But the company has made a puzzling choice about its star character.
After much speculation, a deal has finally been struck to make a live-action Pokémon movie. Variety reports that Legendary Entertainment has secured the rights to the franchise, for an undisclosed amount that RocketNews24’s economic analysts speculate to be somewhere in the bazillions, or perhaps even gazillions, of dollars.
This summer sees the release of the 19th Pokémon animated theatrical feature, but Legendary’s project is the first foray into live-action for the beloved anime/video game franchise. It also marks only the second time a Nintendo-published series has served as the basis for a film, as the baffling disaster of 1993’s Super Mario Bros. live-action movie understandably made the video game giant extremely wary of such endeavors. The staggering success of Pokémon GO likely played a role in greasing the wheels of the negotiation, either because the Japanese rights-holders saw the series’ potential to become an international phenomenon, or because the mobile game’s unprecedented popularity encouraged Legendary to keep piling money at their counterparts’ feet until they agreed.
As is always the case when adapting a franchise from one form of media into another, the question now arises of how closely Legendary’s film will stick to its source material, and if you consider yourself a Pokémon purist, you might want to brace yourself. According to Variety, the negotiations were led by The Pokémon Company International’s Don McGowan, not anyone from the Japanese side of the Pokémon video game or anime creative teams. Given the global aim of the project, though, that’s arguably not so surprising.
But what is a shock is that Legendary’s film apparently tends to brush aside the time-tested narrative of catching ‘em all, and will instead be centered around a “Detective Pikachu.” Granted, there is an upcoming Nintendo 3DS game where you team up with a deep-voiced, hard-boiled private investigator Pikachu to solve crimes. It’s still an odd move for Legendary’s executives to conclude, though, that the millions of Pokémon fans around the world support the series because they just love capers and whodunits.
Legendary’s acquisition of the Pokémon film rights has similarities to its stake in the Godzilla franchise. In both cases, Toho (domestic distributors of Japanese-made Godzilla movies and Pokémon theatrical anime) will handle distribution in Japan, with Universal Pictures serving as international distributor.
Production on Legendary’s live-action Pokémon is set to start in earnest in 2017. The film’s release date is currently unspecified.
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