‘Detective Pikachu’ Writers On The Potential For A Pokemon Cinematic Universe

With nearly 25 years worth of stories to choose from various forms of media, most fans might not have picked or expected Detective Pikachu to be the subject of the first live-action Pokemon film. Nonetheless, excitement for Detective Pikachu was palpable immediately after the release of the first official trailer. However, even in narrowing the list of Pokemon stories to adapt down to Detective Pikachu, the creative team behind the film was still left with an expansive range of themes to explore, characters to include, and, of course, a total of 809 pocket monsters to choose from to be featured in the movie.

For Detective Pikachu, Legendary Pictures assembled a team of writers that included Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, the screenwriting duo whose previous credits include Amazon’s The Tick and Netflix’s One Day at a Time. Together with director Rob Letterman, Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit helped craft the story of Detective Pikachu and bring the imaginative world of Pokemon to life in a live-action feature film for the first time. In a conversation with Heroic Hollywood, Detective Pikachu co-writers Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit discussed how they helped develop the story for the film, what source material they looked to for inspiration, and how the world of Pokemon is rich with material for potential future films.

Where was the story for Detective Pikachu at the time you guys jumped in and where did you guys take it from there?

Benji: We came in very close to the beginning of the process when they were still trying to figure out how to adapt that video game into a big movie and so we came in at a very foundational stage of, you know… from choosing which Pokemon to even be in this world, to fleshing out the characters, coming up with the set pieces, the theme. So, all of that groundwork stuff, we came in at that stage.

So, you guys were on board before it had even been settled as a Detective Pikachu movie, specifically?

Benji: They knew they were gonna do Detective Pikachu and they were figuring out how to crack the story, and they decided to… ‘who are the biggest nerd writers that we know?’

Dan: They knew that we had a familiarity with Pokemon, with genre stuff in general. And so they brought us in and we had opinions about how to tell story, and which Pokemon we wanted to use, and I think that was very appreciated because it allowed us to begin to craft this story together, with Rob Letterman, the director, and Legendary, the company, in a way that we all felt really comfortable with but also seemed true to the spirit of Pokemon.

I suppose there are a lot of ways you could go with Pikachu, in terms of his personality. How did you guys settle upon from what I can tell is a comedic take on the character and did you guys have Ryan Reynolds in mind when you were writing him or were you going completely fresh with your take on the character?

Ben: When we were writing it there were no actors attached. There was no… we had our own mental short dream list of who it could be and Ryan was on that list, but we really couldn’t count on any one actor being the star of the movie. So, we really wanted to just create a voice and character that could stand on its own. And I think our biggest inspiration in coming up with that voice for Detective Pikachu was, similarly to the inspiration for a lot of the movie, is classic noir stories and classic noir detectives.

Dan: But the second that you have that noir voice coming out of this little Pikachu, there is something inherently funny about that, and comedic, and unexpected. And then adding on top of that the fact that only Tim, the main character, can hear him. That’s another escalator of this comedic tension. That’s how we sort of settled on, we’re gonna make him funny, but when he gets serious he’s very serious. And that’s a testament to Ryan as an actor because he’s obviously so funny, and so witty, and he brought so much of his own stuff to the character. But in those more emotional moments, I think he’s just as good, and just as compelling, and authentic.

You mentioned that you looked at noir stories before, do you have specific examples?

Dan: If you’ve read the screenplay there’s a reference to a movie called The Third Man, with Orson Welles from 1939. That’s my favorite movie and it’s like a masterpiece of noir. It’s not exactly a detective story, but it’s very noir. And even down to the way that Detective Pikachu is first revealed from the shadows into the light. It’s very much a direct homage to that movie. We also thought about things like Blade Runner, which is a sort of neo-noir movie. We thought about things like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which, even though it’s very bright in a lot of ways, it is still a noir story. It’s very much a detective story. I even listened to some old-time Philip Marlowe radio shows from 1949 and 1950, which are about as noir as it gets. So, we really did a deep dive on that style of writing so that we could kind of capture a tone and a vibe for the movie.

When you were writing Detective Pikachu, did you look to any of the shows, video games, or other movies? Even just to throw in little nods to the larger Pokemon world?

Benji: Yeah, there are definitely, you know, sprinkles, references throughout for the fans. We wanted to make sure that it was clear that Ryme City, the location of this movie, is not some alternate Pokemon universe, but it is a part of the universe of all the other Pokemon media that have come before it. It’s all connected in a big universe. You know what was interesting as we started to break the story for this movie is what we couldn’t do is we couldn’t rely on some of the old standby classics of Pokemon stories which is, you know, Pokeballs, and trainers, and battles. The foundation of what people are used to in Pokemon stories… in Ryme City, none of that exists. And so, we couldn’t draw on a lot of the iconic things that people know and love. And so, what we settled in on is we wanted to find something just to bring in from the other stuff. And what we focused in on was a core concept, a core idea in the Pokemon universe is the idea of evolution. The fact that these fantastical creatures can evolve into even more fantastical things or a seemingly useless, smaller creature can evolve into something majestic. This is an idea that we feel was very present in Ryme city and it’s unique to the Pokemon universe. So, when we set out to do this, one of our earliest decisions was we wanted to make this a movie that in some ways is about evolution. Not just the literal Pokemon evolving, but the question of what does it mean to evolve? Can people evolve too? Can a father and son relationship evolve, both for the better and for the worse? Those sorts of ideas are what we really took from the other media, as well as stuff like… in the anime, it can get very emotional sometimes. There are very real, emotional scenes between trainers and their Pokemon and we really wanted to have some of that in this movie as well.

I know a lot of fans, including myself, were really excited to see what Mewtwo is going be like in the film. So, did you guys, in writing your take on the character, look at any of the previous versions seen in the animated movies or did you decide to take a completely fresh perspective with him?

Benji: I would say we definitely took into account all the Mewtwo media that have come before us, just because Mewtwo is such an iconic character and a such a special character that we wanted to be respectful of everything that came before us. Really, there’s only one Mewtwo. It’s not like Pikachu, where we can have this funny Pikachu doing one thing and it doesn’t affect people’s connection to a different Pikachu because there’s lots of Pikachus. But, with this, there’s only one Mewtwo and so Mewtwo has to feel consistent with all these Mewtwos that we’ve seen before.

There’s been a bit of talk, at least online, about how this could all expand into a larger Pokemon Cinematic Universe and I was wondering if you guys have had any talks about coming back for another project and, either way, if there was any particular story, be it original or from the videos games or shows, that you’d love to tell in a future film?

Dan: You know, we haven’t really talked about it because we’ve been so focused on this one. And really, even during the process of writing, we were like, in success do we hope that they will make more? Absolutely. But let’s tell the most complete version of this story that we can. Let’s make it a complete thought. And hopefully people love it, and a lot of people see, and they want to do more, and then we’ll figure out, ok, where do we take it from here or what are some other stories in this world that can be told. Because I think that’s what’s so beautiful about bringing Ryme City into the greater world of Pokemon is, like, what’s going on in Kanto? What’s going on in these other regions? Who’s doing what? And I think that those are all really fertile grounds for potential future movies.

What would you consider to be the biggest challenge in writing Detective Pikachu?:

Dan: I think the biggest challenge was balancing the expectations for what a Pokemon movie could be and what the story we were trying to tell was, emotionally. I think a lot of people had a very specific idea of, well, a Pokemon movie is gonna be Ash Ketchum battling and there’s gonna be this Pokemon, and this Pokemon, and this Pokemon. And since we knew we were never gonna do that it was, ‘Ok, how can well tell the absolute best version of our story?’ Incorporating all of those great details but not make people feel like, ‘after all these years, this is the story that you told? Not some other story or some other expectations that I had?’ But instead have people going, ‘Wow! I didn’t know this the story that I wanted told, but I feel great that they told it.’

You guys mentioned earlier that you had conversations about which Pokemon to include and I was wondering if there were any particular Pokemon that you had to cut, and were disappointed to see go, and which ones were you excited to bring onto the screen?

Benji: There were a lot that obviously had to get cut along the way. Not because we didn’t like the Pokemon, or it didn’t work, or anything like that. It was, you know, as you make edits for pacing and things like that, certain sequences fall out. Like, we had a great sequence that we loved with a Golbat that was really fun. We wanted to texture the city with… we had a fun idea of Garbodor. We were just thinking of urban Pokemon. You know, Garbodor is this pile of trash that we wanted to see in an alleyway. So, there were so many fun things that had to get cut out, but we’re happy with the ones that are still in there.

Dan: I would just add to that, the thing that we’re the proudest of as far as integrating Pokemon is bringing Psyduck into the movie. That was something that we really felt passionately about on day one. We had felt like he was the funniest and he had the potential to be this breakout comedic character and we really, really just championed Psyduck.

Benji: Yeah, he’s a character that… that particular Psyduck doesn’t exist in the game that it’s based off of and, as Dan said, when we came in, on day one we were like, ‘the number two Pokemon in this movie needs to be Psyduck. He’s our favorite. He’s so funny.’ And we’re happy that all of that stayed from day one of us working on this all the way through the end.

Now that Detective Pikachu has finally being released in theaters across the world, generations of fans can see see many of their favorite Pokemon in a live-action film for the very first time and so far, the response from audiences has resulted in Detective Pikachu becoming one of the most well-received adaptations of a video game to date. As for what Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit make of the anticipation for the film?  “We just are so excited with the response so far,” they told us towards the end of our conversation. “We hope that people love it and they feel like the wait was worth it.”

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is now playing in theaters!

Top Actors To Replace Ben Affleck In Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’

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Batman Ben Affleck Matt ReevesBen Affleck is officially out as Batman and it's a pretty sad day.

Words cannot describe how sad I am to see Ben Affleck announce that he's no longer Batman. His Batman is why I do what I do. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I fell in love with his comic book-accurate interpretation of the Caped Crusader. It was a breath of fresh air and it felt like we finally had the one true Batman.

Three years have quickly sped by and we're officially going to receive a new Batman for his next movie. Last night, Ben Affleck announced that he will not return as the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves' The Batman and now everyone's attention has moved towards wanting to know who the next Bruce Wayne will be. Matt Reeves is said to want an actor that's around 20 years younger than Affleck while Warner Bros. wants someone older. My guess is that Reeves wants a fresh start while the studio wants an older actor for crossover potential.

In this list, I will discuss the actors I think can replace Ben Affleck as Batman using the parameters that Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. want. Hit Next to see our picks to play the Batman.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender X-Men

Michael Fassbender is an X-Men alum and no stranger to comic book franchises. The actor has shown multiple levels of range and could definitely handle the Batman/Bruce Wayne personality. If they go with the older range for the next Dark Knight, then Fassbender is probably one of the best choices to take over the role.

Ben Barnes

The Punisher Ben Barnes Billy Russo Jigsaw Marvel

Ben Barnes is out of a job after The Punisher season 2 and he's one of the best actors in that series. The second season tied up Barnes' arc on The Punisher and the actor has already told us that that he'd love to play the Caped Crusader. Barnes definitely has the pretty boy look going on for him and I wonder what his take on Bruce Wayne could be.

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling Blade Runner 2049

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Ryan Gosling needs to star in a superhero movie. I've always thought Gosling would make a great Batman. Every role that he's done has shown us his capability and he could crush it as Bruce Wayne.

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm Mad Men

Jon Hamm is my top choice for an older Batman. If Warner Bros. wants to cast an older actor for crossover potential, Jon Hamm is the studio's best bet. He has a similar look to Ben Affleck, and c'mon, the guy's look just screams Bruce Wayne.

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Armie Hammer is 32 years old and was cast as the Caped Crusader in George Miller's Justice League: Mortal. That film will never see the light of day, but that doesn’t mean that Hammer doesn't deserve a second shot at being the Batman. He's charming, broody and will probably give his all for this role. Armie Hammer is a great option because he's young enough for Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. could work in a way for him to crossover with the rest of the DC Extended Universe.

Richard Madden

Richard Madden Bodyguard

Game of Thrones alum Richard Madden is my top choice to replace Ben Affleck as Batman. The actor is young, has the look and definitely has the acting chops to play the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Madden just won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television series for the BBC drama Bodyguard, so Warner Bros. may want to quickly snatch him up.

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Sebastian Peris

Sebastian Peris

Canadian film buff, political junkie, comic book geek, and board game enthusiast.