As the Internet tries to recover from the unsettling sight of Aladdin's blue-d up Will Smith, another dose of uncanny valley horror has been unleashed just days later. And this time, it has a 4" long, pink tongue. We're talking about the photorealistic debut of Lickitung in the latest teaser for Detective Pikachu, which will be the first live-action adaptation to come from the Pokemon franchise since the almost-forgotten musical, Pokemon Live! nearly two decades ago.
And while the video doesn't shed much more light on story details than the first did, it does contain a very fleeting clue as to the wider world the film takes place in.
As well as the disturbing sight of a slathering Lickitung, the teaser offers a little insight into Detective Pikachu's backstory. Through voiceover, our main human protagonist Tim Goodman tells us that the talking Pikachu he's partnered up with has "no memories." This is largely true of the Detective's video game counterpart on which the film is based, a way of keeping an aura of mystery around the character's origin, as being able to communicate with humans is unheard of in the pocket of the Pokemon Universe that the story takes place in.
We also learn about the Detective's love of coffee, one of his key character quirks in the game. The habit is a family-friendly stand-in for the hard liquor and chainsmoking vices more mature sleuths of hardboiled detective fiction engage with. Here, while sitting next to a cup of his favorite beverage, the Ryan Reynolds’ voiced Pokemon makes a throwaway joke about a French saying, “Muy caliente.”
The gag is, of course, that that isn’t French, which a weary Tim informs him of. While the line is clearly meant to just ramp up the selling point of Reynolds as a comedic lead, it has potentially huge connotations for the film’s setting. Most of the action in Detective Pikachu will take place in Ryme City, which, like all of the destinations in the franchise, is a fictional place. Until now, it's been a fair assumption that this entire Poke-verse exists in a dimension that is similar to, but separate from our own. Referencing a real-world place like France shatters that assumption, or at least makes us wonder if the world of Detective Pikachu holds up more of a mirror to our own reality than we realized.
This is far from the first real-world geographical reference we’ve had in a piece of Pokemon media; Mew’s origin story in the original games explicitly states that the Mythical Pokemon was discovered in South America. In the anime canon, strange lines like “Minnesota vikings” continued to expand on this connection to reality, and the series’ creator was even keen on including dinosaurs in the mythos at some point.
He was never allowed to go ahead with this plan, however, probably because the top brass at the Pokemon Company were aware of the repercussions of marrying our world too tightly with the Pokemon universe. It’s just too messy to prominently mix normal animals into a universe that’s dependent on the unique bond between humans and intelligent, catchable creatures.
Whether we’ll get any harder evidence as to what kind of universe Detective Pikachu inhabits remains to be seen. Now that we have a Pokemon multiverse practically confirmed in the games’ lore, anything seems possible. Then again, the reference could just be part of Ryan Reynolds’ fourth-wall breaking repertoire.