Cast: Bill Nighy, Ryan Reynolds, Rita Ora, Suki Waterhouse, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe
Director: Rob Letterman
Genre: Animation, Family
Synopsis: The first-ever live-action Pokémon adventure, "POKÉMON Detective Pikachu" stars Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu and is based on the beloved Pokémon brand"one of the world's most popular, multi-generation entertainment properties and one of the most successful media franchises of all time.
Fans everywhere can now experience the iconic Pokémon Pikachu on the big screen as never before, as Detective Pikachu, a Pokémon like no other. The film also showcases a wide array of beloved Pokémon, each with its own unique powers and personality.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Release Date: May 9th, 2019
Tim Goodman: "Did you just talk?"
Detective Pikachu: "Whoa… Did you just understand me?"
Pikachu speaks! And that's just for starters.
As fans everywhere know, Pikachu is a Pokémon, and no matter how expressive Pokémon can be with their features, actions, body language and special powers, they are linguistically limited to stating their own names. Inexplicably, such is not the case with this one particular, pint-sized, fast-moving individual in the deerstalker cap: Detective Pikachu. It might be his caffeine habit, a raging case of amnesia or just his electric personality, but this bright yellow P.I. talks a blue streak. Just try and shut him up.
The fact is, when the story opens, Detective Pikachu is up to his fuzzy little face in mysteries so deep and confounding that he can't even remember how they started, and he's not going to rest until he figures it all out. Who is he? What happened to his partner, Harry Goodman? And why is he suddenly able to communicate in human language so that one man"one specific young man, that is, Harry's son Tim"can actually understand him?
"Detective Pikachu's got some sass," says Ryan Reynolds, who brings his spot-on timing, style and irreverent humor to the film's title role. "He's got some serious attitude. He's really a larger-than-life-character, but he has to be. I mean, he looks like a little cotton ball. Imagine if someone flash-fried me and injected me into this little yellow guy; that's basically what it's like. "I've worked on films with CG characters before but I've never seen this kind of interaction on this scale," he adds. "It's pretty special. When you see this fully rendered version of a living, breathing Pikachu on screen, you feel like you could just reach out and touch him and cuddle him. But don't cuddle him. I can't be responsible for what he might do."
"I fell in love with the story," says director Rob Letterman. "It has tremendous heart and is truly unique. You approach a property like this with reverence for what has been done and a desire to introduce something new. Pikachu is different in this movie because of the story we're telling and the world he inhabits."
In the globally beloved franchise that is Pokémon, "POKÉMON Detective Pikachu" presents a fresh and intriguing perspective. Designed with a fans-first commitment and a plethora of Easter eggs, the movie realizes Pikachu and myriad Pokémon as never before: threedimensional CG creatures, each with its unique characteristics, complexities and battle-ready powers, wholly integrated in a hyper-real world. At the same time, its original, heartwarming story and fun characters can be embraced by audiences everywhere, whether or not they are versed in the fine points of Pokémon evolution or can name any of the 800-plus species"many of them sharing the screen with Detective Pikachu, including Psyduck, Charmander, Ludicolo, Snubbull, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff, Aipom, Lickitung, Mr. Mime….and the elusive Mewtwo.
Letterman, who also shares writing credit on the film with Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly, and Nicole Perlman, acknowledges, "There's a wonderful legacy of Pokémon anime and core video games, which we all know and love, but if we were going to make a new Pokémon movie, we wanted to give it its own place and a special reason for being. We wanted to be sure it was true to the spirit of Pokémon and that it followed those rules so those in the know would appreciate it, and also open the door for a broader audience who may be entering this domain for the first time.
"It's an exciting concept creatively and a logical progression. It's like they're alive," he continues. To that end, the director opted for the quality and texture of 35mm film stock and used practical locations as much as possible so that the environments looked and felt authentic.
Scrupulously detailed to their proper sizes, shapes and attributes, Detective Pikachu and his fellow Pokémon interact with their human partners in the one-and-only Ryme City"a community built on the groundbreaking precept of "harmony between humans and Pokémon" per its visionary founder, benevolent billionaire Howard Clifford, portrayed by Bill Nighy. There, just as the marriage of Pokémon and live-action is both striking and seamless, Detective Pikachu's off-the-charts adorableness is juxtaposed with a hard-boiled detective patter in a way that is hilariously wrong and yet feels so right. And Reynolds' vocal performance pulls no punches. "There's something inherently fun about that big personality and Ryan's voice coming from this tiny, incredibly cute creature. It seems like a disconnect, but it's completely natural," the director offers.
The adventure begins when 21-year-old Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith, reluctantly arrives in Ryme City to wrap up the affairs of his estranged father, Harry, a private eye gone missing"and presumed dead"during his last case. Once in Harry's apartment, Tim is touched by glimpses into the life of a man he never really knew but who apparently cared very much for him. Then he meets Harry's former partner, Detective Pikachu, an old-school gumshoe with the gift of gab, spouting a stream of bad jokes and noir clichés but still making a fair amount of sense. Tim finds himself drawn to the possibility that Harry is alive and that he and this supercharged, won't-take-no-for-an-answer Detective Pikachu must team up to find him and uncover what he was working on. Besides, it's the first time he's ever been able to understand what a Pokémon is saying and that's one mystery that's hard to walk away from.
Tim's journey with the diminutive detective soon leads to other discoveries, not only about his father but about friendship and bravery, about himself and his future. In time, it reveals the power of second chances and what we make of them.
"This film has everything," states Smith. "It's funny and silly, in ways that I think adults will get as much as kids. It has drama and mystery. It's grounded and real, and there's a meaningful story that people can relate to. That's what appealed to me about it."
"Justice and I are living every Pokémon fan's dream," adds Kathryn Newton, who stars opposite him as sharp, aspiring young reporter Lucy Stevens, who is equally dedicated to finding Harry for her own reasons. "As soon as I read the script I was totally immersed."
Ultimately, throughout the laughs, action, twists and turns, Tim's efforts to retrace Harry's path will bring him closer to his father's heart than he ever thought possible. Legendary Pictures' Cale Boyter, who produced the film with the company's Vice Chairman of Creative, Mary Parent, and producers Hidenaga Katakami and Don McGowan of The Pokémon Company, says, "Our movie is about the magic that comes out of life when you allow yourself to make connections. It doesn't matter who you are, we've all been knocked down and sometimes it's hard to get back up, and that's where Tim is when he goes to Ryme City. He doesn't want to let anything in. But he forges a friendship with Detective Pikachu, who is full of hope, and that leads him to try and find his father. So on one level it's a very inspiring story about the relationship between a father and son, and that it's never too late to reach for that second chance. Kids who have grown up collecting the cards understand it's about that unique relationship and connection with their Pokémon, so it's a big theme but it also celebrates what is the essence of the brand."
With that in mind, input and support from The Pokémon Company was an invaluable resource. "Rob and everyone at Legendary were mindful of this beloved and trusted property," says producer Hidenaga Katakami. "They wanted to treat it with respect even while taking creative liberties to have some fun and make a compelling movie, which we welcomed. Pikachu is instantly recognizable around the world and we think people will enjoy seeing this iconic Pokémon in a different kind of role with a wholly unique personality, thanks to Rob and Ryan Reynolds."
Tsunekazu Ishihara, President of The Pokémon Company and an executive producer on the film, concurs, saying, "The movie as a whole combines nods to Pokémon canon and lore, while delivering a story with broad appeal. Just like the Pokémon brand, this truly is a movie that anyone can relate to, whether young or older, long-time fans or those newly experiencing the world of Pokémon."
A bonus for fans and a perfect cue for comedy is the way that Detective Pikachu's conversations with Tim reveal not only his own thoughts and feelings but that of others they encounter"all of whom, of course, only he can understand. As Ali Mendes, another of the film's executive producers, points out, "Getting inside the head of a Pikachu is an entirely new idea. But having Detective Pikachu translate when, for example, all we hear is a Bulbasaur saying 'Bulbasaur, Bulbasaur,' is another opportunity to bring us into the inner lives of these Pokémon and further into their world as never before."
Above all, woven throughout the story is the acknowledgement of a concept key to Pokémon, its fans, and the brand itself: evolution. Just as these amazing creatures can physically transform into more powerful versions of themselves, Letterman notes, "One of the primary tenets of this special world is that Pokémon bring out the best in humanity and their human companions through the connections they make, and together they can all evolve into better versions of themselves. That's what drew me in and that's what fuels the story."
Cast And Characters
Detective Pikachu: "It's magic that brought us together, kid, and that magic is called hope. Hope that Harry is still alive."
Some Partnerships are Meant to Be
Raised by his grandmother in another city, Tim hasn't seen his father in years, and he'd likely say that was just fine with him. He doesn't need a dad; he doesn't need anything or anyone, in fact, not even a Pokémon to call his own. But once inside Harry's simple bachelor pad, Tim's tough-guy façade gets a little frayed around the edges. There are framed photos of young Tim, an unsent birthday card and train ticket, and a room carefully decorated for a Pokémon-loving teenager who never came to use it.
"I think he feels sad and a little guilty," Justice Smith suggests. "He realises his dad cared more than he knew, and maybe the fault was partly his for not giving Harry a chance. It's a tough spot to be in. The vulnerability he must have felt as a kid and that he's been trying to hide his entire life, comes back. Worst of all, if he and his dad ever really had a chance to be close, he thinks it's too late now."
Or is it? If Tim needs a reason to believe, he needs only listen to Harry's partner, who knew everything about him…even though he can't remember any of it right now. Still, despite the fact that Detective Pikachu has no memory beyond last week"the same time Harry disappeared"he is absolutely convinced of two things: (1) he is a world-class detective and (2), Harry is still kicking. With him being able to talk to Pokémon and Tim being able to talk to humans, and the two of them able to talk to each other, the only logical course is for them to buddy up and figure out what happened. Tim reluctantly agrees. But he has no idea what he's in for.
"There's a big, uncontrollable kind of spirit in this little Pikachu, so that he thinks he's not only the brains but the brawn, when he really doesn't have the physical capability of doing half the stuff he thinks he can do," notes Boyter. "So he leans on Tim, which pushes him into some real situations."
But it might be the very thing Tim needs to challenge and to find himself. With Detective Pikachu's encouragement"that is, his propensity to jump into things feet first and figure it out on the run"Tim might finally be able to shake off a past that had him playing it safe and reach toward a more meaningful future than he could have foreseen just days ago.
Since the movie depends upon their dynamic, the filmmakers sought to give the actors ample opportunity to establish a rapport. Reynolds and Smith recorded their scenes together in the weeks prior to the physical shoot"an uncommon approach, but one both actors appreciated. Reynolds then remained on set with Smith for the beginning of physical production, feeding him Detective Pikachu's dialogue via an earpiece, to draw on that connection, after which Smith continued filming with a stand-in reading the lines.
Says Reynolds, "I do a lot of voice work, and this was especially fun because, unlike most situations, I got to interact directly with Justice." As for being on set afterwards, he adds, "I wanted to be there to establish a kind of rhythm. A lot of the time we're talking over each other and we're a bit like the Odd Couple in a sense, so you need to get that right."
Letterman recalls, "Initially, we were working hard to design the Detective Pikachu character in 3D, so we were concentrating on color and movements and trying to match the spirit of the original 2D drawings. Months later, even before we had Ryan signed, we did a test. We took a sample of his voice and animated to it, and it fit perfectly. It's hard to describe; it felt very natural and at the same time took the character to another level. And when he came in to work with Justice, they brought out all the wit and charm and humor of that relationship."
As Tim and Detective Pikachu follow clues from Harry's last case, they get a boost from an unexpected but welcome ally, Lucy Stevens. Lucy is pursuing an investigation of her own about unexplained and completely uncharacteristic Pokémon behavior, that has led her to Harry's place. She thinks he was asking the same questions and maybe got too close.
"She's an investigative reporter. Well, more like a junior reporter. Okay, she's an intern, but she'll get there," says Kathryn Newton, mirroring a joke from the film, as Lucy is forever underestimated on the job, struggling for the recognition and respect her talents truly deserve. But she never stops trying. Now, "she's on the hunt for what's really going down in Ryme City because something is definitely wrong."
Lucy is happy to share her intel with them so long as they keep her in the loop. And that means no suggestions to "wait here" when things get tough. That being the case, you gotta wonder why she chose the super-cute but easily agitated Psyduck as her Pokémon partner. Strapped into his BabyBjӧrn, he sees all the scary, crazy things Lucy gets into that can give him the kind of stress headache that results in his signature power: a psychokinetic wipeout.
Consequently, they are always trying to calm his nerves…with varying degrees of success. "I relate to Lucy in some ways," Newton says. "I'm focused and driven, and I dream big, but she's even more so. She's also funny, and kind of a dork sometimes, and wants to save the world. Lucy believes in herself. She says you have to trust your instincts and go with your gut." Ryme City's Movers and Shakers Ryme City exists as the dream and design of one man: Howard Clifford, whom Bill Nighy describes as "an avuncular, responsible, billionaire"if you can imagine one of those. He's the CEO of the industrial complex Clifford Enterprises and the city is his experiment, a place where humans and Pokémon cohabit for the first time as equals."
Ironically, Howard has no such harmony in his own home. He is constantly at odds with his abrasive son Roger, who is president of the company but has his own ideas and never misses a chance to berate and oppose him. "If Howard's for it, he's against it," says Nighy. Chris Geere, in the role of Roger, calls him "a spoiled brat rich boy who thinks a lot of himself. I think he can charm people and get things done but he doesn't have the brains. The brains behind the operation is Howard, and that may be the source of their conflict."
But as much as they privately fight, the two present an amicable public face, most recently in a joint announcement encouraging citizens to turn up for a giant parade to celebrate their city. "They have the on-camera and the off-camera relationships, so there's a lot of acting that goes on. It's been great fun to play, and a dream come true working alongside Bill," adds Geere.
None but the few in their inner circle know their secret animosity. One such individual is Howard's briskly efficient executive assistant Ms. Norman, played by Suki Waterhouse as a woman of few words but undeniable influence. Ms. Norman is always impeccably turned out, as if she couldn't tolerate betraying a flaw…or anything else. Says Waterhouse, "She's kind of a badass and she has an interesting quality as you just don't know what she might think or do."
Also in the Cliffords' employ is Dr. Ann Laurent, played by Rita Ora, as a research scientist whose experiments may be the core of the mystery behind Harry's disappearance. Says Ora, "It was fun to play a scientist, a character so different from my everyday experience. Laurent is the chief researcher at one of the company's lesser-known properties and she appears to Tim and his friends as a hologram. She pops up sporadically out of nowhere and gives Tim a scare. I loved it!"
The multi-platinum-selling British singer/songwriter also performs the song "Carry On," with Kygo, that plays over the film's end credits.
Meanwhile, far from such rarified air is another of Ryme City's power players: the mononym Sebastian, who runs an illegal Pokémon fight club called The Roundhouse and sports a full chest tattoo of his champion Charizard. It's a dark and frenetically charged atmosphere where the shouts of the crowd compete with the pulsing beat of music, spun by renowned DJ Diplo appearing in a fun supporting role. Here Pokémon and their trainers stage battles reminiscent of what they might do openly in other towns but breaks this city's rules of co-existence. Tim and Detective Pikachu have reason to believe Harry recently paid this place and its cagey owner a visit.
Omar Chaparro, portraying Sebastian, says, "He's kind of a crazy guy, over-the-top in the way he dresses and lives, with a huge ego. Supposedly a month ago Detective Pikachu almost wrecked his prized Charizard. Sebastian was embarrassed in front of his audience and friends by this fluffy yellow thing, so, when he sees him and Tim in the club, he demands a rematch. That's when things really take a wild turn."
But as fans will instantly know, despite the scene's intentional game references, these are no ordinary Pokémon battles in the Pokémon spirit. This goes a level beyond. It's clearly out of control and just plain wrong. Is this what Harry was investigating?
If so, it was apparently without the knowledge of his boss at the precinct, Lieutenant Hide Yoshida, played by Ken Watanabe. Yoshida is likewise unaware that Tim and Harry's former Pokémon partner believe Harry is alive and are engaged in such a potentially treacherous quest, although, Watanabe suggests, the veteran cop would likely be on board with that. "Harry was an excellent detective, and the movie starts with Yoshida losing him. I suppose he would be the kind of person who would support Tim as if he were his own son."
A Place Like No Other
Howard Clifford: "You are about to enter Ryme City, built upon the bedrock of the human/Pokémon partnership"
The vision for "POKÉMON Detective Pikachu" was much in sync with Howard Clifford's, as an environment that humans and Pokémon could share. Dozens of Pokémon were rendered for the film, some in featured roles and others that appear in backgrounds.
Cooperation from The Pokémon Company was invaluable, including input from company president and CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara; Ken Sugimori, illustrator of the original Pokémon games artwork; plus numerous artists and designers. They provided reams of reference and were available to consult on many details, down to fingernails and fur, as Letterman and his key technical leads sought to make the transition from two to three dimensions.
Where traditional animation allows for such fluid concepts as "squash and stretch," characters rendered in photo-real 3D adhere to rigid measurement. Proportions were calculated from each individual's pre-determined height and width. "You can't cheat anything," notes the film's Animation Director Ferran Domenech. "We don't want these creatures to look cartoony, so we look for natural references and it takes a lot of R & D with animators and riggers to build them from the inside out. They have to look and move as though they have weight."
Most importantly, "You have to figure out how to achieve all those things without destroying the most important element, which is the essence of those Pokémon and peoples' connection to them," notes VFX Supervisor Erik Nordby, who previously worked with Letterman on "Goosebumps." "What it came down to was being sure we understood who each of these creatures were and what they meant, and always pointed our compass toward that."
Though not animals, from a design standpoint Pokémon have certain characteristics of various animals, often in combination. So, the crew tapped into natural examples for their physicality, whether it was mice, turtles, monkeys, eagles or whatever they felt most closely matched the original inspiration. Beyond that, Reynolds' performance contributed to realising Detective Pikachu on screen with much more than his voice. "He influenced it completely," states Domenech. "His performance directed the attitude and character of Pikachu through his humor and rhythm, his mannerisms, expressions and a whole range of subtle movements."
For a scene in which Tim and Detective Pikachu face the challenging task of interrogating a mime in his own non-language, the filmmakers hired prominent New Zealand mime and physical comedian Trygve Wakenshaw to inform the animators as well as Justice Smith's performance. Puppets were also created as practical elements for the VFX department to build on and as visual cues for the actors. "A lot of times Detective Pikachu will be on my shoulder," Smith relates. "So I walked around with a weighted puppet on my shoulder. The animators would then tailor it to my movements, like how I tilt my head or how I react when he smacks me in the face with his tail."
For the fictional Ryme City, the watchword was again realism, with a big splash of style. Production designer Nigel Phelps explains that Letterman wanted a modern metropolis with hints of both the familiar and unknown, international, and for everyone. "Using London as a base, we ended up creating a place that's a combination of New York, Tokyo and London. There are lots of purposeful contradictions. Cars drive on the left, but it's got an American feel." Digitally extended skylines and signage further obscure the city's exact locale. The atmosphere is classic noir to match Detective Pikachu's affinity for the genre: cool and dark, with slashes of neon reflecting off rain-wet streets and weird shadows around every corner that hint of excitement…or danger. "London's neutral color scheme makes a perfect backdrop, because the Pokémon are so colorful." says Phelps. "One of the first things we did was set up a workroom wall with all the characters in each scene, to help determine the colors of the sets."
Some of those sets were constructed at Shepperton Studios, including Harry's apartment, Howard's penthouse, and the Hi Hat Café where Tim and Detective Pikachu try to have a conversation without everyone around them thinking Tim has lost his mind. The interior of The Roundhouse and Dr. Laurent's lab were built at Leavesden Studios. Apart from that, a great deal of the film used practical locations in England and Scotland.
The scene in which Tim is chased from his dad's apartment and across the roof by a troop of uncharacteristically volatile Aipom was captured over four nights atop the Truman Brewery in East London, while exteriors of buildings at Bishopsgate and Broadgate Plaza stood in for Harry's former precinct. Filming the story's action-packed climactic parade scene involved 300 extras over the course of five weekends and was captured in the center of The City of London, featuring the 122 Leadenhall skyscraper opposite Lloyds of London"better known as The Cheesegrater because of its distinct wedge shape. From there, production took to the Scottish Highlands" specifically Glen Affric, Glen Orchy and Finnich Glen, aka The Devil's Pulpit"for exterior sequences as the intrepid trio's investigation leads to Dr. Laurent's lab in a forested area far out of town.
The lab scene and its surprising aftermath lead to a huge, stunted action sequence that was among Nordby's favorites. A combined effort of his department with Special Effects, headed by Steven Warner, as well as Greens and stunt coordinator Franklin Henson, it puts Tim, Lucy and Detective Pikachu into a seemingly placid wilderness that suddenly breaks apart under their feet. Smith and Newton took Scuba lessons for the scene, portions of which had them plunged into a lake. With obvious glee, Nordby says, "It's really close to my heart because it had so many massive technical challenges! We had to move tons of metal just to pull it off, traveling the whole crew to Scotland and shooting in the mud with helicopters and drones."
Designed to literally make the earth move, the set was made of steel and more than 100 feet long, with one portion of it curling up in 22 half-degree increments to form a 90-degree angle. Built on hydraulic rams and covered with soil and foliage, its four sections could be controlled separately by computer. Says Henson, "We came up with some fun gags to keep it lighthearted and keep it moving."
"My favorite Pokémon should be Pikachu but the truth is, at times while we were filming, I found myself identifying more with Psyduck and his headaches, just trying to figure out how to accomplish everything," Letterman laughingly reflects.
Joking aside, he then concludes, "What I love about this movie, like all the movies I like to watch, is real emotion and a human story. It's important that characters make you laugh and cry and make you feel scared for them. When the right things come together and you can create something interesting and loveable for people all over the world to experience, it's magical. That's what this movie meant to me, and we hope audiences will feel the same."
Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Release Date: May 9th, 2019