Super Mario Bros, the movie starring Bob Hoskins as Nintendo’s mascot wasn’t very good. In its defence, it was the first ever video game adaptation and arguably a (very, very, very) failed test in adapting the medium into a movie. It did do its job though, as it set a strong template for video game adaptations for the next few years to not be that good.
What is surprising is that it has taken 26 years for video game rival Sonic The Hedgehog to release a full-length feature film. That’s a lot of time to work on being better than Nintendo’s attempt, when really all you’d need was 26 minutes.
Okay, okay, maybe this isn’t the first movie of Sonic per se, as in 1996 a two-part one hour straight-to-video Japanese animation was produced. But that consisted of a weird mesh of ideas based on concepts from the games and interacting with human characters; plus some very uncomfortable suggestions surrounding villain Robotnik.
2019 will see a fully-fledged Sonic movie released, with a cast that includes Ben Schwartz as the titular hedgehog, James Marsden as a small town sheriff and Jim Carrey as Dr Robotnik. It’s a hybrid of motion capture and live action, with no real plot to speak off at the time of writing. It also appears to be based on a completely original take on the mythos of Sonic, where he battles Robotnik in the real world whilst being on the run from the Government. Based on the little information that’s been released, it sounds like a new version of Alf. Which is a little concerning as there are much more interesting sources of material to focus on in the history of the franchise.
Previous television series and comic book stories have focused on themes of war, family, revolution and chilli dogs. Whilst the idea of Sonic as a revolutionary freedom fighter up against a Robotnik-controlled world may be an excellent basis for a movie, it is a very in-depth and complex world to tap into.
But would a mainstream audience accept a darker, complex story with a load of characters that they wouldn’t know? A fully animated story might not fully work either, as recent series Sonic Boom was aimed towards children rather than a diverse audience. Trying to keep things as pure as possible as an entry point may not be the best way forward, as a story surrounding Sonic collecting rings won’t be the most dense of stories.
But confidence isn’t something that surrounds the behind the scenes aspect of the film. Schwarz is a good choice for a plucky over-confident Sonic, and Jim Carrey as Robotnik is inspired. The writers don’t have much experience, and it’s the director Jeff Fowler’s debut feature. Will inexperience harm what is the first film in what can be assumed is another attempt at a huge franchise from Paramount? The flip side of that is this could be the debut of a fresh new director with a new story to tell.
Still, the fact is that there’s the stigma of the video game adaptation behind it. Sonic has had a little more success in the television and comic medium, and they’ve had strong individual reinventions of their own to fall back on. If there’s any video game franchise that offers itself the chance of a fresh start then arguably it is Sega’s blue hedgehog. The uncertainty around what exactly the film will be is both nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time.
But one thing is for certain: it can’t be as bad as the Mario film.