a timeframe are linked to the head honcho at Team Rocket, Giovanni. 20 years is a long time, after all, and if he was overseeing the project that brought Mewtwo into existence, then he'd likely be quite old now – unless this was an initiative taken on in his youth, which would then make him the middle-aged mob boss that everyone knows and loves today.
According to the Pokemon anime, the event of Mewtwo obliterating the lab in which it was created was near-simultaneous with the fallout of the creature attempting revenge on humans before exiting the Kanto region. Another key thing to consider is that the creature stopped to battle Gary Oak (aka Blue) alongside Giovanni, preventing the trainer from getting his eighth and final badge, the Earth Badge, from the Viridian Gym – at least for a time. If these events are related to Pokemon Detective Pikachu, then the story of Ash/Red and Gary/Blue is long in the past.
Admittedly, it's hard to lock down a canonical sequence of events in the world of Pokemon. There are multiple dimensions that some of the core games take place in, off-handed references to regions and events throughout, and many more aspects that throw everything off. There are different timelines and universes across the games, manga, and anime, which makes drawing a correlation even more difficult. But as much as things differ, others stay the same. Most prominently, Mewtwo is created by Team Rocket and it leads to a confrontation with the protagonist.
It's clear that Pokemon Detective Pikachu has been intentionally vague in these greater details, but these elements are going to be tricky to explain without fleshing out the Pokemon world present in this film. Maybe Giovanni didn't found Team Rocket and instead clawed his way to the top? Perhaps he's a power-hungry older man at this point that resent allowing the most powerful Pokemon in the world to escape his grasp. If it's been 20 years since Mewtwo escaped the Kanto region, then the fallout there would have been profound on a number of fronts.
So, what do we believe takes place roughly 20 years after Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green? The events of Pokemon Sun and Moon, which originally released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2016. Why is this date significant? Because it launched twenty years after the original Game Boy titles in Japan (1996) and features an adult Red and Blue – both of whom would be approximately 30 if they left home to begin their Pokemon adventures at the age of 10. Since they're both significantly older by this point, this makes that this is the timeline that Pokemon Detective Pikachu falls within.
Future Pokemon films that follow Pokemon Detective Pikachu will do well to play with that comment about Mewtwo, because the implications are huge when it comes to the future of the franchise. For now, though, it appears as if Pokemon Detective Pikachu takes place over a decade after the original games. Legendary and Warner Bros. don't have to adhere to this timeline and may opt to start their own, but all of this is fun to consider given what little information is currently known about the bigger world of Pokemon in this movie.
- Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019