How Pokémon Can Avoid A Nostalgia Backlash Like Star Wars

Detective Pikachu with Last Jedi Poster Background

Unlike the Star Wars franchise in recent years, Detective Pikachu has managed to unite fans rather than divide them. The first live-action Pokémon movie has only grown in buzz since the first Detective Pikachu trailer released in late 2018, with fans becoming more and more enamored with the new film as time goes on.

This is the exact opposite of what's happened with Star Wars fandom, unfortunately, which gradually started to tear apart when J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters in 2015 before splintering entirely with Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017. Both rooted firmly in nostalgia, Pokémon and Star Wars have massive global fanbases that harbor intense feelings towards the properties, yet as of now, only one of them still has that shared excitement among its fans.

Related: The Last Jedi Was Great (But Still Ruined Star Wars Fandom)

The Detective Pikachu movie is doing what Star Wars used to do: bring everyone together to celebrate a huge, cultural touchstone. (In this case, the first-ever live-action adaptation of Pokémon.) And Detective Pikachu is doing it even better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens did.

Detective Pikachu's Response Is Overwhelmingly Positive

Pikachu Detective Pikachu

Every one of Detective Pikachu's trailers have attracted mass viewership. The recently-released second Detective Pikachu trailer received 12 million views on YouTube in only two days, and that's just counting from the official Warner Bros. YouTube channel. Social media has been good, too, with people expressing either outright joy or making playful memes about Detective Pikachu's "live-action" Pokémon. People are waiting for new footage with baited breath like they do a new Marvel film, curious to see what new monsters are revealed with each teaser.

Bear in mind this is both a video game movie and an anime adaptation, so skepticism would be expected, but instead, fans are accepting Detective Pikachu with open arms. It's too early for box office projections, but there's no indication that this won't be one of the biggest releases of the year, if it's at all decent. For a direct comparison, look at this relative to Sonic: The Hedgehog - the new live-action Sonic movie - which has much lower levels of discussion online, and when there is discussion, it isn't good; Sonic's weirdly muscular design is making fans dubious. Detective Pikachu, meanwhile, seems to have hit the sweet spot in marketing.

Related: Why Sonic's Live-Action Design Looks Worse Than Detective Pikachu's Pokémon

Nostalgia Franchises Are Divisive Because Nobody Can Agree On Them

Jigglypuff Detective Pikachu

It's become remarkably difficult to sell a new film based on a nostalgic property. First there's the immediate cynicism that it's a cash-grab from the studio who are out of original ideas; then there's the minefield of the new version not lining up with the established fanbase's expectations. Star Wars is the biggest, obviously, but Ghostbusters and the DCEU have also become tainted with unruly critics.

There's over 40 years of history and dedication behind the stories of Han, Luke, and Leia, and in all those years, there's been umpteen projects between the expanded universe and various spinoffs that could be someone's ideal Star Wars. Same with Batman and Superman, who have 80 years of canon behind them and each a couple of cinematic classics. How does a studio make a new movie out of them that satiates the diehard Hush fan as well as the one who grew up watching Batman '66?

Related: Detective Pikachu: Every Pokémon Confirmed For Live-Action (So Far) 

Then there's Ghostbusters - the fallout from the female-fronted reboot looks like it's going to haunt Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters 3 and beyond. When something's been around long enough, fans develop a particular connection, and when creators move against that connection, everything can turn very sour very quick. Yet, where Ghostbusters was written off for getting a new cast and going in a different direction from the old films, Detective Pikachu hasn't been questioned for not having Ash Ketchum or Professor Oak. Aside from mere toxicity, the answer also lies in some smart, long-play franchising.

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Key Release Dates
  • Detective Pikachu (2019) release date: May 10, 2019
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