The Sonic the Hedgehog movie is full steam ahead. There is no stopping it. The thing has a November 8, 2019 release date. The marketing machine is in motion. Companies are depending on it. This is going to happen and frankly, it looks more like a potential train wreck than the next great video game movie. It's a shame really, considering there have been some great Sonic the Hedgehog spin-offs. (Sonic Boom is surprisingly sharp, and the comics have had some good moments.) But why does this film seem like it could be going so far off of the rails. Well, it seems like a perfect storm of questionable decisions.
Let's start with some of the seemingly smaller missteps. The first is going with a mix of live action, real world footage with an animated Sonic the Hedgehog. There have been a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons, with varying degrees of success. It would have been easy to go and follow the same footsteps of the upcoming Super Mario or Angry Birds movies. Take the familiar worlds and scenarios, animate it, and put it on the big screen. Deciding not to do that feels like a missed opportunity.
Leaning really heavy into the real world is also a recipe for a bad time. The Sonic the Hedgehog film is competing with Detective Pikachu in 2019. That is a similar sort of beast, with actual humans and CG animals. However, it is set in the fictional Rhyme City, right in the actual Pokemon world. Sonic's joint is set in San Francisco. As in actual San Francisco. There's a Green Hills, like the zone in the game, but it is also supposedly a real place. This seems like a fish out of water story, expecting us to believe that an iconic character is somehow in our world dealing with his own iconic villain that is apparently an evil normal human.
The story seems like it could miss the spirit of Sonic the Hedgehog. This is a freedom fighter. He is a good-doer. He is environmentally conscious. He collects Chaos Emeralds. But here, it seems like we have a buddy cop situation. James Marsden lays Tom Wachowski, a sheriff that acts as his partner and helps him face off against Dr. Robotnik in some way. While sure, that's a sort of good guy too and still a heroic role, it might not exactly fit with the character.
But the biggest problem is with the character designs. Specifically, Sonic himself. Early posters hinted at his appearance, providing proportions that didn't look right. His legs looked too human. His arms seemed a bit squat. His shoes looked more like normal gym shoes. The posters almost imply some sort of electrical effect surrounds him. He has two eyes, instead of one giant eyeball that sort of dips down in the center. To be blunt, he looks more like some generic Sonic the Hedgehog knock-off character, rather than the real Sonic. There's a dissonance there that is difficult to overcome. Especially since it would have been easy to go ahead and have a more literal adaptation that still looked acceptable.
I mean, there's a chance this Sonic the Hedgehog film could be okay. Maybe it will be so bad that it's good. But a lot seems stacked against it. It is going for a buddy cop vibe that Sonic has never had. It is set in the real world, without trying to even make it a Sonic-themed version of the real world. It also offers a variation of the character that looks totally different from the one we know and love. It is a lot to deal with and accept at once, and that could be bad news.