The trailer to the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie dropped on April 30th, giving us our first glimpse at this fan-favourite character brought to live-action. Sonic, a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that runs as fast as his name suggests, first debuted in 1991 in the video game Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis.
Sonic the Hedgehog was a 2d Platformer game that brought its own twist to the model started by Mario in 1985. Instead of navigating through a precise level of parkour and dangerous frogs and mushrooms, Sonic zooms chaotically through his game, fighting evil robots and mad-scientists bent on world domination.
Since then, Sonic the Hedgehog has been an incredibly profitable franchise. By 2018, the franchise has sold nearly 800 million copies! Sonic himself has starred and crossed over into nearly ninety different video games, including other popular franchises such as Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. and even a recent online casino game Sega Slots, not to mention several different animated series’, various comic-book adaptations, and a cameo in Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph.
As of 2018, the franchise has grossed over 6 billion dollars. Needless to say, it’s quite popular.
Fans, however, were not happy with the movie trailer.
A Growing Divide
For a while now, there’s been a growing disconnect between the people that create Sonic material and its consumers. This gap began with the games when the developers at Team Sonic made the decision to switch from 2d to 3d, a change that switched up the gameplay from precision platforming to clunky 3d action.
Despite fans concerns, the Team continued to produce 3d versions of Sonic, and the franchise has deteriorated because of it. A third party produced Sonic Mania, a 2d remastered platformer that included what everyone wanted. Team Sonic meanwhile, released Sonic Forces, a clunky 3d action game. So yes, some cognitive dissonance exists between the creators and the consumers.
So what was so appalling in the trailer that pissed off the fans? In short, it was Sonic the Hedgehog’s horrific design. I am not an avid fanboy of Sonic, so I’m not just nitpicking alterations made for adaptation to the big screen. Sonic in this trailer looks like a Chinese Off-Brand of Sonic. It falls straight into the uncanny valley, where it looks human enough to be creepy but not human enough to be normal.
It has human teeth, bizarre proportions, miscoloured limbs, Nike shoes, and off-model eyes. Sonic is not a complex design, especially in comparison to something like a superhero, such as Thor or Spiderman. Somehow, this movie still managed to screw up almost every detail except for the fact that Sonic is generally blue.
Jeff Fowler’s Response
So, after years of not being listened to and a movie industry that chugs out garbage with little care for their fanbase’s, Sonic fans received a pleasant surprise when Director Jeff Fowler tweeted out, “Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be…”
We have yet to see what those changes will end up being, but a promise to do something is more than many expected. Many other franchises take an elitist attitude towards their fanbases, such as the promoters of Marvel’s Captain Marvel and Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, saying things along the lines of, “If you didn’t like it, you’re the one with the problem.” It’s refreshing to finally see a studio take responsibility and listen to its fans, and so I tip my metaphorical hat to Mr Fowler and hope the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is a success.