Earlier this year, the ultra-popular franchise Pokémon stormed its way back into the zeitgeist when the mobile app Pokémon Go caught on like wildfire and set download records. With interest in the property sky high once again, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the film industry wanted a piece of the pie. Shortly after Pokémon Go became a worldwide phenomenon, Legendary Pictures acquired the movie rights for a live-action Pokémon flick, bringing Nicole Perlman and Alex Hirsch on board to pen the script. Plot details remain under wraps for now, but the project is currently known as Detective Pikachu.
With a pair of writers already hired, the most pressing priority for the studio is finding a director. There’s no shortage of filmmakers who would be capable of doing the material justice, but all has been quiet on that front since Detective Pikachu was first announced. Now, however, the film is taking the next step to the big screen, as Goosebumps helmsman Rob Letterman will call the shots.
Legendary announced Letterman’s involvement in a press release, and THR revealed that Detective Pikachu will follow a new character and story set within the universe. It is being fast-tracked to start production in 2017, looking to strike while the iron is still hot. Universal is handling distribution of the film in all countries except Japan. The Pokémon Company’s frequent collaborator Toho will release the movie in Japan.
Throughout his career, Letterman has proven to be a mixed bag behind the camera; both Monsters vs. Aliens and Goosebumps were well-received, but Shark Tale and Gulliver’s Travels got panned by critics. Still, he has shown a speciality for crafting family films, which is a style that should jive well with Detective Pikachu and its target demographic. It’s a premise that certainly has the potential to be a fun time at the movies, and execution will be key. Perlman should prove to be a valuable asset as one of the writers. She’s become a mainstay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with credits that include Guardians of the Galaxy (which, admittedly, was rewritten extensively by James Gunn) and the upcoming Captain Marvel. Hirsh was the creator of the acclaimed TV series Gravity Falls, receiver of two Primetime Emmys, so he too has experience working in genre entertainment.
Though Detective Pikachu has a solid creative team in place, one does have to wonder about the overall prospects of the film once it is ready to reach theaters. Pokémon Go still has a plethora of players trying to catch them all, but back in August the game lost 22 percent of its U.S. users. There’s a chance Pokémon may not be so in-demand once the movie is completed, which could hurt its commercial appeal. Legendary is justifiably moving quickly to capitalize on the property’s newfound popularity, but if they rush it, Detective Pikachu‘s potential quality might be negatively impacted. It’s a tricky situation, but in all likelihood, Pokémon‘s return to the big screen can draw in a sizable audience and be a moderate hit.
Detective Pikachu does not have a release date as of this writing.