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Why Pokémon’s First Live-Action Story Doesn’t Feature Ash Ketchum

If you’re a normal, warm-blooded human, when you heard about a live-action Pokémon movie coming, there’s a good chance you may have assumed they’d go with the tried-and-true Ash Ketchum-centric story that the anime series has been running with for 20-some-odd years, right? Instead, what we’re getting is an adaptation of the Detective Pikachu video game with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, starring Ryan Reynolds as a grizzled detective Pikachu.

But why go that direction? Speaking at the Pokémon World Champions in Nashville, Tennessee, director Rob Letterman gave audiences a pretty solid reason for this decision:

“The Pokémon Company, they’ve already made many, many movies of Ash, and they came to Legendary with this idea of using a new character. So when I came onboard, I was pitched this character of Detective Pikachu, and I fell in love with the story behind it. It’s a really great story. It was something with a lot of heart, and it was just very unique. And because there’s already been so much work done with Ash, for the first live-action movie I thought it was a really good idea to try something new with a new character, but bake it into the universe of Pokémon. So it still follows all the rules, and we get to see a lot of our favorite things.”

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Given just how big Pokémon was as an entity back in the ’90s when the property was most popular, it’s easy to see where he’s coming from. Everyone’s familiar with that story. Everyone knows the basics of how it starts. Why not tell something different.

While this makes overall logical sense, I am surprised that, given how greedy and risk-averse studios are, that they opted not to go for the easy direction. That being said, it’s not like a film with the title Pikachu will have no brand recognition.

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