Today on Reasonable Assessment, we’re talking about a stupid live-action CGI hybrid movie with blue things in it.
I wish I were talking about the Smurfs…
I really do…
Recently, we just got some more info about the Sonic the Hedgehog movie that’s supposed to come out. It was originally announced, in case you hadn’t heard, with Sony Pictures a couple years ago. And I’m utterly terrified I should be very excited about this movie as a huge fan, but I have zero faith in this film. Judging but what they’ve said I have zero faith. Now slow down there before you try to kill me and say I’m a hater, we need to make something clear. We need to talk about the difference between faith and desire. Do I desire this movie to be good? Absolutely. Do I have faith that it actually will? Nope!
Which brings us to today’s segment…
Four Reasons Why I’m Terrified
Let’s get something straight. Sonic’s design looks few little like a real-life hedgehog. Sonic’s brand of stylized design belongs in animation, not the real world. Pretty much the entire Sonic cast does not belong in the real world. In the overwhelmingly majority of Sonic games, there is a total of one human character, Dr. Eggman, who is also cartoony and unrealistic! They already tried to make him realistic once and it turned out terrible.And hey, the Sonic games that DID have lots of humans still portrayed them in a stylized, non-realistic way (Sonic Adventure, Sonic Unleashed). Even the super-self-serious Shadow The Edgehog had goofy looking people. Again, the only game to feature photorealistic humans was the aforementioned Sonic: Dead Horse for Xbox 360.
So what is the point of the making a movie about a world of colorful animated animals semi-live action?
Unfortunately that brings us to…
2. Literal Video Game Character
Imagine if the MCU wasn’t about Captain America and Iron Man trying to stop Thanos but actually about the Avengers crawling out of a comic book and into the “real world” where they made dumb meta jokes like, “Hey how come there aren’t any word balloons above your head?”
Here’s an official blurb that was released about the Sonic movie
“Sonic the Hedgehog centers on Sonic and his friends, such as Tails and Knuckles, who run around collecting items and points as they attempt to foil the global domination plans of Doctor Eggman Robotnik”
I don’t believe that this movie is going to be Sonic in his own world handling his own problems. This probably going to be Wreck-It-Ralph Sonic where he exists a literal bits of code in a literal piece of computer hardware. He and Eggman are going to get zapped out of a Genesis and into the real world where he can help some stupid little boy get enough courage to ask a girl out. Then he and the little boy are going to defeat Eggman together using weird video game things rings and monitor boxes.
We’ve seen this thing waaay too many times (Smurfs, Emoji Movie).
And frankly I think this is an insult to the character. Comic and cartoons have shown us that Sonic’s world is vast enough to exist on its own merit and is very capable of telling its own stories that don’t rely on external “video game logic.”
3. Sonic’s Characters Aren’t Respected
The holders of Sonic IP don’t convince that they get the appeal of their characters. At least, they don’t know how to communicate when they license the IP. To bring up Marvel again, the MCU has been consistently successful because the studio has a keen eye for understanding why people like their characters. They take what has kept comic book audiences engaged for 50 years and simply bring it in front of a larger wider audience by putting it on a big screen. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
On the other hand, Sonic characters are continually broken because creators don’t seem to understand their value or appeal, and I don’t think a large part of the public understands them either because of the resulting damages.
There was time in the late 90’s early 2000’s where these characters were coming to their own and showing us that they could be compelling. Take a look at Knuckles. He was first introduced to us as a sort of anti-hero rival, the last of his kind, living on an isolated island by himself guarding an ancient stone of immense power and is highly skilled in combat. We were also shown that he was an expert treasure hunter that he can read ancient Babylonian languages like he’s freaking Indiana Jones
Meanwhile at Sonic Boom: Here’s meathead Knuckles, he’s big, buff, and a blasted idiot that can’t tell left from right.
And you know what’s crazy? I didn’t exaggerate any of that for comedic effect. It is literally that big of a difference. That’s how far we’ve fallen.Which one of those two Knuckles do you think would make the more compelling story?
4. Video Game Movies In General
Name my some excellent video game movie, like for real. Hollywood has more bad video game movies than sexual assault allegations.
Now I know, some of you may be thinking, “hey that’s not the Sonic’s movie fault. Just because other video game movies were bad doesn’t mean this one guaranteed to be.” And that’s totally right! That’s totally fair! But it does mean that adapting video game to a movie is very hard and we still haven’t quite figured it out yet. The closest we got was that Castlevania Netflix series, which isn’t a Hollywood movie, but yeah it was pretty good despite a few problems.
So why would I believe that this Sonic movie (which was originally announced under Sony Pictures with writers Van Row-ba-show and Evan Susser only to disappear and then reappear with a new set of writers Patrick Casey and Josh Miller now under Paramount instead of Sony)
….that is based off a game series (that has had inconsistent writing and tone, with character arches that are ignored or outright reserved, with conflicting backstories going all the way back to 90’s)
….is going to be the first video game movie to finally crack the code?
But if I’m being very honest, very painfully candid, I hope this movie doesn’t get made. If it’s anything like what we’ve talked about, it’d be better if it doesn’t happen. I don’t think now is the right time for a Sonic the Hedgehog movie. I don’t think Sonic is in the right place for it.
I don’t think the people involved at this high Hollywood level know what would make a good 90 minute story about Sonic the Hedgehog. I think most of the people involved see an opportunity to make lots of money utilizing a very profitable, and marketable character that they vaguely remember from the 90’s, and because of that, this movie will damage the character in long term.
But because of brand recognition of Sonic, the movie will be a profitable box office success in the short term which will just widen the marketplace disconnect between the IP holders and what the people actually want. Argh!
If comic book movies have taught us anything it’s that whatever happens in the movies, is what becomes established in the public’s mind in regard to that franchise. If Knuckles is illiterate in the Sonic movie, illiterate Knuckles will become the standard across the board, “Knuckles, he’s the one that can’t read, right? …That’s what happened in the movie.”
So please. Paramount Pictures. Prove me wrong. Please. I would love to be proven wrong. It’s still possible! It could happen! Make me eat my words in 2019, I hope they taste bitter.
…Whom I kidding. Paramount ain’t reading this. And even if they did, I’m just a dumb kid on the dumb internet. This movie is gonna suck. It’s gonna be bad. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
No. We’re not ending this here. You know what we need? You know what we need before we try a giant blockbuster Sonic movie that crashes and burns?
We need a smaller, low-key Sonic movie made by people that have a proven history with the character. Start small! Make a 60 minute animated film, with art direction by Tyson Heese and a script by Sonic comics writer Ian Flynn, like a modern day OVA. Ian Flynn has consistently shown that he understands the characters and can make compelling stories with them. He’s been doing it for over ten years and does it better than the people Sega hires for the games.
We need to start there and build on that foundation.
I really think the best allegory, is comic movies. Comic book movies sucked for the longest time (Daredevil, Electra, etc) because the people in charge of them simply weren’t comic book fans. They were talented people, but they didn’t know the source material. When that changed, comic films and shows all of sudden got good. Imagine that. And it started at the low level, with TV and smaller movies (Batman TAS, Spider-Man, etc)
The first good video game adaptation was the aforementioned Castlevania. Because it wasn’t made as a cash grab. Heck, Castlevania hadn’t even had a game in years. It was good the people that made it were legitimate long time fans of the series, who knew what makes the series appealing.
That’s where Sonic needs to be. Now.
To flip the Dark Knight cliche on its head, a giant blockbuster Sonic movie is something we deserve after all these years, but it’s not what we need right now. Not for a while.
That’s my assessment. I hope it’s a reasonable one.
Noah Copeland is a somewhat interesting human. He makes music, games, and films, and stands at exactly average height. You can follow him on Twitter @NoahCopeland