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Why we're worried about the 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Movie

Sonic is iconic. He's one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world, even if you haven't played any Sonic the Hedgehog games. And we don't blame you if you haven't — as much as we love and respect SEGA's sassy mascot, the franchise has been notoriously hit and miss. But hey, it's hard to compete with Nintendo. Sonic and Mario's amicable rivalry has been fun to watch over the years, but at last, Sonic has pulled ahead… at least in one respect. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie will premiere long before the upcoming Mario movie.

In February of 2020, everyone's favorite anthropomorphic hedgehog will dash his way to theaters. The star-studded film will feature Parks and Recreation's Ben Schwartz as Sonic, Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik, and James Marsden of Westworld fame as the small town sheriff who helps Sonic escape the government agents on his tail. Wait — does Sonic have a tail?

All this sounds like a basic action movie that kids will love, but we're worried. In the months since the film's announcement, there have been concerns raised as to whether or not this new incarnation of Sonic will do him justice. Is the world ready for a Sonic the Hedgehog movie? Currently, the prognosis is looking grim. Let's break down the reasons why the blue blur movie looks like a big mess.

Video game movies never seem to do well

Video games are a very different medium than film. Although games can provide the same immersive narrative experience that films do, they're expected to be enjoyed over several sittings in the comfort of one's home. We don't think Hollywood is about to make a 60-hour interactive experience for theaters anytime soon. However, despite consistent bombs, Hollywood seems absolutely enamored with the pursuit of the elusive good video game movie.

These attempts at adaptations go wrong for many reasons. They have to cut a lot of story content. They are unable to illustrate the player's agency. They lean heavily on CGI that doesn't always stay true to the style of the game. On top of all that, writers never seem to want to stick with the original concept of the game. Need we remind you of the absolutely disastrous 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie?  

There are a lot of disastrous video game movies to pick from. See: Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, Silent Hill, Warcraft … none were able to capture the more expansive world in which they operated, driving disappointed fans to the internet to voice their disappointment. Although Sonic's world and story seem breezy enough that a 90-minute adventure on the big screen should be doable, fans are already more than dubious about the possible quality of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

The shock and awe of the poster reveal

From the moment he hit the SEGA Genesis back in '91, Sonic was designed to raise eyebrows. Built to be an edgier answer to Mario, he was a mascot that would appeal to teenagers who totally related to Sonic's impatience and hunger for supersonic speeds. Over the years, Sonic's design has changed significantly to suit the myriad platforms to which he's been ported. He's gotten taller and his legs have gotten longer, but all along he has kept his gloves, socks and signature shiny shoes.

The new Sonic the Hedgehog movie poster is a departure from everything we know about the character. The silhouette teased by Paramount Pictures doesn't reveal the face of Sonic's new incarnation, but the silhouetted details are telling. First of all, Sonic is furry. Like, really furry. And underneath that fur, he seems to be as ripped as any human athlete. Gone are the round, cartoonish gloves, replaced by ape-like hands with an ambiguous number of digits. His shoes are strangely form-fitting and beaten.

The reveal was met with large-scale internet backlash. Fans were confused, concerned, and at a loss as to how to react. Naturally, many a meme was born from the fallout of what was surely meant to be an exciting unveiling.

The Uncanny Valley

Most fans' concerns revolve around the realistic design choices behind the newly reimagined Sonic. He doesn't look quite like a cartoon character anymore. There have been several modern animated versions of the hero, from Sonic Boom to a guest appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet, that have proven the technology is available to make a fully-animated blue blur true to his original design, but the movie's executive producer, Deadpool director Tim Miller, wanted to go for a more realistic look.

Miller explained in an interview with IGN that the production team was focused on integrating Sonic with his human co-stars. "It would be weird and it would feel like he was running around nude if he was some sort of otter-like thing. It was always, for us, fur, and we never considered anything different. It's part of what integrates him into the real world and makes him a real creature."

We've seen this formula turn sour, however. Taking beloved characters and turning them into realistic, breathing creatures may actually create a more unsettling dissonance between the real and CGI elements than a cartoonish take would. Just look at the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. The brutally realistic aesthetic sucked the charm out of the teenage turtles and rendered them grotesque shadows of their more playful selves. Don't even get us started on Splinter.

Brings back bad memories of Sonic '06

Movies aren't the only place we've seen failures in blending cartoon characters with realistic environments. In fact, we've already seen it with Sonic. As loathe as we are to remember, we have to look back at the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game. In the pursuit of making its hero "real" and integrated alongside recognizably human characters, things got weird. 

This game drops Sonic into a weirdly Final Fantasy-esque world, adventuring alongside human characters like Princess Elise. The height difference between them is strange, especially with Sonic constantly carrying her around bridal style. The two spark a questionable romance that culminates in a Sleeping Beauty-esque kiss, resulting in an image that's hard to erase from the psyche. Sonic '06 has since gone down in infamy, unable to balance the fun of Sonic against a backdrop wherein Eggman presumably kills innocents with explosions and robot guns in a terrorist attack at the beginning of the game.

As Shadow the Hedgehog proved, Sonic games and guns just don't mix, unless you're trying to make meme-worthy material. We hope that the movie won't fall into the weirdly edgy realm that these games took the Sonic series to. But with SEGA's darling stuck in the real world, on the run from the government with only a small town sheriff to aid him, there are already some implications that call up painful memories from 2006. Sonic and humans just don't mix well.

The leaked legs

So, we understand that the production of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is going for realism, but fans are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of his runner's legs. This discussion kicked off when another poster appeared, offering a hedgehog's-eye view of the movie's real-world settings. Although we still don't see Sonic's new face, we do get a better glimpse at some of his other… assets.

The poster shows speed lines criss-crossing San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and a pair of legs dangling over the top with a cheeky "Sonic wuz here" message scrawled into the concrete. The legs are furry, as Tim Miller promised, but they're also pretty beefy… and strangely separated. Sonic has a serious thigh gap that fans have found impossible to replicate. This second poster did nothing to alleviate the anxieties fans were having over Sonic's makeover. One of the film's writers, Patrick Casey, responded to the fervor with a simple tweet requesting, "Everybody relax."

The official Sonic the Hedgehog movie Twitter account made its own response that has only served to reignite the controversy over Sonic's legs. In a shoddily Photoshopped image, the most 'roided out blue legs imaginable stand in red sneakers propping up a sign reading, "Can't a guy work out? Be back next year," with the hashtag #RespectTheLegs. As in-character as the tweet feels, we're having a hard time respecting the legs.

Is Sonic… an alien? A government experiment?

Maybe Sonic's newfound musculature is explained by his ominous new backstory. According to IMDb, the government is looking to capture Sonic. There are few named characters currently credited, but among them are agents and even the Secretary of Homeland Security. The implication here is that Sonic is a previously unknown species of super speedy hedgehog that the government has deemed a potential threat. This raises a potentially terrifying question: where did Sonic come from?

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie seems to be set up as an origin story wherein the world is first introduced to anthropomorphic animal speedsters. But where was Sonic prior to being on the lam from the feds? Sonic has always been a natural part of his own world, but the movie will make him a stranger in a strange land. It's possible that Sonic is not from our Earth at all, and that the original Green Hill Zone is part of a wholly different solar system.

Another theory has some more unsettling implications for Sonic's super-powered friends. If the government had a hold of Sonic before his escape, could he be some kind of genetic experiment? Is the government conducting tests on animals to the point that they become fast, furious, and beefy? If so, PETA will be sure to boycott the release of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Until then, we don't know why Sonic is running from the law.

Jim Carrey may outshine the whole film

What would Sonic be without Dr. Robotnik (a.k.a. Eggman), his archenemy? Probably a lot more carefree than he already is, but the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is set to be filled with action and drama, and Eggman is an integral part of that equation. Dr. Robotnik is always bent on world domination, determined to shape everything he sees into his own dystopia of robots and oppression. Typically, Sonic is the one who inevitably thwarts his plans. It seems the movie will honor this age-old tradition.

Dr. Robotnik, like Sonic, has a rather iconic look. He's round (like an egg) with a massive red mustache below his tiny sunglasses. There is no real person with those body proportions, but the film managed to cast the role. Dr. Robotnik will be portrayed by none other than Jim Carrey. Carrey does have extensive experience playing eccentric megalomaniacs under prosthetics, like the Riddler in 1995's Batman Forever and Count Olaf in 2004's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

But Robotnik is literally a big role. We would hate to see an A-list actor like Carrey bogged down by bad costuming… or a bad script, for that matter. Among all the hiccups the Sonic movie is experiencing, we're wondering if Carrey's performance might overshadow all else. Will we be left wondering, "How did he get roped into this?"

SEGA isn't happy

Sonic was originally made with the intention of becoming the face of SEGA, a mascot to replace the lackluster Alex Kidd. Since then, even if you haven't been familiar with SEGA, his presence has continued to loom large in the world of gaming. He was the first video game character to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1993. As fast as he is, Sonic is literally hard to miss.

It's safe to say that SEGA is pretty attached to its most recognizable property. Sonic the Hedgehog saved the SEGA Genesis from the commercial failures that would plague their later consoles, eventually leading the company to abandon the hardware market and focus on third-party software development. Now, SEGA has entrusted Sonic to the flashy lights of Hollywood. While this move may bring Sonic to a whole new audience, SEGA seems like they are also worried as to how that wide-reaching Sonic might look.

"I don't think SEGA was entirely happy with the eye decision, but these sorts of things you go, 'It's going to look weird if we don't do this.' But everything is a discussion, and that's kind of the goal, which is to only change what's necessary and stay true to the rest of it," producer Tim Miller said in an IGN interview. The "eye decision" in question is the choice to give Sonic two eyes independent of each other, as opposed to the goggle-like configuration he has had since the '90s. More anatomically correct? Yes. More Sonic? Maybe not.

Team Sonic isn't happy

If fans' bewildered reaction to the poster was the first indication that the production had gone astray, and SEGA's reported design disappointments didn't help, then the reaction from the original Team Sonic seems to be strike three against the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The original team that brought Sonic to life couldn't help but notice this new version of their creation when the whole of the internet was in upheaval over it. They were as surprised as the rest of us that a movie was in the works and that it would look so drastically different. 

Naoto Ohshima, Sonic's original character designer, wasn't happy with the furry version of the hedgehog. He took to Twitter, saying, "Sonic is a fairy of hedgehog, so he doesn't need to be designed closer to a real hedgehog even in a live action. Mickey doesn't become a mouse in live action, does he? Because they are fairies who can live on when people believe in them." Other writers and designers commented that they were shocked at the ultra realistic take on Sonic, with tweets summing up to a collective "whoa, this looks weird," which really doesn't bode well for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Beware the wrath of fans

We can see why Hollywood continues to doggedly pursue the video game movie. A name like Sonic already has an established fanbase ready to fill cinema seats and munch on overpriced popcorn. Kids will love it, adult fans of the series will love it… it's a win-win all around, right?

As it turns out, there is more risk than reward when dealing with a property that already has a fanbase. The problem with fans is that they can be, well, fanatical. Some will inevitably consider the source material sacred, and see any deviation from what they love as sacrilege. Back in 2010, when Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was set to be released, Sonic fans banded together in protest because they wanted the feel and look of the old games rather than the new direction SEGA was taking. They swore that they would buy the first Sonic the Hedgehog again rather than 4 upon the new game's release as protest.

Are the Sonic filmmakers prepared to face a reaction akin to the constant controversy and criticism with the new Star Wars films? For some fans who are so possessive of the properties they love, nothing new will ever be good enough to meet their impossibly high standards. It will be interesting to see the response from longtime fans once the film hits theaters in November of 2019. There could be a fresh wave of protests, if current attitudes are anything to go by.  

Does this spell disaster for future video game movies?

Considering all the disappointment, backlash, and controversy the Sonic the Hedgehog movie has gotten from just a tiny peek of the final product, what will become of the film? Will production heed the warnings from fans and game developers alike and make a change toward a Sonic that we know and love?

Probably not. The producers seem pretty attached to the idea of a Sonic that is less stylized and feels "like a part of our world." Even if the movie is a bomb with video game fans because of this, there are sure to be hordes of children dragging their parents to see it. Though the Sonic the Hedgehog movie looks set to crash and burn, this disaster is unlikely to spell death for future video game movies.

There are many more video game movies currently in various stages of production, and we are sure to see more questionable takes on old favorites. Every studio seems confident that they will be able to break the curse of bad video game movies. Maybe one of them will, but we're not so sure that the Sonic the Hedgehog movie will be the one to do it.