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A new trailer is out for Detective Pikachu, and for those that haven't seen it, it's loaded with lots of new footage that makes it worth the watch. It also features a scene that, while not necessarily controversial, has been jarring to those who've seen it. Towards the end of the trailer, Pikachu is looking like he won't be able to defend himself against an angry Charizard. Alarmed, he instructs Tim to "get him the hell out" of there.
A Pikachu, which is affiliated with the family gaming company Nintendo, just swore in a trailer for a major motion picture. Sure, it's no f-bomb, but considering the character typically hangs out on a console that shies away from nearly all forms of vulgarity, it was quite a thing to hear. This, paired with other things that emerged in the trailer has me asking, is Detective Pikachu trying to take the Pokemon franchise in a more adult direction?
It sure feels that way, and while the word "hell" alone isn't enough to start speculating whether or not this film is headed for a PG-13 rating, there does seem to be some catering towards a more adult audience. Especially when looking at the amount of Pokemon from the early games and the overall gritty look of the creatures. It isn't uninviting to children, but the overall tone does give the vibe it isn't exclusively for kids.
At least, this is when compared to other Pokemon big screen features, like the first movie. That one kicked off with a short film that had all the Pokemon speaking as they usually do (by saying their names) with subtitles. Even the main film itself was fairly safe in terms of content, and while it was personally emotionally devastating for me to see Ash Ketchum turned to stone, I don't recall my father having the same reaction.
Now, me and a bunch of other former kids who saw Pokemon: The First Movie are on the verge of our 30s and getting pumped about the surprise appearance by Mewtwo. That's another moment from the trailer that felt specific to my Pokemon fandom, one that I mentally filed away in the "reasons to see Detective Pikachu" category of my brain. Is Warner Bros. intentionally marketing this project to older Pokemon fans?
It certainly feels that way, especially when counting the number of Pokemon in the second trailer that hail from the first and second generation of Pokemon games. Pokemon from later generations do appear, but they're few and far between in comparison. Also, the two human characters in this film have a Pikachu and a Psyduck for companions, much like the characters Ash and Misty from the Pokemon anime of the late '90s.
There's also Mr. Mime, who was often seen as a maid to Ash's mom in the show. These characters are popular, but not so much so that young children of today who didn't play the games or watch the show would easily recognize. Again, it seems like clear ways of marketing this movie to an older audience, and those who enjoyed Pokemon when they were young as opposed to those that are currently young.
Which, if that's the case, isn't a bad call. Provided Detective Pikachu falls within the PG status, it isn't crazy to think many adults with kids will drag them to the theater regardless of whether they use Pokemon as an excuse to see it. If the film ends up being a hit, Warner Bros. has established a baseline expectation that there's something here for older audiences in addition to younger minds that enjoy it.
Which is an exciting prospect, because the Pokemon world is brimming with content that, in the right hands, could be spun into more adult story lines and more mature adventures. Of course, we're not talking Tarantino-level raunch or hard-R stories, but stories that can tug at heartstrings or just be a fun ride from start to finish. Basically, everything that the animated features, which were almost exclusively written and enjoyed by children, were not.
That's exciting to think about as a grown-ass man who's just now realized he's secretly longed for a realistic looking Pokemon movie a majority of his life. If Detective Pikachu is a hit, does that mean Ash Ketchum's adventure is fair game to adapt? Is this the beginning of a film universe where spinoffs are connected to the events of Detective Pikachu? There are so many questions I want answers to, and the movie isn't even out yet.
Perhaps it only feels like Detective Pikachu is catering to an older audience, however, because older folks are cherry-picking the elements they're most familiar with from the franchise. Pokemon has been a staple franchise in children's culture for the past two decades, so it's silly to think only late '20s and early 30-somethings who saw the trailer were jazzed. Do younger kids, specifically the same audience Pokemon traditionally caters to, feel the same way?
Possibly, but the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu in the role likely wasn't for their sake. Making the guy who plays Deadpool the voice of Pikachu was a bold choice, especially in an age of YouTube where dubs can be made to make that cute little Pokemon say things like "prison wallet." Kids may enjoy Detective Pikachu all the same, but it seem more clear this film isn't necessarily for them.
Which, again, is absolutely fine. Young kids play with Transformers despite its film franchise not necessarily catering to them, and kids will likely continue to play Pokemon regardless of how this film performs in theaters. Hopefully children and adults alike are amazed by this feature, and it spawns a series of films that rides this wave until it crashes and leads to some Bumblebee-type reboot. That's not the ideal scenario, but it's always best to temper expectations for films like this.