Detective Pikachu is a movie with action, but also a complete lack of the exciting Pokémon battles that the franchise is known for. Suffice to say, that bothered me a little, though others have accurately argued that the Detective Pikachu video game had no battles either. However, we now have a clear explanation for why this movie featured so few battles of any kind — The Pokémon Company wanted it that way.
In talking with Polygon, Detective Pikachu director Rob Letterman explained that the Pokémon Company requested that the Pokémon not be in Poké Balls, and that the movie would exist in a region “where humans and Pokémon had a different, elevated relationship where they co-existed. The Pokémon could be human beings’ familiars.” So basically, every time a battle almost breaks out in the movie and then doesn’t, it was the director’s and writers’ way of walking the tightrope act that was set out before them.
Detective Pikachu screenwriter Benji Samit expressed that it was a challenge to work around these limitations and respect the Pokémon Company’s protectiveness of its property:
A lot of the classic elements of a Pokémon story were not really at our disposal… At Ryme City, there are no battles, there are no trainers, there are no Pokeballs. We often thought of it as like writing a Star Wars movie without a lightsaber or the Force or anything like that. The key elements are just not part of this world.
Samit is completely right, and it was a hard pill for me to swallow while watching the movie. However, now that I know the real reasoning behind it, I’m a lot more forgiving. In fact, till now I had assumed the lack of battles was just a way of guaranteeing Detective Pikachu never flirted with PG-13 territory; I’d never assumed that the director and writers just forgot to include the most well-known aspect of the franchise.
What do you make of this development? Do you hope a future Pokémon film contains awesome battles, or do you not care if these films ever have battles?