How Can SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Become a Great Movie? We've Got Some Ideas
Quick question: what do you love about Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog? The iconic designs? The classic characters? The gameplay experience? All of those would have been acceptable answers, but the most likely response is speed. The games give players an incredible rush while blazing through stages at velocities that only the Flash could dream about. Now, try to imagine the same experience as a movie. It’s not that easy to picture as a 90-minute feature, is it? And yet the Sonic movie has new life this week, thanks to Deadpool director Tim Miller.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Miller is executive producing the Sonic the Hedgehog film adaptation, with Blur Studios’ Jeff Fowler set to make his directorial debut on the movie. The project is moving from Sony to Paramount, and it will apparently blend live action with CGI animation. But the report doesn’t reveal how the game series will be adapted into a story worthy of the big screen. That’s kind of important, because the Sonic games have never really been that big on story. Personality? Sure. Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and even Shadow the Hedgehog can convey their attitude in the way that they move and pose. But that’s a long way from making them into characters who can hold our attention in a movie theater.
One of the reasons that video game movies have struggled so badly is that filmmakers don’t always seem to realize that many of the best aspects of games simply aren’t suited for movies. Video games are an active medium. When gamers play a Sonic title, they become Sonic. He isn’t just some corporate icon. He’s their avatar. Movies are a more passive experience, since viewers don’t control the outcome. This means that we need reasons to follow Sonic if he is no longer “us.” Recreating the speedy animations and action sequences is the easy part. Weaving Sonic and his world into a compelling narrative is going to be much harder.
However, it can be done, and comics can lead the way. Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog series built on the foundation of the ‘90s cartoon show and expanded the mythology of Sonic beyond the scope of the games while fleshing out his world and supporting players. The series ran for 290 issues, which is unmatched among video game-inspired comics. Writer Ken Penders deserves a lot of credit for what he did with the Sonic franchise. Penders wrote 148 issues of the series, introduced several new characters and locations, and generally added depth and stakes to the series that weren't there before. Unfortunately, almost none of that will be available to Miller and Fowler’s Sonic movie. Penders filed a lawsuit against Archie and Sega over his work, and the comic series subsequently eliminated almost all of Penders' contributions to the canon before rebooting the continuity.
That’s unfortunate, but Miller and Fowler could still examine Penders’ comic books to determine what worked and what didn’t. More than anything, the Archie Comics run proved that Sonic can move beyond the somewhat simple stories in the games. The real challenge faced by the filmmakers isn’t how cool they can make Sonic look while he’s running or how awesome they can make the visuals. They need to make us care about Sonic and his world as if they weren’t based on anything that came before it. To be honest, Deadpool was easy by comparison. Once Miller got the greenlight from Fox, Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth seemed to perfectly channel the character. Somehow, they need to find a way for Sonic to connect with the audience on his own terms, and not a player icon. If they can pull off that trick, then maybe Sonic really can be a movie star.
Images: Sega/Archie Comics