WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Detective Pikachu, in theaters now.
While Detective Pikachu lovingly brings the popular Pokemon video game franchise to life in live-action, it was important for screenwriters Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit to infuse the script with themes that help audiences to connect with the story.
As the writers explained to CBR, the film’s emotional core revolves around the dynamic between fathers and sons. Primary protagonist Tim Goodman became estranged from his father Harry some time before the events of the film, tied to the death of his mother and the decision to abandon his professional ambitions to become a Pokemon Trainer. Arriving in Ryme City with Detective Pikachu to search for the missing Harry, Tim looks to rediscover his father literally and figuratively. It provides the emotional crux to the entire film while addressing the franchise’s core theme of evolution.
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“The father-son thing was something we honed in on to tap into some real emotions,” Samit said. “And not just with Tim and Harry, right? You see it with Howard Clifford and his son, Roger, too. Just as Tim felt Harry wasn’t there for him, by the end, Roger feels he wasn’t there for his father.”
“We had to find real emotions to draw people in and get them to care about these characters and the story,” Hernandez added. “And the changing relationships between fathers and sons fed into the theme of evolution, which we felt was central to Pokemon overall. Look at [antagonist] Howard’s plan: to combine human and Pokemon as a means of evolution. So that was another big theme in the story.”
Another major theme involved Tim and, by extension, the audience rediscovering childhood interests they abandoned as they grew older. Tim had obsessed over Pokemon as a child before losing his mother to illness. After moving out to the country with his grandmother, he pursued a career in insurance instead of one as a Pokemon Trainer. However, as Tim arrives in Ryme City, he gradually rekindles his childhood love for Pokemon. The writers hoped Tim would serve as a point-of-view character for the audience.
“We wanted to create that feeling like they remembered how it was to first fall in love with something,” Samit said. “Tim’s our gateway into this world and goes through such a long journey to rediscover his genuine, earnest love for Pokemon.”
“And, on some meta-level, we didn’t want it to be just about Pokemon,” Hernandez said. “It’s about rediscovering whatever it was you loved as a kid all over again as an adult. Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, whatever it was that you were such an idealistic fan over growing up.”
Directed by Rob Letterman from a script written by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, Detective Pikachu stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe and the voice of Ryan Reynolds.