Detective Pikachu should have been a disaster. Why? That’s what happens to nearly every video game to film adaptation. Sure there are some “good” ones, but the bar is set so low that not even a limbo champion could clear them. And by good I mean okay by movie standards. Mortal Kombat, for example, is a bad movie, but it knows what it is and has fun with the premise. It’s camp in its purest form. Most of the time they aren’t so much bad as they are boring like Angry Birds. I cannot remember a single thing from that movie other than the fact I felt my life draining away from me every second I sat there watching it. My point is Detective Pikachu met my expectations, surprisingly, even though the plot makes absolutely no sense. Literally, not a lick of it makes sense. You can view all of my complaints in the accompanying article I wrote on the film.
Anyway complaints aside I did have a good time and I’m even excited at the possibilities this franchise could yield in sequels. For now though how about we run through twenty-five things you may have missed in the film? A lot of these references are pretty obvious, but there are a surprising amount of deep cuts to not only Pokémon things, but other pop culture as well. It is media that really doesn’t make sense to be referenced in this movie, but that’s also okay for me. Oh and a bit of a warning. There are SPOILERS ahead.
25 The Squirtle Squad
Early on in the movie, there is a quick newscast showcasing how Pokémon and people have become one inside Ryme City. One of these scenes shows a bunch of Squirtles helping out firefighters. This has to be a reference to episode twelve of the anime, Here Comes the Squirtle Squad. This is the entry wherein Ash catches his very own Squirtle after he turns a tough group of rebels into volunteer firefighters. There is no doubt in my mind that this scene was a reference to that.
24 Jigglypuff’s Revenge
Jigglypuff is famous for its special attack, Sing, which can lull enemies to sleep. The first time it appears in the anime is episode 45, The Song of Jigglypuff, where the creature just wants people to stay awake for its song. Frustrated by no one being able to, Jigglypuff steals a marker from Ash and starts drawing on people. The Jigglypuff seen in this movie also gets frustrated when its partner falls asleep and looks to even be singing into a marker.
23 Ditto’s Imperfect Copy
In episode 37 of the anime, Ditto's Mysterious Mansion, Ash and the gang find themselves in a, well, mysterious mansion wherein they meet Duplica and her partner, Ditto. In the games Ditto has the ability to use Transform, which allows it to change into the Pokémon it faces. The duplication is perfect, but in the anime Duplica's can't change the eyes, making everything it turns into look creepy. When Howard's Ditto is revealed as Roger with beady little eyes, this had to be a reference to that episode.
22 The Most Worthless Pokémon
In the movie, a Magikarp is let out during Charizard’s rampage at the underground arena. Having lost his powers, Pikachu grabs the Magikarp and starts to beat up on it, hoping it will evolve saying somewhere along the lines of everyone knows that it evolves when it becomes enraged. This must refer to episode fifteen of the anime, Battle Aboard the St. Anne, wherein James is fed up with his Magikarp, kicks it off the raft, which prompts it to evolve into Gyarados in a fit of anger.
21 Aipom Goes Bananas
Detective Pikachu borrows some main elements from its 3DS counterpart, but ultimately it is its own story. There are, however, clever references to it. For example, the very first thing you do in the game is avoid and chase after a bunch of Aipom that attack Tim and Pikachu. While they weren't as angry as they are in the movie scene, this must be a fun callback to that episode in the game. Why they wanted to disrobe Tim in the movie I will never know.
20 Pikachu’s Original Voice Returns
I don't know why Tim can understand Pikachu. I also don't know why he has two voices. If you want to hear me complain about that then check out my other Detective Pikachu article. Anyway, as to the two voices, one is Ryan Reynolds, obviously. The other is Ikue Otani, who does all of the "Pika Pika" sound clips in the film aka whenever someone other than Tim talks to Pikachu. She has been the voice actor for Pikachu in both Japan and North America for Pikachu since the anime began. Wow!
19 Caffeine Fiend
Another fun callback to the game involves Pikachu's addiction to coffee. It's more of a joke in the film since they don't have a lot of time to dedicate to it, but it's better explored in said game. Pikachu will tell you about the best ways to both drink and make coffee. He is not only a fan. He is a caffeine aficionado. I am kind of sad that both the film and movie didn't pay love to the anime version's obsession though: ketchup.
18 Mewtwo Strikes Back Again
Unlike a lot of other video game properties, Pokémon does not have a real continuity. The games, anime, and movies are all on their own. So while this game may take place in its own universe, it does make callbacks to previous entries. For example, it is said in the movie that a mysterious benefactor first created Mewtwo twenty years ago. Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back released on November 10, 1999 in North America, which would then make one think that perhaps that film and this share the same universe.
17 The R Is For…
I'm not so sure about this next reference, but this has to be true. The R Serum, aka the magical McGuffin that is the cause of all of the film's problems, is likely named after Team Rocket. After all, it is extremely likely that the mysterious benefactor referenced as the one who funded the creation of Mewtwo was Giovanni, the head of Team Rocket. I would not be surprised to see him eventually show up as sort of the Thanos of this film universe.
16 The Game’s Cliffhanger
Here is something I forgot about before watching this movie. The game ends on a cliffhanger. While the movie wraps everything up, returning Harry to Tim, the game ends with Mewtwo pointing Tim and Pikachu in the right direction as they walk off into white light. They also never explained how Pikachu could talk to Tim. Is the movie ending what the developers envisioned? Is Harry trapped inside Pikachu? It’s hard to say right now, but hopefully, we will get a sequel someday.
15 Serenity Now Psyduck!
When Pikachu and Tim first meet Lucy and her Psyduck, Pikachu becomes a little tense. He knows that Psyduck's headaches can cause explosions. In order to calm it down at one point, Pikachu says, "Serenity now, serenity now." I did a double take when this happened because I couldn't believe my ears. Did Detective Pikachu really make a Seinfeld joke? In case you were unaware, this was a mantra Frank Costanza's doctor told him to utter whenever he got angry in the aptly titled episode, The Serenity Now. Here is a clip!
14 Pokémon Claims
The first thing I did after watching Detective Pikachu was go online and rewatch the trailers. I was sure there were some scenes that were cut from the movie. This is always the way in trailers, or in Marvel's case, they purposely add in, or cut out certain elements to fool the audience. Anyway, there is a very quick flash in the first trailer that shows Tim leaning back, in an office, with a headset on. We can presume we were meant to see him at his insurance job at some point. Maybe we can see it in the home release.
13 Don't Eat Pikachu
There is another scene from the first trailer that was cut, or more like it was altered. Do you remember how it looked like Charizard was going to eat Pikachu at the very end? There is no shot that looks like that in the film. Instead, Charizard charges up at Pikachu through a bunch of explosions and debris, as the arena set is being destroyed. It's not a major delegation or retooling, but I did thought it was interesting to point out.
12 So Happy Together
I have one final factoid in regard to the first trailer. The song used is Happy Together by The Turtles. This can be just brushed aside as a fun song about partnership aka Pikachu and Tim, but it probably has a deeper reference than that. In the live action commercial for Super Smash Bros. on N64, Mario, Yoshi, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong are all shown running in a field to this song before they start pummeling each other. I still love this ad.
11 The Pika-Verse
I'm actually surprised that Detective Pikachu ended on a solid note. An awkward note, but everything was seemingly wrapped up with a neat little bow. There wasn't even an end credits scene teasing a sequel. That said Legendary Pictures has come out and discussed possible sequels, which points to them wishing to create a multiverse on the scale of the MCU. Everyone has tried and failed up to this point so it makes me worried, but here is hoping. One such movie may tackle Ash's journey to becoming a Pokémon Master.
10 A Differed Set Of Monsters
Did you see Rob Letterman as the director in the credits and think nothing of it? Yes, he's not a huge director on the scale of modern favorites like the Russo Brothers. I would also say he didn't start out as a good director having such flops as Shark Tale and Gulliver’s Travels under his belt. However, the film he directed right before Detective Pikachu was Goosebumps. That was another popular 90s franchise I didn't think could be done justice in live action and yet I was pleasantly surprised. Looks like Letterman is on the right track now.
9 The Leaked Movie
Three days before the movie was to officially release in North America, Ryan Reynolds "leaked" the film on May 7. The name of the YouTube channel was Inspector Pikachu, which is a clever twist on the film’s name. It opens with indeed a full scene from the film of when Tim is about to enter his father's apartment. It's not the beginning of the movie, but at that time I had no idea. At the 1:09 marker, the rest of the almost two-hour release is just Pikachu dancing to 80s music.
8 Pikachu’s Talking Origins
Again, yes there is a video game on which the general plot of Detective Pikachu is based. However, I also learned that way before this, in the planning stages of the anime, some of the staffers wanted all of the Pokémon to talk. Eventually, this was settled so that Meowth would be the only one that talked. It wasn't a one-off episode either, but an element that carried throughout the show to this day. You can learn more about this in GameXplain's interview with the game's developers.
7 It Comes In Threes
Detective Pikachu, the game, was the first time fans could hear the electric mouse actually speak dialogue. In North America Kaiji Tang voiced him. You may think Ryan Reynolds was the next person to voice Pikachu, but you would then be wrong. In-between these two titles is the anime film, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You, which is a retelling of Ash and Pikachu's origins. At the very end, Pikachu talks to Ash via the voice of Kate Bristol. This is becoming a trend.
6 Let The Gas Flow
Part of me takes glee in coming up with theories and interpretations on games, movies, anime, or whatever that I cannot find anywhere else online. It makes me feel validated that I am clever, or at least observant. That said I'm glad in this instance that I’m not the only one that noticed this similarity. I thought Howard's parade scheme felt a bit too similar to the Joker's plan in the 1989 Batman film. Howard wants to use gas released in the balloons in order to turn people into Pokémon. The Joker just wants to release gas from his balloons to make people laugh to easily rob them. Clever homage, or blatant rip-off? You decide.
5 Angels With [Unclean] Souls
When Tim enters his father's apartment, a black and white detective movie is playing. I assumed it was some classic from the early days of cinema I wouldn't recognize and yet these guys were losing their minds with laughter a few rows away from where I was sitting. I couldn't figure it out. It turns out that that movie was Angels With [Unclean] Souls, a fake film, or more like a fake set of scenes, filmed for Home Alone. Yep, that's the movie Kevin McCallister watches. What a deep cut!
4 Crowd Work
At the 2018 Pokémon World Championships in Nashville Tennessee, the director, Rob Letterman, got the crowd to chant about Pikachu and Charizard as if they were in a fight. The sound from which was later used for the audio during the actual match in the movie. I wonder how many times this technique is used for films. Anyway if you listen closely, and you were in that audience, maybe you can hear your voice. Cool, you're now in a Pokémon movie!
3 Where Does Tim Live?
This is a shorty, but a goodie. It's never explicitly mentioned in the film, but the place Tim resides with his grandparents is called Leaventown, which you can see on his train ticket in the first trailer. This, of course, is a play on words for "leaving town" which is often a technique used for the Pokémon games. They love puns. For example, Squirtle is a turtle that squirts water, but also has a tail akin to a squirrel. Ash's last name, Ketchum, is a play on the Pokémon theme "gotta catch 'em all." I could go on, but you get it.
2 Detective DeVitoChu
Ryan Reynolds and Kaiji Tang are both great as Pikachu, but part of me wishes the role went to Danny DeVito. See before the game was announced for North America, fans created a petition to get him to voice the electric mouse. Some people even doctored the game’s reveal trailer and the first movie trailer with Danny DeVito lines from his roles in Batman Returns and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Give those two a watch and try not to laugh. I dare you.
1 From Fan Art To Fame
RJ Palmer, who goes by the handle Arvalis on DeviantArt, was approached to work on designing Pokémon for the movie. This is because he has had a section on his gallery for years with realistic interpretations on the cute critters. The changes made to the film’s versions aren’t as drastic as his fan art, but you can definitely see Palmer’s influence especially with Charizard. He’s a dragon and thus he needs scales. It only makes sense! So there you go kids, never stop being a deviant. It may pay off someday.