Detective Pikachu promises to be a flashpoint for the Pokémon fandom — nay, for culture at large. At once a live action blockbuster for a beloved decades-old property, it’s also a subversion of much of the accepted aesthetics of the series. Old and new fans alike will be faced not with the aspirational and cartoony journey of the Pokémon League that first enchanted so many of us, but rather grapple with a quippy English-speaking Pikachu as the lead and the harsh realities of every tastebud of Lickitung’s moist, engorged tongue rendered lovingly in a CGI curse.
But if this is indeed the future that awaits us, I believe the best path forward is embracing the opportunities granted this new paradigm of talking, employed Pokémon. For that reason, I present for your consideration four pitches for future installations of the Detective Pikachu Cinematic universe.
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1. Wobbuffet, District Attorney
In the criminal justice system of Ryme City, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups. One of them is the detectives (Pikachu and otherwise) who investigate crime. The other is district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. This is just one of their stories.
The DA’s office takes on the abrasive but brilliant Wobbuffet as its first Pokémon hire, just as they’re about to take the case of a prominent mob boss to trial. But when their key witness goes missing, Wobbuffet must come to the fore to convince the Pokémon members of the criminal organisation to testify against their masters. The plot thickens as a ruthless new figure emerges to fill the vacuum in the illegal Slowpoke tail trade, but could the culprit be a Pokémon themselves? All that’s certain is that with a high Physical Defence, a flair for the dramatic and a tail that’s always watching his back, nothing’s going to stop Wobbuffet from holding a Mirror Coat up to a corrupt system.
Wobbuffet will be voiced by Danny DeVito.
2. Senator Piplup
We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and the the Pokédex entries for Ghost-types.
The intelligence of Pokémon has long been an issue of debate, but when Detective Pikachu proves that they are capable of abstract thought, self-determination and charming consumption of caffeine products, it stands to reason that a just society would allow Poké-citizens to elect one of their own. Enter Senator Piplup, newly elected and looking to advocate for her people while trying to be taken seriously by the political machine, despite being a cute penguin who just blows bubbles all the time. Politics can be rougher than the Pokémon League, but can she take the right side of the debate on Gym battles, alert the public to the looming economic disaster caused by the excessive use of Meowth’s Pay Day move, and fend off a scandal when she’s accused of having an anti-Grass Type bias?
Piplup will be voiced by Danny DeVito.
3. Chansey General Hospital
Medicine’s just eggs, right? The good kind that heals you, not the bad kind that explodes. Hmm, maybe they should be labeled?
Beyond the wonders of electric mice and plant-lizard hybrids, the Pokémon world is best known for its utopian vision of healthcare. No matter how poisoned, paralyzed or blasted to hell from a Hyper Beam a creature may be, all it takes to restore it to health is a trip to the Pokémon centre, a merrily blinking machine, and a friendly nurse. But the games are oddly quiet on the topic of human illness, which suggests a possibly far less rosy system, perhaps beset with the same exploitative hidden costs and inadequate coverage found in our own world.
When an optimistic Chansey working at a Pokémon centre discovers this disparity, she takes it upon herself to build a better hospital, aided by a jaded but brilliant human doctor and a ragtag group of enthusiastic volunteer Pokémon with no concept of money. Chansey and the doctor quickly come to blows as a result of their differing worldviews, but only by combining their approaches and learning from each other can they train Scyther as a surgeon, Hypno as an anaesthesiologist, and Plusle and Minun as defibrillators, while also convincing the public that healthcare is better when people and Pokémon work together.
Chansey will be played by Pom Klementieff, with Danny DeVito supporting as the doctor.
4. The Pilgrimage of St. Growlithe
My child, the world is a place of chaos and darkness, and it is our duty to light candles.
Pokémon come in all shapes and sizes, but the rarest and most powerful are the stuff of literal legends. Some are treated like cryptids — mysterious but still just a Pokémon — others are perceived more as guardian spirits to be respected and venerated. Then there are those with the ability to shape reality itself, such as Arceus — who is believed to have hatched from nothingness and created the heavens and earth. What happens when such a beast descends to our world, with every trainer in the land trying to be the one to defeat or capture it? And what is left of faith when its central figure appears just as vulnerable to Pokéballs as any other Pokémon?
In this contemplative journey of spirituality, the descent of Arceus coincides with the death of a sage who spent his life in devotion and worship of it. Growlithe, a young, grief-stricken temple dog, sets off to speak with Arceus in the hopes of healing her crisis of faith and getting answers to her burning questions. Does Arceus care about the life it created? If not, then was her and her master’s faith wasted?
Along the way, she witnesses and must survive the impact of Arceus’ descent: the full-throated jubilation of the faithful; the burnt shrines to other faiths and the ten year old boy who believes he is destined to capture Arceus and subsume its power. Can Growlithe, and all other life in the world, find the peace they crave, or is Arceus an empty vessel that merely repeats its own name?
Growlithe will be played by Tessa Thompson. Much like our own God, the voice of Arceus will be Danny DeVito.