I started off this series with the latest Mortal Kombat movie from 2021. I watched it on HBO MAX just days before they took it down, but now it should be back for anyone who missed out (or maybe it’s gone again). For my second Video Game Ass Movie post I decided to write about the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie (from 2020), even though the sequel was released this past weekend.
*Disclaimer: At the time of writing this post I have not seen Sonic 2, but I do plan to watch it later this week.
How Video Game Movies Are Made: Past & Present
Ever since the 1990’s, Hollywood has tried to capitalize on bringing big video game properties to the big screen (and the small screen). Growing up, there were tons of terrible video game movies released, and I watched most of them. Kids are easy to trick. Show them something familiar and they will want it. Why do you think every food company wants to partner with every big movie, game or new property these days? It makes kids want their stuff.
The problem with these early video game movie adaptations was that they were mostly written, produced, directed and created by people who knew nothing about the actual game. In recent times, most of these video game movies are actually being made by people who grew up playing these games. These are passion projects. It’s like fan fiction, but they are actually getting paid to do it.
Back in the day, the suits asked questions like, “How do we turn this video game into a movie?” In recent adaptations, it’s been more like “How do we bring these characters into a movie?”, “What’s the story here?” or “How do we bring this into our reality?” It feels like more thought is going into these films.
Sonic the Hedgehog is not a Video Game Ass Movie, it’s more a movie based on a video game. It’s also a good movie, because it doesn’t only rely on Sonic or the game’s mechanics of going fast, collecting rings and saving the furry animals.
In the movie, Sonic doesn’t come straight out of a video game into our world. They took the video game world and made it real. They grounded it and made it believable. From there they gave Sonic a reason to escape into the world we know and live in.
Sonic ends up hiding in a small town for years. He lives in the shadows. This allows him to know and understand common pop culture references. Sonic has always been the cool, fast blue dude with an attitude. The film iteration is more goofy and fun.
Sonic is a character that has been seen in many forms by fans. Video games, cartoons, shows. Sonic was the “Mario” of SEGA! Since Sonic has been around for so long, many of us have an idea of what Sonic should be. Sometimes it’s easier to work with a character people already know. Other times they take a board game like Battleship and turn it into a movie and create characters, a world, aliens. Sometimes it’s easier to create within specific limits.
Tom (played by James Marsden) is just as big a character in the film as Sonic. He may even be the main character with Sonic as a supporting character. We start off following Tom around, until Sonic comes in and throws a monkey wrench into his life plans.
The main reason I wanted to see this movie is because Jim Carrey was playing the evil Dr. Robotnik. The previews got me excited to see Jim Carrey play a goofy, silly character like the Jim Carrey I grew up watching. And after seeing the movie I can say he did not disappoint.
Even though Roger Craig Smith has been an amazing Sonic for so many years, I was excited to see someone new take on the role. I really love the very funny Ben Schwartz as Sonic. I think he’s great for this particular version of Sonic.
Why it works
I loved the Sonic movie, even more than I thought I would. What makes this a great “video game” movie to me is how it’s just the story of two unlikely friends on the run. I don’t think every video game film should use this same formula.
HBO is working on a series based on The Last of Us right now, and that’s a game that is heavily focused on the story — and one of the best stories I’ve seen in games. With a game like that they can pretty much retell the same story and it will work.
When it comes to characters like Sonic, that don’t have so much back story to their game I can see them using this type of formula. Create a familiar story, but throw this character in and keep it grounded.
I’m very excited to see Sonic the Hedgehog 2 this week and to see which of his friends join in on the fun. I was a Nintendo kid, but I did play a great amount of Sonic on my Sega Game Gear and at friend’s houses who were Sega kids.