Who said video game movies couldn’t be good?
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is not only a good movie, but also it just premiered at number one on Friday, beating out the Avengers: Endgame in the United States.
All of this proves that, if done well, video game IP can translate to the big screen and make a ton of money in the process.
Of course, pessimists will point to the overwhelming power of the Pokémon IP to pull in audiences.
There’s some merit to that argument.
But Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a good movie outside of its Pokémon lineage.
This is the core of why it is doing well: The combination of an irresistible series and a well-executed extended media property.
Are there lessons to be learned here for other companies looking to turn their video game series into movies?
Totally, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, we don’t know for sure that the movie is going to take the whole weekend.
Yet debuting above the Avengers (which analysts think has a ton of life left in it) on Friday is huge for a game property.
Pulling in some $20.7 million, there’s little doubt that Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a success and will probably spawn a sequel or two.
Beyond that, though, it might give companies the impetus to turn more video games into movies.
And that would be a good thing. If Pokémon: Detective Pikachu tells us anything about the process of doing this is that you need to have a high quality script, cast, and a decent director. Basically, you need to pull all the elements of a film together to have a good movie. You can’t just rely upon the strength of the fanbase alone.
But here Pokémon: Detective Pikachu has less to tell us about the future of video games as movies.
This is because it takes a familiar environment, that of Pokémon, and adds a twist to it that was perceived as odd prior to the film’s release but apparently is doing well at the box office.
You see, the film isn’t about a Pokémon trainer working with Pikachu to become the number one trainer in the world (like in the video games).
Instead, the movie inhabits a realm similar to the video games but posits Pikachu as a detective with a human sidekick. Sure, you could look at it the other way around but once the trainer-Pokémon relationship is removed, things change in the dynamics between these creatures and humans.
What ensues is a ton of fun that both encapsulates the spirit of the games but doesn’t recreate them in a movie. The movie is its own thing and this is where so many “adaptations” often fall apart.
So what does Pokémon: Detective Pikachu tell us about the future of video game movies?
Well, not a lot really other than that they can make money if done well.
Naturally, the Sonic film (whenever it is released) will be yet another test of a video game’s viability as a film.
If anything, we hope Pokémon: Detective Pikachu spurs publishers to take a chance on their IP and release more variants of it outside of just video games.