clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

First Comes ‘Detective Pikachu,’ Next Comes the Pokémon Cinematic Universe

There are currently 809 Pokémon—the possibilities for a film franchise are basically endless

Alycea Tinoyan

Warner Bros. is riding a bit of a hot streak at the moment. The studio has finally found a coherent direction for the DC Extended Universe, ensuring that Marvel won’t be the only ones reaping the rewards of our superhero-driven consumer culture. But just as quickly as Warners developed one successful cinematic universe, another could be well on its way. And it’s not even about superheroes.

Detective Pikachu arrives this weekend—it’s about a Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, who’s a good detective—and if our recent Pokémon Go–induced Poké-mania wasn’t enough of an indication, tracking suggests that the film will be a big hit. (It certainly helps that the movie itself is very wholesome and enjoyable.) It’s somewhat surprising we didn’t get a live-action Pokémon movie from a major Hollywood studio sooner, but now the Poké-floodgates have opened. Already, a Detective Pikachu sequel is in the works—motion to call it Detective Pikatwo?—and producers are mulling the ways in which the so-called Pokémon Cinematic Universe could be extended. “We’re trying to get the first movie right, and then once we’ve done that, we’ll see where we go from there,” Legendary Entertainment producer Ali Mendes told IGN. “But absolutely. There are a lot of opportunities.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’m one step ahead of everyone. The world of Pokémon is vast and rich—it began with more than 150 Pokémon from the original generation, and it’s continued to expand ever since. The Pokémon themselves embody wildly varied powers, temperaments, and personality traits: There’s a lot that can be done outside of good old-fashioned Pikachu detective work. That’s why—despite zero assurances I’ll be compensated for my efforts!—I’ve gone ahead and mapped out the future of the Pokémon Cinematic Universe, how certain Pokémon can be utilized in the franchise moving forward, and which directors and stars will be going along for the ride. If at any point during this illuminating exercise you become concerned for my well-being, just remember there was once a room of executives who green-lit a movie in which Pikachu wears a tiny deerstalker and solves crimes.

Squirtle FD

In the hallowed streets of Ryme City—the only metropolis where Pokémon and humans alike live alongside one another—every day is a grind for the firefighters on duty who put their lives in perpetual danger. So picture this: One morning, a tired construction worker leaves the stove on when he exits his apartment; the following evening, a Charizard trying to celebrate his promotion at work inadvertently gives “Fireball shots” a whole new meaning. The best person—nay, the best Pokémon—to rescue Ryme City’s inhabitants from themselves is a plucky Squirtle, voiced by John Mulaney.

Squirtle is Ryme Fire Station’s newest rookie, and has a hard time getting the respect of his firefighter peers—including the station’s stern chief, a Blastoise, who’s also his uncle. But when the station’s team is trapped by a raging inferno at a Pokémon training center, it’s up to Squirtle and his human partner Chad (played by Jay Baruchel) to rescue their peers, civilians, and fellow Pokémon before it’s too late. Squirtle FD will be executive produced by the folks behind Fox’s 9-1-1.

The Gengar Files

Sure, ghost-type Pokémon exist—one is literally called Haunter—but what about the other mysteries of the paranormal? For all the non-Ghastly things that go bump in the night, you better call Gengar (voiced by Bill Hader, doing his best Vincent Price impersonation from the actor’s SNL days).

The Gengar Files follows the eponymous Pokémon, who works as a paranormal investigator, as he confronts the biggest case of his life: the giant mansion on Cinnabar Island. Townsfolk insist the decrepit locale has been teeming with mysterious activity at night, evoking something dark, twisted, and unnatural. As Gengar uncovers the shocking truth behind Cinnabar Island’s mansion, he’ll learn more about the complicated relationship between humans and Pokémon, while peering into his own soul as he reflects on the fateful day he lost his human trainer, and the night his trainer’s ghost visited him and inspired the Pokémon to investigate the paranormal. The Gengar Files will be the first movie in the Pokémon Cinematic Universe that’s rated PG-13, which will cause a minor controversy in the Pokémon community.

Mewtwo

As revealed in The Gengar Files’ post-credits scene, the moonlight activity on Cinnabar Island had nothing to do with ghosts. It was caused by the horrific scientific experiments that led to the creation of Mewtwo, the most powerful Pokémon of all. (Of course, fans had sniffed this out on Reddit years ago, given the Pokémon’s canonical history on the island.)

In Mewtwo, we follow the distressed Pokémon—who’s voiced by Oscar Isaac—as he ruminates on his own existence and the follies of man. With long, meditative voice-overs and sweeping shots of lush Pokémon forests, Mewtwo will be hailed as the Pokémon Cinematic Universe’s first masterpiece, favorably compared to the DCEU’s experimental, indie-esque efforts with Joker. Mewtwo will be directed by Terrence Malick, and land on several critics’ top 10 film lists.

Gardening With Bulbasaur

Marie Kondo sparks joy in households; Bulbasaur will do the same with your front and backyards. Partnering with HGTV, Gardening With Bulbasaur will be the Poké-verse’s first foray into television, as Bulbasaur (voiced by Kristen Schaal) takes viewers through helpful IRL gardening tips with a Pokémon-inspired spin. (Guest stars for the first season will include Chris Lambton and Mr. Mime.)

Gardening With Bulbasaur will test the limits of Pokémon’s staying power—can this franchise that’s geared toward kids and young adults who grew up with the television series and trading cards really resonate with the same people who go on cruises with the Property Brothers? It’s a fair argument to make, but once Gardening With Bulbasaur is linked with a seismic increase in Pokémon-related gardening sales—including Pikachu-themed shears and Charmander grill tongs—the truth will become clear. It’s a Pokémon world; we’re just living in it.

Raging Hitmonchan

As the Poké-verse continues to experiment with different genres, we get another first for the franchise: the gritty Pokémon sports movie. In Raging Hitmonchan, Ryan Gosling voices a plucky Hitmonchan with a burning desire to live up to the legend of his father—the greatest Pokémon boxer in history, who tragically died in the ring fighting a Russian Machamp. (The Machamp infamously said “Machamp, Machamp” in the ring during that fateful fight, which roughly translates to “If he dies, he dies.”)

Hitmonchan must train harder than he’s ever trained before if he hopes to defeat a Geodude jacked up on steroids—who’s being trained by the same Machamp who killed Hitmonchan’s father—while going against the wishes of his loving and concerned partner, a Chansey (voiced by Emma Stone). Hitmonchan has help, however, in his father’s old rival-turned-best-friend, Hitmonlee (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), who’d given up fighting to run a Pokémon gym. Does Hitmonchan really need the validation of being the best Pokémon fighter there is? Is there more to life than what happens inside the ring? Can he find happiness outside of it with Chansey and raising a family? Will Raging Hitmonchan get sued by every boxing movie ever made? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Agent Ditto

When Jessie and James (played by Awkwafina and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively) devise a plan to subject all of the world’s Pokémon to Team Rocket’s will by harvesting the psychic power of Alakazam, there’s only one secret agent who can break into the organization: Agent Ditto (voiced by Henry Cavill). Like all Pokémon of his species, Ditto is able to transform into an exact replica of a person or an object. (Of course, Ditto will still retain his creepy, beady eyes, meaning he’ll constantly have to wear dope-looking sunglasses. Be on the lookout for a Henry Cavill–as-Ditto cameo.)

Agent Ditto will be favorably compared to Captain America: The Winter Soldier for plugging the ’70s conspiracy-thriller template into a blockbuster framework—though some parents will find the scene where Ditto nearly kills James, who’s allergic to chocolate, quote, “truly disturbing.” Agent Ditto will be the first Pokémon movie to be directed by Justin Lin, who at this point will have left the Fast & Furious franchise after Space and the Furious.

How to Train Your Dragonite

After a vehement lawsuit with DreamWorks Animation is put on hold, Warners will drop How to Train Your Dragonite, which focuses on the bond between a young Pokémon trainer named Oliver (played by Timothée Chalamet) and the Dragonite (voiced by Hannibal Buress) he meets outside of Pallet Town. Dragonite left his original owner after he was mistreated—a narrative thread that leads Pokémon to do a joint marketing campaign with PETA ahead of the film’s release.

However, criticized for a derivative plot and lackluster performances from the cast—IndieWire will ponder whether Chalamet should take a hiatus from blockbuster filmmaking—How to Train Your Dragonite will be considered a first for the Pokémon franchise: a flop. Box office prognosticators will wonder whether audiences have grown tired of the Poké-verse—and whether the future of the franchise is destined to fizzle out. However, boosted by Dragonite-related merchandise, the Pokémon Cinematic Universe will remain confident in setting up the most ambitious crossover in history.

Pokémon: Endgame

It’s Mewtwo versus everyone. The Pokémon emerges as a full-fledged villain, hoping to rid the world of mankind so they may no longer enslave Pokémon to do their bidding and fight one another. (Worried that Mewtwo’s rationale is a little too sound, Pokémon: Endgame will have him endanger a sweet old lady and treat the incident with callous indifference.) Who can stop the most powerful Pokémon in the world?

Well, Detective Pikachu can’t do it on his own. That’s right: Gengar, Squirtle, Hitmonchan, and the rest of the franchise’s biggest Pokémon stars unite—including a shocking cameo from a 90-year-old Robert Redford, who will arise from his ice chamber (we’ll have those by the time this movie comes out) for the occasion as a memorable disguise for Agent Ditto—to stop Mewtwo before all their human companions are wiped out. Franchise mainstays are endangered; emotional arcs that have lasted more than a decade are brought to an emotional climax. Pokémon: Endgame will be a critical and commercial hit, surpassing Avatar as the highest-grossing movie of all time. It will be nominated for Best Picture, and director James Wan will announce he wants to make a horror-centric spinoff about Cubone because—and this is true—the skull each Cubone wears on its head is the skull of its dead mother.


The Poké-verse is teeming with potential, and it all begins on Friday with Detective Pikachu. You can either hop on the Pokémon bandwagon early or you can pretend that Pokémon movies sound lame. Then you’ll be sad and alone while all your friends are waiting in a digital queue to snag Pokémon: Endgame opening night tickets. I have seen the light, and its embryonic spark is emanating from Pikachu’s jagged tail.