It's been nearly a year and a half since the debut of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, the first official live-action film to be set in the Pokemon franchise. The Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. film, which was loosely based on the mystery-centric video game of the same name, courted a pretty interesting response at the time of its release. While Detective Pikachu was largely loved by fans of the franchise, it received somewhat of a mixed response from critics, and its box office run of $443 million was seen by some to be underwhelming. This, combined with the lack of news that has surrounded a potential Detective Pikachu sequel, which was confirmed to be in the works months before the first film debuted, has made some wonder if the franchise is essentially squashed. While there's no telling what the future holds for Detective Pikachu, one thing is clear -- it's a world that definitely deserves to be further explored.
The plot of Detective Pikachu surrounded Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who is sent on an unexpected journey following the disappearance of his father, a detective in the metropolis of Ryme City. As Tim makes his way through the world of Ryme City, in which humans and Pokemon are encouraged to live together in harmony, he accidentally crosses paths with his father's detective partner, a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who has a case of amnesia and the ability for Tim to understand him. Together, the two begin to investigate what might have happened to Tim's father, and they uncover a conspiracy surrounding the future of Pokemon and humans in the process.
While the film did a good job of wrapping up Tim's story (in a way that would require some major leaps for a true sequel), it was slightly criticized by some for barely scratching the surface of Ryme City, and of the concept of CGI Pokemon existing in live-action. But that criticism could easily turn into a strength for future Detective Pikachu sequels or offshoots, as there are clearly a lot of stories left to be told in that universe. Any combination of characters and Pokemon could easily provide the basis for a sequel, whether a film chose to follow wholly original characters or established trainers from larger Pokemon lore. It also isn't impossible to imagine the franchise spawning some sort of live-action TV spinoff on HBO Max, either telling a single story or taking a self-aware, in-universe anthology approach, like what Disney+ is set to do with its Zootopia sequel series. At the end of the day, the character designs for the CGI Pokemon and the kid-friendly cyberpunk nature of Ryme City feel tailor-made for some sort of follow-up, regardless of whatever the plot is.
Of course, there's the question of whether or not audiences would even want to see a Detective Pikachu follow-up, as some still didn't regard it to be a "box office success." But when you look at the circumstances that surrounded the film's release - and the overall pop culture impact of Pokemon - an argument can definitely be made in the film's favor. Releasing Detective Pikachu on May 10, 2019 placed it just two weeks after the debut of Avengers: Endgame, which had already grossed $1.2 billion in its opening weekend and went on to gross an all-time record of $2.798 billion. On a larger level, 2019 had been filled with an absurd amount of billion-dollar-grossing blockbusters, including Captain Marvel, Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Joker, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In the middle of that landscape, Detective Pikachu's $443 million might have seemed like small potatoes -- but it definitely didn't mean that the film was unsuccessful, or that future installments couldn't be even more successful, especially given how much the world of movies has changed since 2019.
With the COVID-19 pandemic upending the traditional movie theater landscape for the majority of 2020, and studios still delaying theatrical releases of their 2021 films until vaccines are more widely available, the nature of what a "successful" blockbuster movie is has taken on a different meaning. This was evident by the recent release of fellow Warner Bros. movie Wonder Woman 1984, which has just barely crossed the $100 million mark at the global box office, but was reportedly watched by nearly half of HBO Max subscribers during its first day on the streaming service. In the coming years, as audiences begin to ease back into the idea of going out to a movie theater, or more studios embrace the idea of hybrid theatrical and streaming releases, there will be more behind a film's success than whether or not it crossed the $1-billion mark at the box office. These circumstances create an oddly-perfect ecosystem for something like a Detective Pikachu sequel or spinoff to thrive in -- it's based on a property that audiences recognize, it's a franchise that doesn't ask general audiences to remember lore from a dozen previous films, and it's a form of sci-fi that is immersive and imaginative while still being lighthearted and relatively low-stakes. If, as some actors and industry professionals have already theorized, it will take franchises and event pictures to keep the traditional film industry alive in the coming years, there's no reason why a Detective Pikachu sequel couldn't be a part of that.
Do you think Detective Pikachu deserves a sequel? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!