With Pokemon's twentieth anniversary happening this year, the Pokemon Company is ready to move on a live-action adaptation of its best-selling property. According to the Hollywood Reporter, there's a closed-door bidding war happening for the rights. The two main bidders are Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment, though Sony Pictures has also expressed interest.
For Warner Bros. Entertainment, the move makes sense. Following the end of the Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Dark Knight films and a few high-profile failures including Pan, Jupiter Ascending, and In The Heart of the Sea, Warner Bros is looking for massive tentpole projects. THR previously reported that Warner Bros is seeking to make fewer films after last year's failures, focusing more on DC Comics, Lego, and Harry Potter spin-off films.
Batman v Superman is underperforming in expectations, but Warner Bros is pushing on with Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, and more. The success of the Lego Movie has led to The Lego Batman Movie, Lego Movie 2, Lego Ninjago, and The Billion Brick Race. Harry Potter is continuing on with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which releases this year and is the first of three planned films. Throwing a potential Pokemon live-action franchise into the mix would help prop up Warner Bros' bottom line and you can bet on a Pokemon Cinematic Universe sooner rather than later if WB gets the property.
Legendary is the more contentious bidder in the process. Legendary Entertainment is one of the smaller Hollywood production companies, previously working with Warner Bros to distribute films, but currently doing so through Universal Pictures. Legendary's track record is spotty, with a few hits (the Dark Knight Trilogy, The Hangover trilogy, Inception, Jurassic World) and some misses (Dracula Untold, Crimson Peak, Sucker Punch). The studio's track record with game-related films is pretty much down to the upcoming Warcraft film.
The issue is Legendary Entertainment was purchased in January by the Dalian Wanda Group for $3.5 billion. That puts the studio under control of a Chinese company and represents the first big move by China into Hollywood. There are long tensions between China and Japan, so the fact that Legendary is one of the leading bidders on the Pokemon film rights could represent a problem for the Pokemon Company. Legendary currently has connections with Japan through the Godzilla films; it worked with Toho Co for 2014's US Godzilla film and is continuing with Godzilla 2 in 2018 and Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020 as part of a shared Godzilla/King Kong universe for Warner Bros.
So it's a matter of what the Pokemon Company prizes more: money or nationalistic concerns.
The winning bidder has yet to be decided, but a Pokemon live-action film is coming in one form or another. Iin the current Hollywood machine, it probably won't be a single film, it'll be an entire universe of planned sequels and spin-offs. Because Hollywood is going to catch all that money.