I’ve had this one on the back burner for a while, but with the cataclysmic reaction to the trailer dropping for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, it felt an apt time to move this up the schedule and have this conversation now.
Both Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu are two movies with a number of notable similarities: They’re both video game adaptations that take their mascot characters and place them into the real world using CGI, they’re also both movies that had very vocal reactions when people first saw how they looked.
The main difference is, despite an initial air of revulsion surrounding the Pokemon movie; after everyone seemingly steeled themselves and came to accept the way the Pokemon looked, anticipation has taken a real positive turn. The Sonic movie, however, is still a writhing hot bed of ridicule.
It’s strange, because, on a surface level there isn’t a whole lot to separate these movies. You’d think that if we hated one, we’d hate the other. And yet, I find myself in the position of actually wanting to see the Pokemon movie, despite some initial misgivings. And after some thought, I realise the reason behind this has come down to a simple fact: Warner have really owned what this Pokemon movie is.
I guess I should explain myself a little better.
The Pokemon movie has some significant degree of self awareness about itself, specifically with how its Pokemon look. The fact that they actively chose to prominently include the weirder looking Pokemon such as Mr. Mine in the trailers, as well as Pokemon like Lickitung shows that the people marketing this movie know that the Pokemon have a certain off putting look, and yet they don’t shy away from it.
After staring into the belly of the beast for so long, we’ve become desensitised to it. To that scaly looking Charizard, that Greninja or the wild eyed Ludicolo. It seemed like they knew that if they just owned it and had full confidence in their creepy-ass designs, we’d eventually embrace them. And weirdly enough, it’s worked on me. Except that Aipom, that thing can go straight to hell.
Comparatively, on the far end of the spectrum, I get the impression there is much less faith behind the Sonic project. Images for what Sonic would eventually look like seemed to trickle out of the studio at a snail’s pace, and with each and every piece of media that came out there, along with it was a wave of jokes, mock tweets and fan edits that range from hilarious to downright lovecraftian.
This reaction seemed to have made Paramount nervous about putting anything out there in bulk. Given, the Sonic movie is coming out much later than Detective Pikachu, and the marketing cycle is at much earlier stage. But the point remains, while Detective Pikachu flaunted it’s weird right in our faces, Sonic almost seemed ashamed of itself to the point of wanting to curl up and roll away.
Which is pretty apt considering the general state of the video game franchise.
The old adage: Fake it till you make it seems to have worked for the Detective Pikachu movie, surely Sonic could have benefited from the same level of blind confidence. Well that’s not strictly true is it. There is another difference between the movies that is also causing me to be much more interested in one than other other. And it’s the old nutshell; respect for the source material.
Now let’s be real, Sonic the Hedgehog as a franchise is on fire more than it’s not. And I say that as a fan. But after seeing the trailer and the seemingly arbitrary changes made, it stinks of your classic video game movie adaptation, packed hard to justify changes and a real failure to understand why people even care about the character in the first place.
As weird as the Pokemon look in Detective Pikachu, everything in that movie feels like it fits into the Pokemon world. While I might not be a huge fan of the casting of Ryan Reynolds, playing what is essentially one foot, four version of himself in a yellow fur suit, but based on the game the character was lifted from, it all feels like a fan can respect and accept.
Then you look at Jim Carrey cast as Dr. Ivo Jim Carrey and that anatomical nightmare that is the Sonic design and think, “who thought this was a good idea?”, “was there something wrong with one of the most iconically designed video game character of all time?” or “haven’t Marvel Studios shown these people the importance of getting your source material right?”
The fact that the director has already come out and talked about redesigning the character in response to the substantially negative fan feedback just shows how much “creative vision” when into this movie. Although it feels kind of late in the process for them to do anything about it now. It’s just too bad all the loudest and angriest internet commentators are out there claiming that they’ve somehow single handedly “saved Sonic”.
It’s going to take a lot more than a character redesign to fix what that movie is inevitably going to become. Plus, think of all the poor people who are going to have to crunch extra over this train wreck…
Personally, I can’t say I’m sad, surprised or shocked at this point. I’ve read a lot of news headlines claiming the movie looked “worse than we’d expected”. But let’s be real, this movie looks just as messy as everyone expected it to be from the get go, let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill about it.
Y’know, doing right by the fans isn’t that difficult. Marvel have made an entire film industry out of it. I just got done talking about how they’re doing everything so right and succeeding as a result. And yet, bad video game adaptations continue to come out, and will continue to come out (see Monster Hunter), because stubborn people can’t figure out the most simple solution is right in front of them.