EXCLUSIVE: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu director promises the film will be “properly authentic in terms of the rules of the universe”

Pikachu and Justice Smith in Detective Pikachu
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

There have been many Pokémon movies before, but none have been live-action (well, mostly live-action) before. That’s all set to change with Detective Pikachu, which puts a super-sleuth spin on proceedings by taking inspiration from the 2016 3DS game of the same name.

Ryan Reynolds voices the titular yellow creature, and he has more to say than just “Pika! Pika!” as the film pits him in an odd couple dynamic with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith, who plays former Pokémon trainer, Tim Goodman. Tim can understand Pikachu unlike anyone else, and hears the sassy tones of Ryan Reynolds where everyone else hears (admittedly adorable) squeaking.

The film is set in Ryme City, and follows the mismatched duo as Tim goes looking for his mysteriously vanished father. Pikachu isn’t the only Pokémon who appears in the film, as the world is populated with familiar CGI-animated creations. Reynolds provides not only the voice, but the facial capture of Pikachu, and as director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) tells our sister publication, Total Film magazine, “It’s so complicated that I can’t even begin to describe it.” You can see an exclusive behind the scenes picture featuring Smith and Letterman below…

Justice Smith and Rob Letterman on set of Detective Pikachu

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

As Letterman goes on to tell TF, he wasn’t a Pokémon fan himself, but his kids convinced him that he had to take this directing gig. “I kind of didn’t have much choice!” he laughs. The film is set to fall somewhere between the Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Blade Runner, given the fusion of the cute animation within a live-action neo-noir backdrop.

While it may not look hugely familiar to the craze that people grew up with, Letterman assures Total Film that he’s done his homework. “Obviously I had a lot to learn when I started this, and we flew to Tokyo quite a bit to meet with the Pokémon company,” Letterman continues. “There’s so much pressure to get this right, for everyone. We had a lot of conversations with the experts, making sure it’s properly authentic in terms of the rules of the universe, but my whole thing was that I just wanted everything to feel real.”

Iconic Pokémon like Squirtle, Jigglypuff, Charizad and Mr. Mime are set to appear alongside other human cast members like Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse and Bill Nighy. The Pokémon will live alongside human’s in the film’s east-meets-west world. “They’re not just wild animals in the forest,” adds Letterman. “They’re part of the fabric of the city.”

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu opens in the US and UK on May 10, 2019, and you can read much more about it in the latest issue of Total Film magazine, which hits shelves this Friday, April 5. It’s a huge Avengers: Endgame special, and features loads more including Toy Story 4, Olivia Wilde, Men in Black: International and Rocketman to name a few. Check it out!

Total Film's Avengers: Endgame issue

(Image credit: Disney/Total Film)

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(Image credit: Total Film)
Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.