This week an official trailer was released for the 2019 film Sonic the Hedgehog which will be released into cinemas/theatres in November. The trailer has had mixed reviews with most people being excited about the potential storyline and feeling positive about Jim Carrey’s role as Dr. Robotnik. But when it came to Sonic’s design, the response was still very negative with many wondering why Sonic can’t just look like he does in the games. The director has promised to make changes to the design after the backlash from fans, but should the studio really do this and at what point do we need to accept that Sonic’s look should stay as it is?
A promising start
Being a fan from the days Sonic first made his debut on console on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) I was excited about the idea of a Sonic movie, especially one made by a studio like Paramount. But watching the unveiling of the first movie posters, followed by the leaked images of Sonic’s design and now finally this trailer, I still have very mixed feelings about seeing this movie. The recent trailer, which is nearly three minutes long, shows a mysterious creature (which turns out to be Sonic – voiced by Ben Schwartz) meeting and later working with a local town cop Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) while an interesting looking Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) appears to be after Sonic, attempting to do anything to capture him.
The trailer itself isn’t bad, the story behind the film seems to be interesting and looks like it will be an origin story of sorts for Dr. Robotnik, or Eggman as we now know him. As a fan of Jim Carrey’s movies, especially his comedy roles in the late nineties I can’t wait to see his portrayal of Robotnik which from the images in the trailer appear as if he will be going through a transition into the bald-headed, big moustached villain we know and love today. The movie is also filled with some references to Sonic lore including the famous rings – even the initial Paramount logo, usually surrounding a mountain with stars, uses rings instead. It seems some of the warp rings that warp Sonic into different worlds, like the special stages from the early MegaDrive/Genesis games make an appearance too which looks exciting.
Along with the story there looks to be a lot of great gags too. The humour is going to be good and will hopefully be no different or worse than other similar style movies made today. But then we come to Sonic himself and there’s just some not quite right about that design. Although the movie Sonic was never going to look like the video game Sonic, the design still differs a lot, perhaps too much. The thing most people seem to take issue with is Sonic’s eyes and mouth, which just look too human-like. Personally I think sonic looks just too…cute! Now, normally I love cute and fluffy things, I even have a soft spot for cute hedgies and follow a bunch of their accounts on Instagram (really I do!), but do I really want that this cuteness to be on this anthropomorphic hedgehog? There’s something very cute about his design and while Sonic’s not ugly, the cuteness takes away from the cool attitude that Sonic is usually shown as having in the games.
Apart from looking super cute – Sonic’s small rounded eyes being a big contributor to that – he also has a weird mouth, one that looks so wide when he smiles with his mouth closed but it’s so small and filled with weird big chunky teeth when he opens it. Even my mum who’s not the big Sonic fan I am thinks the teen are all wrong! For me the teeth are bad, but the physical design of his body is worse. Although we’re all thankful that Sonic no longer looks overly muscular in the legs, he also doesn’t look like his speedy self, in fact I can’t help but feel that Sonic looks like a man in a Sonic-suit…there’s just something not quite right.
Now, I m grateful that Paramount have listened to fan feedback at all, especially as the first initial images of movie posters leaked a more muscular (at least in the legs) looking Sonic which nobody wanted. But just a day or so after the trailer was released the director of the movie Jeff Fowler tweeted ‘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…‘
With this tweet it seems that the fan backlash against Sonic’s design will prompt Paramount to change the look again. It’s certainly worth making Sonic’s eyes a little larger, or at the very least giving him less weird teeth and where possible slimming down his look to further enhance a more videogame-like look, but should Paramount just continue to edit the design until we’re all happy or is it the case that as fans we’ll never be truly happy with the design unless it’s a complete copy of the one in-game?
The perfect design
Although I’d like some changes to be made, the reality of this happening has to be thought about carefully. Paramount can tweak the design, but after a long time of creating this movie and animating the GCI design of Sonic, there’s only so much that they can adjust of their previous work before it becomes too difficult, time-consuming and costly. The studio ultimately want to make money out of the movie, so getting fans alongside should be a priority (afterall we’ll be the ones going to see the movie without much persuasion), but as fans we also need to make some compromises with what we want and what we’re going to get.
For me personally there are several things I don’t like about the design. It feels as if Paramount forgot what Sonic looked like, were given an audio description and came up with what we have. But at the same time I have to say that Sonic’s design isn’t awful and I can learn to put up with something that isn’t so aesthetically good, if the story is brilliant (which I really hope it is). When I look at Sonic and compare it with the another CGI videogame based movie coming out also this year, Detective Pikachu, I have to wonder why it is so difficult for the studio to simply make a copy of the videogame character, fluff him up a bit (the new thing with CGI characters apparently) and then create the movie with that character in it. But as we’ve previously heard, Sonic’s videogame design doesn’t work well in 3D so some adjustments have to be made.
As mentioned before the best thing we can have is a compromise. For Paramount that will be going back to the animators and fixing things here and there in the design to maybe make Sonic’s teeth and mouth better, or give him larger eyes. I doubt that much of the body can be tweaked but close-ups in certain scenes could be. This is a compromise that the studio seem to be willing to make, and this is lucky as many times movie directors are happy to go with just their own ‘vision’ of something without listening to fans. But just as they are willing to compromise on their original design for Sonic, the fan base needs to compromise too, and be careful when giving negative criticism about the character’s look.
People need to realise the cost of constant adjustment to CGI design and realise that at some point as we get closer towards November, it just won’t be an option anymore. People need to be ready to accept a design that isn’t completely what they want, just like many accepted the modern Sonic design after complaining when it was changed from the retro/original one. Compromising, a little, over design will then let us concentrate on what is more important, the movie’s story which may just give an interesting story of how Dr. Robotnik/Eggman came to be.
Are you interested in seeing the Sonic movie when it’s released? What movies based on videogames (or books) have you enjoyed or disliked? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂