What the new Pokemon movie owes to film history

Earlier this week the trailer for the new Pokemon film Detective Pikachu was released. Instantly everyone online has an opinion on the trailer. More so they had an opinion on the aesthetic we saw in the little footage they have revealed so far. The Pokemon and the world they are inhabiting in this film seem to be more realistic and grungy. The common consensus online has been to treat this trailer as the first time an adaptation such as this has taken this route. Often I hear the word “creepy” thrown around more than it should. I came across a comment claiming they made the Pokemon look “creepy” in this trailer because “millennials like creepy things.” If that were the case, then I don’t think the production design department and digital artists would be doing their jobs correctly. In this article, I will be talking about the films that I believe influenced this new Pokemon movie and will be giving my take on some of the opinions thus far.

It’s Just Roger Rabbit…

I can see why people would be throwing this one around, but I have to say that I disagree. Yes, detective Pikachu is about a person and non-person solving a crime together in a world where the two must cohabitate. Yet I don’t feel like that can make it all said and done. Claiming the two are the same film isn’t really fair to say. I can make the same comparison with many other films: Alien Nation (1988), Theodore Rex (1995),  and Bright (2017). It’s easy to compare almost any two films to one another when you only use broad strokes. That doesn’t mean you always should. Especially when you have an entire history of film at your fingertips.

Blade Runner

Speaking of broad strokes now is my turn to do so. Blade Runner is actually one of the first films I thought of when I first saw the trailer for the new Pokemon movie. I would never compare the two films as a whole, but there are a couple things in particular that struck me when viewing the trailer for the first time. The city that Detective Pikachu takes place seems to be filled with tons of neon and well-lit signage. Even the logos at the beginning of the trailer are done in a neon style. We are shown a crowded street lined up and down with food stands. This brief look into the futuristic world of pokemon reminds me of the city street found in Blade Runner. It also helps that these two are detective stories. Though radically different in tone.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Blade Runner was probably the second film I thought of while watching the Detective Pikachu trailer. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was definitely the first one that came to mind and will most likely have the most in common with this new Pokemon film. Both adaptations are based on very colorful cartoons with a young child fan base in mind. Yet both have darker looking film adaptions that seem to take the source material more seriously than expected. After a recent viewing earlier this year I’ve realized that the 1990 Ninja Turtles film is very underrated. The production design is impeccable and to me is the closest resemblance between the two films. The world of the Ninja Turtles film isn’t sugar-coated for kids or colorful at all. The production design team understands that this is a story that takes place in New York. The streets are crowded and filled with trash. This is a city that is dark and damp. It feels lived in. It feels real. It does this while still keeping its offbeat humor and I’m getting the same vibe from Detective Pikachu so far.

The two also share a more realistic approach to character design. Master Splinter doesn’t look like a cartoon version of what we think a rat looks like. He isn’t easy on the eyes. He looks like a rat. His eyes are beady, he has long whiskers, and his fur looks like he spends his days in the sewer. As do the Ninja Turtles themselves. You can say the same for the way that the Pokemon look in this new film. They aren’t overly colorful and well polished. They have scars, wrinkles, their skin overall looks unappealing. As it should for creatures that literally get captured and are made to fight for a living. I wouldn’t expect them to look any other way. That’s why I found it weird when the internet collectively wigged out over the first look at Pokemon in real life. How would you honestly expect them to look?

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