Sonic the Hedgehog movie poster

Why the Sonic Movie Makes Fans' Heads Spin

The new poster has led to some head-scratching, but the film itself may still be golden

Courtesy: Paramount

If it worked for comics, it's gonna work for video games … eventually. It's hard to make a good video game movie when many of those classics—think Mario or Pac-Man—have about two sentences' worth of story. Meanwhile, many newer games are so cinematic that making a movie based off them would be pointless. The 1990s icon of gaming attitude, Sonic the Hedgehog, has both those types of stories in many of his outings. You could make a Sonic movie as simple or as expansive as you want, given all the characters and zones within its universe.

With all the video games, comics and cartoons featuring The Fastest Thing Alive, Sonic the Hedgehog finally has his first upcoming theatrical adaptation, the aptly named Sonic the Hedgehog, set for Nov. 8, 2019. As of now, no one's quite sure what to expect from this live-action movie and its animated characters. You have a director, Jeff Fowler, who was Oscar-nominated for his 2004 short film but has almost no full-length experience. Comedian Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic. And don't forget Jim Carrey, returning for his first major big-screen role in years as the mad scientist and antithesis to Sonic, Dr. Ivo Robotnik.

Very few actors and characters have yet to be confirmed. It's not even clear if we'll get to see Sonic's other friends on the big screen, as this movie takes place in the real world. The synopsis describes a buddy-cop movie where Sonic befriends a small-town sheriff played by James Marsden, which is an entirely new character created for the movie. It sounds very reminiscent of other live-action adaptations, where Neil Patrick Harris befriends the Smurfs, or Jason Lee befriends Alvin and the Chipmunks, or James Marsden himself befriends the Easter Bunny (in 2011's Hop).
The first official poster was revealed this week, displaying a mysterious silhouette of the Blue Blur's redesign. Judging by the shaded figure, Sonic the Hedgehog looks more like Sonic the Blue Ape in Ruby-Red Puma Sneakers. Then again, Sonic never looked like a hedgehog to begin with. Perhaps the universe works in mysterious ways. 

Fans of the video games, including myself and many others whom I know, were baffled and made this clear all over social media. While the redesign is too dark to fully make out, the body structure raises a lot of questions. Why take the cartoony tube-limbed character and add a more realistic human or ape-like anatomy? Yes, this movie is live-action, but other live-action/CG hybrid movies starred cartoon characters that looked, well, cartoony. Case in point: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Smurfs, Space Jam, Alvin and the Chipmunks. This Sonic movie, from what we can tell, is a bit like if the Smurf movies featured a group of human actors dipped into a vat of blue paint. 
Judging by the shaded figure, Sonic the Hedgehog looks more like Sonic the Blue Ape in Ruby-Red Puma Sneakers.
Another video-game movie that is on the very near horizon is Pokémon: Detective Pikachu. Again, it's a live-action film with CG creatures. Many of the Pokémon feature nearly the same body structure as their game counterparts, except with a bit more realism. Pikachu's fuzzier, Charizard's scalier, Mr. Mime's more terrifying. While the voice of Ryan Reynolds coming out of Pikachu's mouth in the trailer is probably different than most gamers would have imagined for the character, many of the fans have embraced these interpretations.

If this Sonic movie took the same old designs and added fur, fans might have been more welcoming of this first look. Then again, the 2013 Sonic fan film from Blue Core Studios did just that. Fans were not welcoming of that at all, but maybe if the film's team had softened up the fur effect, it could have looked a lot better. Dumb ideas can be saved by good execution.

Change is always jarring, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Sonic has always been redesigned through the years. Perhaps if we see the designs unobscured and in motion through a trailer, it'll win us over. Maybe Sonic's some sort of Big Foot-type creature in this interpretation. Maybe the design will still be bad, but the movie itself will manage to redeem it. Who knows what to expect? Given the Hollywood track record for video-game movies, I can't expect much—but I will go in with an open mind come next November. After all, I did like Rampage.

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