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Is the New Sonic the Hedgehog Doom to Fail?

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     Hamagami / Carroll, a Los Angeles based graphic designer, recently released a detailed view of Sonic the Hedgehog from Paramount Pictures' upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog (2019) movie, and fans do not seem to be taking it well. The lean and muscled body, the defined and fluffy fur, and now the small, individual eyes; Sonic is far from the icon that first promoted the Sega Genesis’ ‘blast processing’. Everything seems wrong, but is this Sonic doomed? Recent trends seem to disagree.

     For over a decade, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has had a reputation as bad as video game movies; new games in the Sonic Universe served to dig a deeper grave for Sega and Sonic Team, and there has yet to be a single movie ever based on a video game to receive good ratings. Nearly every game since the infamous failure of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has met critical review equally as poor as movies like Assassin’s Creed (2016), Tomb Raider (2018), and Rampage (2018). To make a movie combining the two failing worlds seems doomed to fail by pedigree.

     Yet recently, there has been a bit of a turn in the video game movie world; Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, set to release on May 10th, is gathering positive attention from both audiences and critics for the writing, direction, and acting. In January, production studio announced a sequel to the movie a full four months ahead of the release. It seems as if the multi-billion dollar Pokémon franchise is going to change the trend.

     Comparing Pokémon to Sonic the Hedgehog is a stretch, though, and almost any gamer will tell you that. However, breaking the two movies down reveals a couple similarities. For example, both movies have opted to feature an animated protagonist in a live-action environment, a first for both franchises, each with a new, lifelike appearance to better bridge the animated/live-action gap. This is not the first time a cartoon character has been given a realistic appearance, though. In the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014, 2016) franchise, and the recently released Christopher Robin (2018), well known cartoon characters were redesigned to better fit in to the live-action environments.

     Furthermore, with Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz starring in the movie, it is highly likely that Sonic the Hedgehog will be a comedy, just like Detective Pikachu. Interestingly enough, these two movies stray from the almost exclusively action or horror themed video game movie world, with only a couple other movies being able to claim the same.

     While critical review generally dictates if a movie is enjoyable to watch, a movie’s box office performance is an important mark in overall reception. A critically acclaimed movie may not earn a lot of money, and a movie that earned a lot of money may not be critically acclaimed. For example, the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light (2004) was met with astoundingly poor reviews upon release. Despite this, the film made $29.2 million in profit and the series continued on with five more spin-offs and two more movies, largely because the how the fan-base supported the series. Though the long-time fans of Sonic are bemoaning everything released about the new movie, a new fan-base of diehard fans, mainly children new to the series, may be waiting with baited breath until the movie’s release date of November 8th. With the Sonic Boom television adaptation achieving impressive ratings, and the success of Sonic Mania (2017), it seems as if there is an audience large enough for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie to succeed.

     Finally, a major component of a successful movie is the crew behind it. Though both the Sonic franchise and video game movies have had rough histories, the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog has a very decorated, or at the very least promising, crew behind it. Two of the three writers, Patrick Casey and John Miller, have been working together for years on various, well-received comedies. The third writer, Oren Uziel, wrote both Cloverfield Paradox (2018) and 22 Jump Street (2014), and was recently announced to be writing for the Detective Pikachu sequel mentioned earlier. The cinematographer, Stephen Windon, has worked on multiple installments of the Fast and Furious franchise, and though the editor, Stacey Schroeder, is relatively new in the industry, she has worked on successful movies like Disaster Artist (2017) and Blockers (2018). The director, Jeff Fowler, may have the least to show of the entire crew, but his portfolio speaks volumes. Fowler worked on Where the Wild Things Are (2009), which incorporated animated characters into a live-action environment, and won an award for writing and directing the animated short, Gopher Broke (2004). While this is his directing debut for a feature film, Fowler’s past seems ideal for Sonic the Hedgehog.

     Just under eight months remain until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on November 8th, and there is plenty of time for things to change – for the better or for the worse. The film certainly has odds stacked against it, but you should never judge a movie by its poster.

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