For over twenty years, fans of #Pokemon have been awaiting a live action film adaptation of the game series, but just how do you do it right? When it first burst onto the scene in 1996, no one could have expected the #GameBoy title to have had such an enduring impact, spawning a lucrative media franchise that remains to this day one of the most successful in history. It's honestly somewhat of a wonder that a live action film has yet to be made by #Hollywood, but rumors of an upcoming project have surfaced yet again.
Still, just how does one do a live action adaptation of a series as bright and colorful as this? What parts of the franchise should be adapted, what areas should they experiment on and which ones should be left untouched? There are many ways a live action Pokmon movie can be great, but there are just as many ways it can go wrong. For any aspiring filmmakers reading this(or Hollywood execs, wink-wink), here are a few tips I'd recommend when it comes to adapting the Pokmon universe to the big screen.
Stick To The First Generations For Now
The first thing filmmakers should do is stick to the first (and possibly the second) generations of Pokmon for now. #PokemonRed and #PokemonBlue started things off strong with 150 different species of the colorful characters. That number has exploded to include some 718 species as of this article's writing, with more on the way in the upcoming #PokemonSun and #PokemonMoon games. The original games had such complete enough worlds on their own that even adapting only them would take several films. To do any more than that could be problematic.
I mean, just look at this! Only a die hard fan will be able to keep all of this straight. Even I can't name all of these guys and I've been with this series since the beginning. To thrust this much on a new viewer all at once will be overwhelming, and could keep them from getting invested. This doesn't even include the various human characters, towns and settings, and various myths and legends that populate the series as well. Many of the creatures on this list can (and have) had entire movies made all about them.
Pictured above are the original 151 Pokmon, and as you can see, there's already plenty to work with. What everyone must remember is that while returning fans will make a large demographic, many may be coming into the series for the first time with a live action movie. If you start with too much too soon, a new viewer could easily get lost, and there's no better way to get a moviegoer to jump ship than confuse them. Also, setting other characters and legends aside allows them to be used later for any sequels and spinoffs that might come out of a live action film, and most looking to adapt this series are doing it with sequels in mind anyway.
I'm not going to lie. Many of my favorites are from Generation 2, so this is a hard thing for me to say. But it does make sense. In adapting a series like this, it's important to take is slow, otherwise it will collapse from exhaustion before leaving the gate. Stick with the earlier generation for now. It will be a solid foundation to build a series on.
Don't Adapt The Show
Many people talk about a film adaptation under the assumption it will adapt the show, which told of the adventures of #AshKetchum and #Pikachu. The show was the first and most successful spinoff of the video game series, its characters becoming iconic in their own right. They certainly do have nostalgia on their side, but focusing on that for an adaptation may be a mistake.
Firstly, the TV series is primarily geared towards young children, and Pokmon's fanbase now has a much more diverse demographic. I never expected to still enjoy Pokmon as I approach my 30s, but here I am typing this article. Pokmon's most loyal fanbase is not newcomers, but rather those who were there from the start, kids who have grown up and are looking to share the series with their children. Because of that, Pokmon should be allowed to grow up with them. That's just one of the reasons the show should be avoided.
Another reason is Pokmon has already enjoyed adaptations without Ash or even Pikachu, and all have been met with warm reception from fans. The #PokemonOrigins miniseries for example is a straight adaptation of the first generation of games. The lead character is the mysterious trainer known as Red, and his lead Pokmon is #Charizard. Pikachu only has a walk on cameo in a single episode, and Ash is never mentioned. That these adaptations enjoyed the success they did shows that Pokmon is much bigger than Ash and Pikachu, and a movie series should be as well.
The final point is the Pokmon games just have so many creative stories and legends that even on their own could make interesting and imaginative films. You could make an entire film out of the journey to Mount Silver to challenge Red, the trip to the Whirl Islands to find #Lugia, the journey to the Cerulean Cave to capture #Mewtwo, and so on. The plethora of creativity is almost boundless, and if anything this should be a series where a filmmaker should be allowed to use their imagination. To simply adapt the show would stifle that creativity.
Ash and Pikachu have their place in the Pokmon universe, and that place is in the show and a few comic book adaptations. The fans have grown older, adaptations without the two have worked just fine, and there are any number of superior stories to chose from. These two stand on their own, and a live action film should be the same way. Sorry Ash and Pikachu. You two should sit this one out. Maybe you can, I don't know, get stoned or something.
Except for that awesome theme song. You can keep that.
Seek Outside Inspiration
When it comes to adapting Pokmon to film, a filmmaker should be willing to take a small risk and seek outside inspiration for how to handle the property. There are many films available that while they may not be Pokmon, they do capture its spirit. Films such as this can serve as good models on which to build a solid adaptation. The biggest reason to seek outside inspiration however is there are many tropes in the games and TV show that may not work on the big screen.
Pokmon is a fighting RPG, and while that may be fun with a controller in hand, it can be tedious onscreen. Battles are a central element in the series, but you need more than that to hinge a story on. Otherwise you get what amounts to a sports movie like the #Rocky series, a sports epic. This could work for individual scenes. I mean, who doesn't want to see some Pokmon in an awesome training montage set to some rocking 80s tunes? Still, Pokmon is overflowing with so much imagination and adventure that to make an entire movie like that would be a real waste of potential.
Films featuring children with ensemble casts would be good to look at, such as #TheGoonies, #TheSandlot, or #StandByMe, the latter of which was even referenced in the original game. All three have fans of all ages as their humor and characters appeal to everyone. Two, and perhaps most importantly, they;re all great examples of how to handle an ensemble cast. Fans of the games will know a team consists of a trainer with six Pokmon. That's seven characters right there. The Goonies features exactly that number of children, and can serve as an example for developing such an ensemble cast.
Outside inspiration can also help filmmakers find a theme. After all, kids going around to collect Pokmon and battle them is just a plot. What does it all mean? Stand By Me is about the painful realities of growing up. The Goonies was about fighting to enjoy youth before it's gone. What could a Pokmon movie be about? The thrill and fear of leaving home first time? Rediscovering one's youth? That life is better enjoyed with friends than alone? All of these could work astoundingly well for a Pokemon film. A plot is just icing, while the theme is the cake itself. As Carl Sagan would say, "What makes it all go?"
Remember, Pokmon is no longer a series enjoyed only by small children. A large demographic of the fan base are well into their 30s, and getting them to the theater may prove the biggest challenge of all. There are plenty of other movies that could serve as great templates for a live action Pokmon film, from science fiction to action, even horror. These three are my personal pics for one reason. The Goonies, Stand By Me and The Sandlot may be about children, but they are enjoyed by fans of all ages, because the themes within are ageless. What better way to bring out the fan in all of us?
Keep The Look Of The Pokmon
One of the first questions filmmakers will ask is how to make the Pokmon look realistic, but does realism really matter? Pokmon has a very distinct anime style to it, and that remains one of the series' trademarks. To remove that from these characters would be in effect removing one of the sweetest toppings off the cake. You won't be doing the fans, or your ticket sales, any favors. Now, to depict them in a way that would be at least somewhat realistic would be a challenge. Case and point is my favorite Pokmon of all, Mewtwo.
Now, this is very much a cartoon character, right down to the enlarged angular eyes. There is very little here that could be rendered realistically without taking artistic liberties, as any internet search for a realistic Mewtwo will show you. But this is the character as I grew to love them, and that's what fans want to see on the big screen. Because of that, realism should be sacrificed in favor of style. Pictured below is a render of Mewtwo that retains the anime style of the character as seen in the video game #PokkenTournament. It may not be entirely realistic, but then again what Pokmon is? More importantly, it's instantly recognizable as the character.
Realism is not an expectation nor a desire of Pokmon fans. One need only look at the premise to figure that out. What they will be going in for is to see their favorite characters and worlds brought to life. Trying to make these characters look too 'real' would do little to satisfy fans who can name any of these creatures in a flash. Pokmon already has willing suspension of disbelief on its side. Since many returning fans are already heavily invested in the Pokmon universe, having the characters look like they expect will hardly take them out of the story.
The above picture is just realistic enough for moviegoers to buy, and any fan can tell you without hesitation that's Pokmon number 150.
It's been twenty years since we were introduced to the original three starters. Since then, Pokmon has built a creative and in depth universe, filled with wonderful myths and legends, a diverse cast of characters, and the same creatures that keep us coming back for more. In this stew of invention and imagination, there is the very real potential to make something far greater than mere fan service. If this property falls into the right hands, a legitimately great movie may be on the horizon.
But remember, a lot can go wrong too. If this property is handed to someone who doesn't see that potential, we could get a movie as boring as a fight between two Metapods, and who wants to watch that for two hours? Give me Pikachu acting like Sylvester Stallone any day.
Do You Agree With These Suggestions For A Live Action 'Pokemon' Movie? Let Us Know Below!