In 2016, Nintendo wow'd the world with Pokémon X and Y, the first mainline Pokémon games to feature 3D models of Pokémon and trainers instead of pixelated sprites. This further bridged the gap between the Pokémon world and reality, bringing the series to life in a whole different way than before. The Pokémon Company further closed this gap recently with the release of the first trailer for the live-action Detective Pikachu movie from Legendary Pictures.
The unexpected drop of this trailer has gotten the internet stirred up—not about the movie’s plot, but at the glimpse of the way the studio has decided to bring Pokémon into the real-world. As a lifelong Pokémon fan who has been daydreaming of them being real since my childhood, seeing Pokémon move alongside actors is quite a shock, but not everything quite…works.
Some of these renditions work better than others, of course, and there are some choices the studio has made that have left many fans questioning them. So, without further ado, here are my opinions of the live-action Pokémon (the ones with clear shots in the trailer, anyway), and I rank them from best to worst.
This one is my favorite from the trailer. He looks reptilian, but is not scaly-smooth like a snake or a gecko. Instead, these Bulbasaurs have more of a wrinkled look, like that of an iguana or a dinosaur. Seeing as he is based off a dinosaur, this works like a charm. The bulb on his back is well-integrated, and I like the touch of red at the tips revealing the flower it will eventually blossom into.
Charizard looks awesome. I love its scaly look, which I definitely prefer to its "realistic" models from games like Pokken or Smash, where Charizard just looks smooth and shiny. The scales also have the added touch of looking like hardened magma, which fits its Fire typing perfectly! Though a tiny note, I also love the detail in its teeth. They’ve really emphasized its carnivorous look, and I am all for it.
Just like his second evolution, Charmander’s design works very well. Although its appearance in the trailer is brief, we can see the same scaly texture that Charizard has. Its scales differ slightly from its final form of a stunning, lava-y glow (though that’s more befitting of the evolution). I also like the way the tail fire is animated as a flickering flame that spreads around rather than something like a candle flame. It just seems more fitting for a baby dragon.
The Emolga are positively adorable. Their short body hair and longer tail fur matches a typical squirrel, which is how I would have pictured it. Although, I wish we could see their wingflaps in more detail, because that’s a huge factor into their design for me.
I adore the look they gave Morelull in the trailer, specifically the touch of bio-luminescence they gave its mushroom parts. The way it drifts through the air like spores is also a cute touch.
I was shocked to see a Pokémon like Rufflet appear, simply because it's not an obvious choice. It's not a first generation Pokémon like most of the others, nor is it popular like Greninja. It's not even a cute electric rodent like Emolga! The super fluffy feathers work very well for it. Its big-headed look works better than I was expecting in live-action, especially since it is a baby. I would like to see it in more detail, particularly a better view of the non-fluffy parts of it, or its wings.
This one also works! It looks very smooth and shiny, like a frog should! I also like the muscular look they’ve given it, well suited for a ninja. I just wish I could have seen its tongue-scarf in more detail, because that thing already didn’t make sense to me even as a cartoon. But, I really couldn’t see it like that, so for now, he sits in the middle of the list.
Once again, a very smooth design on his blue parts, reminiscent of a turtle and not a tortoise, fitting for his Water typing. What we can see of the shell works as well, not too shiny and mostly smooth looking. However, the texture is a bit rougher than I was expecting. This isn’t a bad thing, just different than the smoother plates of the underside of a turtle shell, which I envisioned. Maybe they were trying to give the shell a different texture than the body? Either way, this design is acceptable.
I’m really conflicted about Pikachu’s design in this movie. On the one hand, fuzzy Pikachu is adorable and perfect for hugging, and I adore the lighter stomach markings they gave
Psyduck is another I feel doesn’t quite work. They have the right idea but not the right execution. Psyduck is a Water-type Pokémon, and based off a duck, so his feathers should look more like the silkier-smooth feathers of waterfowl that are more adapted to being in the water than the more ruffled feathers of a non-water-dwelling bird. On another note, live-action Psyduck has gotten some better healthcare, seemingly appearing without its characteristic headache. Good for it, but it's an odd thing not to see present.
11. Mr. Mime
Mr. Mime is creepy and unsettling, which is almost perfect, because even as a cartoon it was already creepy and unsettling. I could do without the hair-like detail on the top of its head, because that somehow makes it all the worse. The only parts I’m unsure of are the textures on anything that is not its face. The ears look like hard plastic, while I always thought of them being more cloth-like in texture, since they look like stockings. And the gym-class-dodgeball texture they applied to its shoulder-balls is certainly an interesting choice. It does not look like a natural texture at all. Although, Mr. Mime is definitely not the first choice of Pokémon I’ve dreamt of being real, so I’m not sure what I was expecting here. I think a smoother look would have been better, keeping the more human skin-like quality of its face. With its Psychic-typing, a smoother look would be more fitting.
This is the one that shocked me the most. Jigglypuff with fur? It’s the Balloon Pokémon! It should feel soft, yes, but the softness of
fabric like mink rather than fur of any kind. If they’re looking for a real-world animal texture to apply, then something like the suede-like fur of a hypoallergenic cat would be more appropriate for Jigglypuff. I always imagined Jigglypuff to feel like those super-soft mochi plush toys you can sometimes find, and I stand by that belief. Not everything has to have long fur to be soft.
Overall, while I think there are some obvious problems, I’m still happy with the look of (most of) these realistic Pokémon. I’m curious and excited to see future trailers which hopefully include a more in-depth look at the Pokémon in the movie!