After seven generations' worth of games across multiple platforms, 19 animated features and 19 television seasons with over 800 animated episodes, Pokemon has been going strong for the better part of the 21st century. Nothing can stop it from getting bigger. With the overnight success of Pokemon GO, the long-running franchise has seen a spike in popularity and relevance. Now, Hollywood is looking (again) to capitalize on the revived Pokemon craze with the first live-action Pokemon adaptation.
After long and drawn out bidding war held by the Pokemon Company, Legendary Pictures beat the likes of Sony and Warner Brothers to acquire the vaunted rights for the live-action Pokemon movie. Based on the games made by Game Freak and Nintendo, Pokemon has long been one of hottest potential movie franchises but it was only now that major studios actively fought for its film rights.
The Pokemon games were predominantly Japanese titles that were translated into multiple languages. The job of retooling the story for a global movie audience should fall into the hands of a capable studio, and the Pokemon Company knows this. With Legendary producing movies like the mecha-vs-kaiju spectacular Pacific Rim and the rebooted Godzilla that went on to inspire Toho to revive their radioactive behemoth in Godzilla: Resurgence, it's easy to see why the Pokemon Company would entrust the chosen studio to bring a new Pokemon story to the big screen while keeping its Japanese roots intact.
With the legal stuff all but said and done, Legendary can now concentrate on the creative process for their upcoming Pokemon movie. To realize their vision of a movie about a kid traveling across the land to capture wild creatures, Legendary has reportedly been in negotiations with the writers of two of the biggest pop culture phenomena this decade: the critically acclaimed animated series Gravity Falls and Marvel's record breaking Guardians of the Galaxy.
According to Variety, Legendary is keen on getting Alex Hirsch and Nicole Perlman to pen the Pokemon adaptation before the studio moves on to picking actors and directors for their upcoming movie. Alex Hirsch is the creator of the cult DisneyXD show Gravity Falls. Nicole Perlman was the writer of Guardians of the Galaxy before James Gunn added his own flavor to the story, but it should be noted that it was her pitch that convinced Marvel to take a shot with a movie that starred a space-faring talking tree.
Pocket Monster Story
The Pokemon franchise follows a core story: a kid with a super-powered pet wants to be the best, so they join a cockfighting tournament featuring other super powered pets. The animated movies spiced things up a bit by adding a legendary Pokemon every now and then, but it was essentially still the same story about cockfighting and blasting the nuisance characters into the sky.
To change the approach, Legendary is reportedly messing with the idea of basing their Pokemon movie on the spin-off game Great Detective Pikachu: The Birth of A New Duo, which features a crime-busting talking Pikachu with a deep voice. The game also focuses on solving mysteries instead of the staple game mechanic of fighting other creatures in a competition.
In-universe, the Pokemon already talk by repeatedly saying their name out loud but few of them can use complete sentences and verbally communicate with humans. (Team Rocket's Meowth from the animated series is a popular exception to the rule.)
It won't be a surprise if Legendary's Pokemon movie will feature a talking Pokemon since the addition of such a character is already a franchise mainstay at this point. If it does follow Great Detective Pikachu: The Birth of A New Duo's footsteps as some reports suggest, long time fans and casual viewers alike will be in for something as jarring as fans petitioning for Danny DeVito to voice the Pokemon franchise's mascot in his coming 3DS adventure.
Next Generation Pokemon Movie
From a narrative perspective, the story of Pokemon has been beaten to death and changing the protagonist or gameplay mechanics can't save its new seasons and installments from feeling repetitive. There's no need to fix what's not broken, but a live-action Pokemon movie will need a lot of fresh blood and ideas to resonate, not just with those who grew up loving the franchise but with newcomers as well.
As bad and disappointing as past video game and/or anime live-action adaptations from an American studio may have been, there is good reason to hope for a good Pokemon movie after looking at who may be involved in the project. Legendary Pictures has proven itself by making blockbuster movies based on niche interests that succeeded in appealing to a wide audience. The writers they want to join their quest are known for turning supposedly-cliched and lame ideas into massive hits on both a financial and emotional front, which is an amazing level of talent for the coming Pokemon movie.
While we wait for more information, enjoy this nostalgia bomb featuring the Pokemon theme song being sung by its original singer, Jason Paige.
You know the lyrics, so sing along to your heart's content.