Something horrible has happened to everyones favourite Pokémon. Cute little cartoon Pikachu has undergone a hideous transformation.
His bulky, hirsute form wobbles as he struggles forward on what suddenly seem pathetically small feet, impeding any possibility for easy movement. His brow is ravaged by the deep furrows produced by a long and cruel life. The blush on his cheeks, now noticeably, perfectly spherical, looks like forcibly applied dye, raising worrying questions about Pokémon-human relations. And long gone are the melodic “Pika pika!” squeaks of yore: now, Pikachu sounds like a thrice-engaged, heavy-drinking, 40-something motorcycle enthusiast who calls everybody “buddy”.
Oh, and also, hes a detective. Didt you see the deerstalker perched inexplicably on his remarkably flat head?
Welcome to the disturbing world of Detective Pikachu, a very real film with a very real trailer released this weekend. With Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds, this is the very first live-action film in the Pokémon universe.
Pikachu isnt the only Pokémon to have received the hyper-detailed 3D treatment: we see a bristly, wide-billed Psyduck, a monstrous, scaly Charizard, a glassy-eyed, tiny-mouthed, and apparently balding Jigglypuff with a hairless face but a long, curly mane. Most disturbing of all is a fleshy, lipless Mr Mime. Tragically missing eyebrows and nose, he has human freckles, and a hint of wispy, downy hair on his head. Are those gloves? Or shoes? Or just his textured body??
If youre seeing this and screaming WHY, I can only offer you some answers. Taking Pokémon and drawing them incredibly realistically has long been a lively arena of fan art: like these ones from London-based artist Josh Dunlop. Clearly, that community has been an inspiration for this film: one of these artists, RJ Palmer, told Kotaku he got a job on Detective Pokémon after producers found his art by googling “realistic Pokémon”. The only thing creepier than the finished producted are the prototype models.
Comparing the … animals? to those in Fantastic Beasts, director Rob Letterman told IGN, “Theyre technically, some of the most high-end visual effects in the world. Its completely photorealistic, like they are alive and in the movie.”
“Its exactly how I wanted to see the Pokémon portrayed when I was a little kid,” lead human actor Justice Smith said. To which I can only ask: why? Why did you want to see Mr Mime debased this way? Who hurt you?
More questions spring to mind. How did these sad creatures come in to being? It is now clear that they are evolutionary impossibilities. Why have they been subjugated for so long? How do they survive in a gruelling urban environment? For now, these questions remain unanswered. But our voices will be heard.
Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.