Jesus Christ on a 70’s Yamaha FS1-E, talk about low-hanging fruit.
I was almost prepared to let this one walk out and die on the silver screen on its own accord and not because Movies-of-Games are generally a bit pants (even the good ones are, relatively speaking, pants compared to proper movies) but rather because… well… did anyone honestly expect, of all the game franchises out there, for Sonic the Freakin’ Hedgehog to make the transition? Come on, let’s be brutal for a moment here – Sonic has barely made the transition to three-dimensions intact, and he’s been trying to make that transition for twenty years and Mario made that jump with the triple-axel dismount and middle finger flourish… at which time he also went over, grabbed Peach and gave her the biggest tonguing action of his life whilst Amy Rose began to have second thoughts over her relationship with Sonic and wow this is getting weird.
I’m just saying that if Sonic the Hedgehog is still fumbling around for an identity in 2019, twenty years after Sonic Adventure, the odds of a movie actually nailing an ‘identity’ down for the Spiky Blue Roadkill was somewhere between nil and a snowflakes hope in hell. Because for a movie to have that sort of grounding… the game needs an identity to begin with, an anchor point.
To me, that explains largely why Sonic’s whole design from the movie was rubbish to begin with; yes, classic Sonic is variations on a theme but it’s not like Sonic Team haven’t been tinkering and screwing that up of their own volition over the years – Sonic Boom, Sonic Unleashed… oh no don’t even get me started on Sonic Unleashed. With even the games effectively not sure what to do, of course the Design By Committee nonsense was going to happen with Sonic’s movie design – because Sonic is TOO malleable.
And even now they’re taking that back to the animation labs at Paramount, chances are unless this was a cynical attempt to annoy the audience in the guise of marketing – which is likely and they did very well – the November release date is now looking less likely.
Though that might be a good thing – delay The Sonic Movie to Summer 2020. Market it as some brainless nonsense. Watch money roll in. Hey, The Emoji Movie just about got away with it and that is probably one of the worst and most cynical things I’ve ever watched, so The Sonic Movie has a very, very low bar to crawl over.
However, that doesn’t quite get away from the sinking feeling that The Sonic Movie, even for the Games-To-Movies genre, is likely to be the hottest of hot garbage.
I say Sonic lacks ‘identity’, but he’s hung onto one character trait all these years; an unjustified sense of entitlement and hubris, married to an ego which makes him utterly irritating. This has been a hallmark of Sonic even since the Comic Books but even there, there was effort to show growth and elements of doubt. In the Games, Sonic is just full of himself, and that’s actually not all that appealing.
Not just because kids today don’t go for that – hell, Late 90’s kids were barely going for that kind of cringe-cool anymore – but because… well… how do I put this. The Sonic Movie thinks it’s aiming for kids, but in fact more than likely they’re going to get depressed 40-somethings chasing a nostalgia buzz instead. Who probably also don’t really want this kind of unjustified ego either – it’s not like Sonic has achieved much of anything since Sonic Adventure, really.
And again again, this isn’t terrible because that was the same trap Scott Pilgrim vs. The World fell into; marketed at a young audience but 90% of those people didn’t understand half the nerd-jokes (Clash at Demonhead, for example, is a NES Game and YES I KNEW THAT WHEN THE MOVIE WAS IN THEATRES!). So the movie ended up for… well… thirty-something old-school nerds who were there with early video game culture.
Also Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is just a damn well-made movie and I do recommend it.
The Sonic Movie already looks like something made to hold onto a license, where anything will do. And it breaks my heart to see Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik – I mean, if you were going off the comics you could have had the Ivo Kintobor transition and then Carrey would end up in a fatsuit for the latter half of the film… as Sonic wrestled with a friend turned foe… you know, conflict and character development…
But see, now I’m being rational and logical. Which the movie isn’t because Sonic is, from the trailer… AN ALIEN FROM SPACE! Because that worked so well with the Teenage Mutant Turtles, didn’t it?
Is there a chance The Sonic Movie could be good?
Sure. It could transcend all known laws of physics and be a decent movie in its own right I suppose, but at the core of this is a simple conceit – Sonic the Hedgehog is just not a good fit for a movie.
Not all video games are – like not all movies make good video games. Crossover can be fertile ground, but Sonic the Hedgehog has hundreds if not thousands of problems to fix to even gain any real respect back in the Video Game space, let alone for a brand to worry about a duff movie to take a sledgehammer to its kneecaps.
Don’t misunderstand though – the proposed Mario Movie has a similar issue. Mario is more respected, but again, it’s gameplay that matters with Mario. Inventive gameplay. Just like the reason people loved Sonic in the old days was the speed, the colour, the graphics (really, Sonic was a better looking game than Super Mario World and I accept no arguments on that front).
Maybe that’s been the whole problem all along. Sonic was differentiated on shallow and superficial principles. Whether you think the games were good or not (and even in those early days, turns out games scrolling at that speed had collision detection issues), Sonic’s whole appeal was “I’m Not Mario”, and in an age where Nintendo was a byword for video games that was enough.
We exist in a different world now, of course. Super Mario 64 showed us early on what 3D was capable of, and now we’ve got Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild and God of War and Resident Evil 2 Remake. It’s not enough to be superficially different now, you need some meat on those bones and that’s where Sonic has been repeatedly falling down in between trying to work out what market their game needs to be aimed at in the first place.
The Sonic Movie’s problems are going to be deeper than just how Sonic looks because that’s always been The Sonic Problem – it’s image and little else. At no point have any of the trailers indicated at any stage that The Sonic Movie has even the slightest clue how to ameliorate that contentious issue.
Unless they do, The Sonic Movie is going to have the same problem as the games; aiming for a “broad” audience and ultimately appealing to no-one. At least Detective Pikachu is aiming for the Pokémon audience, a series that routinely seems to tell multiple millions of games and is generally respected and makes a lot of money and don’t end up in bargain bins at the back of a store in The Corner of Shame.
My prediction? The Sonic Movie is going to be panned hard, mocked relentlessly and hit streaming services hard in a very short span of time just to try and justify the costs.
Let’s hope there’s a nice solid wall in the way.