'Detective Pikachu' Director Explains How That Last Twist Was the Plan All Along
This piece contains major, like, the most major spoilers for Detective Pikachu.
All detective stories tend to end on a twist -- It was the butler all along! The secretary committed the murder! -- but you will not see the ending of Detective Pikachu coming. Director Rob Letterman planned it that way: "There's a lot of little misdirects," he explained to Thrillist. "It's all just, 'Look over here, look over here, don't pay attention.' But the twist of the movie is not really a detective plot twist reveal at the end, it's an emotional twist reveal. It has nothing to do with the villains, really; it's the father and son story."
The movie, which is modeled in the same vein as classic noir and neo-noir detective stories like The Maltese Falcon and Blade Runner, does have one classic bait-and-switch that fans of Pokémon might expect. For most of the movie, our heroes think the power-hungry business executive Roger Clifford (Chris Geere), and son of Ryme City founder Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), is the real villain, but, in one climactic scene, he's revealed to be Howard's Ditto, while the real Roger was tied up in a closet in his dad's office. When he takes off his dark aviator sunglasses, "Roger" exposes his beady black Ditto eyes, which look absolutely terrifying gazing out of a real human face. It's the best kind of Cronenbergian body-horror that catches you just slightly off guard, but Detective Pikachu has yet another twist coming.
At the end of the movie, after our heroes have defeated both mind-controlled genetically engineered Mewtwo and the real villain -- the elderly Howard whose evil plan was to use Mewtwo to merge humans and Pokémon together -- there's one last surprise waiting for the audience. The freed Mewtwo, whose psionic abilities, along with a special mind-altering purple gas nicknamed "R" by black market peddlers, were being used to facilitate Clifford's soul-melding plan, saves one last person: the one Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) has been searching for this whole time. The amnesiac Detective Pikachu, a little mouse-like creature in a deerstalker hat whose gruff voice only Tim can understand, is revealed to actually be a combination of Tim's missing father Harry, one of Ryme City's detectives, and his Pokémon partner, who, after all is said and done, is nothing more than a regular friendly little Pikachu.
But how did Harry get into his Pikachu in the first place? Well: Harry had been investigating the underbelly of Clifford's business. He had discovered a remote facility where Pokémon were being genetically tested on and, more importantly, Mewtwo was being kept in an isolation tank so its power juice could be extracted to make the R compound. Harry and his Pikachu infiltrated the top-security base to free Mewtwo -- which they succeeded at -- but triggered the alarm system. The freed Mewtwo, realizing that these were the good guys, intervened in their escape by hiding Harry inside his furry companion with the same powers Howard wanted to exploit to evil ends, saving his life from Clifford Enterprise goons. Undoing this brought back Harry's corporeal body, coffee addiction and all, and Pikachu's memories it could no longer vocalize beyond adorably inscrutable "pika pikas."
"The ending, it's funny. That was the whole design of the story for me, personally, all along," Letterman said. "The whole father and son story, every scene, it's all driving towards that. That relationship I take personally, because I'm a father, I have a son. For a movie like this, you want to be able to strip away the Pokémon and have a human story stand on its own, and that was really it. That's what kept me going for the last two years. My original pitch literally was 'the father he's looking for is with him the whole time.'"
And who should appear after Mewtwo does its thing but Ryan Reynolds himself, in a sweater and glasses, who's been the voice of Detective Pikachu the whole time! Reynolds actually helped convince any uncertain parties that this was the ending the movie needed to have.
"He helped me quite a bit on the father and son stuff. That was always a fight to get that to be the spine of the whole thing. Field of Dreams, I shed man tears to this day at the end of that movie. That's the quintessential father and son -- I'm gushing at the end. And Ryan picked up on that when he first read that script an early draft of it and was like, 'We gotta lean in on this.'"
And for those expecting a fourth-wall-breaking, Deadpool-style performance, don't be so presumptive. Detective Pikachu lets us see Reynolds' softer side. "He's hilariously funny and super irreverent," Letterman said, "but on the other side of Ryan, he really understands the emotional storytelling of the characters. He writes a lot himself. He helps bring them to life."
The final twist is a delightfully sweet, tender reveal, and a huge surprise for anyone expecting Detective Pikachu to be the beginning of its own Marvel-style interconnected universe. Instead, the movie has a pretty definitive ending (though Pikachu never stops wearing his little hat), which merely leaves the door ajar for a sequel without at all feeling unfinished. "I'm the biggest Marvel fan, and it's part of what the comic books were -- that whole sort of interwoven universe," Letterman said. "But, for us, we're taking baby steps. The movie just needed to be contained. There's a very clear arc and a clear journey and that had to button and that's that. I know everyone would love to continue on and keep building the universe and exploring characters."