December 11-12, 2021
After a franchise spanning 32 main-series games, 22 anime seasons, 19 animated movies and countless spin-offs, Pokémon finally leapt into glorious live-action for the first time with Detective Pikachu earlier this month.
Going a slightly less traditional route for the series’ first live-action adventure was a good move, keeping things accessible for those who aren’t die-hard fans. But where will the Pokémon live-action film franchise go next?
There are quite a few possibilities.
Pokémon Red, Blue, etc.
A film based on the original two games, Pokémon Red and Blue. The games follow a young trainer beginning their journey in the Kanto region. With multiple adaptations of the game’s story already existing, including the first season of the Pokémon anime, the Pokémon Adventures manga, and the anime mini-series Pokémon Origins, it will be interesting to see where a live-action version could go. Would the movie choose one version of the story to adapt? The possibilities are endless.
Most likely, the film would pick and choose elements from all the previous adaptations to create a version of the story that would appeal to both long-term fans and those new to the Pokémon world. If things work out, great! There are six more generations of games ready and waiting to be adapted.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
In 2006 (2005 in Japan), the first two Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, were released. Eight more games followed, with the most recent one, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, released back in 2015. These spin-off games feature a human character suffering from amnesia, who has been mysteriously transformed into a Pokémon. The character soon befriends another Pokémon and joins their Pokémon Rescue Team, embarking on various missions. Four animated specials based upon the Mystery Dungeon games have been produced, as well as two English manga adaptations (four Japanese).
A Pokémon Mystery Dungeon film would work best as a full CGI, family-friendly adventure, probably based on the early games or one of the animated specials. The later Mystery Dungeon games include a few darker moments.
2007 saw the release of Pokémon Ranger, another major spin-off game for the Pokémon franchise. The game follows a new figure in the Pokémon universe, a Pokémon Ranger. The Ranger’s job is to protect the bonds between humans and Pokémon, while also protecting rare Pokémon from unscrupulous humans who would use them for nefarious means. While the Ranger games were not quite as popular as other spin-offs, the concept of Pokémon Rangers became an enduring part of the Pokémon world, with multiple Rangers appearing throughout the anime. The ninth movie, Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, includes a Ranger’s mission as part of the main plot.
Pokémon Rangers are the environmentalists of the Pokémon world, and with conservation becoming an increasingly important topic, the idea of a Pokémon Ranger movie feels somewhat timely. The plot of the first game, in which a lone Pokémon Ranger must stop the villainous Go-Rock Squad from capturing Entei, Raikou, and Suicune, the three legendary dog Pokémon, lends itself perfectly to a film.
Pokémon Chronicles: Raikou and the Legend of Thunder
In 2005, the Pokémon Chronicles series aired in western countries. Most of these episodes featured previously unseen adventures starring popular characters from the Pokémon anime, except for the first three, which told a wholly original story: Raikou and the Legend of Thunder. The Legend of Thunder told the story of Jimmy, Marina, and Vincent, three trainers from Johto who must stop Team Rocket from capturing the legendary beast Raikou.
The Legend of Thunder features a plot that would be relatively easy to follow for newcomers, as well as being relatively easy to adapt to a film, and could possibly be reworked for a potential Pokémon Ranger movie.
As longtime Pokémon fans will remember, many of the earlier Pokémon movies were released alongside a short film. These short films featured Ash’s Pikachu, along with all his other Pokémon, becoming swept up in various crazy adventures, usually by accident, while Ash is away. Pikachu inevitably manages to return just in time, leaving Ash blissfully unaware of any trouble that may have occurred while he was gone. Pikachu’s Vacation, released with the very first Pokémon movie, remains popular, with prominent appearances from fan-favourite Pokémon such as Bulbasaur and Squirtle, then voiced by Supa-Star Eric Stuart.
While none of the shorts alone are substantial enough to become a full-length film, ideas from them could be worked into a future Pikachu star vehicle. As the face of the Pokémon franchise, Pikachu is a character that everyone knows, whether they are fans or not. This probably contributed to the decision to use the spin-off game Detective Pikachu as the basis for Pokémon’s first live-action film. To continue attracting a wider audience, it would be wise to keep Pikachu front and center as the franchise heads into the future.