It looks like the first ever live-action Pokémon movie, Detective Pikachu, has found its lead in Justice Smith. Smith is having himself quite a year. After being personally chosen by director Baz Luhrmann for the lavish, 1970s era series about the rise of hip-hop in New York, the young actor landed on his feet when Netflix chose not to renew The Get Down for a second season. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona recognized Smith’s talent and quickly snapped him up for a lead in that film.
As for the Pokémon movie, Legendary is charging ahead with plans to get it to the big screen. Rob Letterman is already on board to direct, and Alex Hirsch and Nicole Perlman have been tapped to write the script with the latter best known for her role in penning the Guardians of the Galaxy script. As with all of Legendary’s movies, Universal will be the studio responsible for distributing it.
Variety is reporting that the up-and-coming actor from The Get Down has landed the starring role for Detective Pikachu. The movie will be based on the video game Great Detective Pikachu, in which the iconic Pokémon plays the role of - you guessed it - a detective. While many had speculated the live-action Pokémon movie would feature Ash Ketchum as the human lead, the movie reportedly being based on the adventure game suggests that Smith will be playing Tim Goodman rather than Ash.
It's also worth noting that in the Great Detective Pikachu game, the normally non-verbal Pokémon speaks. He's not as agile as his counterparts in other games, but the tradeoff is that he can talk - well, sort of. Detective Pikachu encounters Tim Goodman and the boy understands what he's saying, so the two team up and go on adventures and solve cases together.
It makes sense they'd choose to go with a verbal Pikachu rather than the normally incomprehensible version and it explains why the studio is looking at some big name, recognizable voices to bring the role to life. Earlier it was rumored that Legendary was eyeing Dwayne Johnson to voice Pikachu, though other names also being thrown about included Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, and Mark Wahlberg, so the studio is clearly confident about this film enough to swing big. And it should be confident. With Pokémon's enormous global fanbase and the fervent love it holds for the brand, Detective Pikachu could very well be a monster box office success for Legendary, particularly overseas. With filming for Detective Pikachu scheduled to start in January of 2018, we can expect a few more casting announcements heading our way soon.