Sonic the Hedgehog (film)

Sonic the Hedgehog[b] is a 2020 fantasy adventure film[6] based on the video game franchise published by Sega. The film is directed by Jeff Fowler (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. It stars Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog and Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik, as well as James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, and Neal McDonough. In the film, Sonic teams up with local town sheriff Tom Wachowski to escape the government and defeat Robotnik, who wants to steal Sonic's powers for his robotics.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJeff Fowler
Produced by
Written by
Based onSonic the Hedgehog
by Sega[1][a]
Starring
Music byTom Holkenborg
CinematographyStephen F. Windon
Edited by
Production
companies
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 25, 2020 (2020-01-25) (Paramount Theatre)
  • February 14, 2020 (2020-02-14) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes[4]
Country
LanguageEnglish
Budget$81–95 million[7][8]
Box office$113 million[9][10]

In 2013, Sony Pictures acquired the film rights to the franchise, and by 2014, had a movie adaptation in development, in collaboration with Sega Sammy subsidiary Marza Animation Planet. Fowler was hired to direct in 2016. After Sony put the project in turnaround, Paramount Pictures acquired it in 2017, and the majority of the cast had signed on by August 2018. Filming took place between September and October 2018 in Ladysmith and Parksville, both on Vancouver Island, and in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was initially scheduled to be released in the United States on November 8, 2019, but after an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the first trailer, Paramount delayed the film to redesign Sonic, whose original design was highly criticized. The redesign was shown in a new trailer, with Sonic's new appearance receiving praise.

Sonic the Hedgehog premiered at the Paramount Theatre on January 25, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 14, 2020. The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics,[11] with praise for the cast performances (particularly Carrey's), Sonic's design, visuals and faithfulness to the source material, but criticism for its plot and perceived lack of originality.[12][13]

Plot

Sonic is an extraterrestrial blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds. His caretaker, Longclaw the Owl, encourages him to hide his powers, but Sonic does not listen, resulting in a tribe of echidnas attempting to abduct him. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of rings which open portals to other planets, using one to send him to Earth while she holds off the echidnas. Sonic spends the next ten years living in secret in the town of Green Hills, Montana. He idolizes the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski, and his veterinarian wife, Maddie. Tom has recently been hired by the San Francisco Police Department and is preparing to move.

Although he enjoys his life, Sonic longs for real friends. One night, he plays baseball by himself and, after realizing his loneliness, becomes upset and starts running around the field. The energy Sonic emits creates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest. The United States Department of Defense enlists roboticist and scientific genius Dr. Robotnik to help discover the cause of the outage. Robotnik discovers and tracks Sonic, who hides in the Wachowskis' shed. Just as he is opening a portal to escape through, Sonic is discovered and shot with a tranquilizer by Tom, causing him to drop his bag of rings through the portal, which leads to San Francisco. After Sonic awakens, Tom reluctantly agrees to help Sonic recover the rings. Robotnik invades the house, but Sonic and Tom escape. Robotnik comes across one of Sonic's quills and has Tom declared a domestic terrorist.

Tom and Sonic narrowly evade Robotnik and grow closer as they journey to San Francisco. Tom learns of Sonic's desire to make at least one real friend. Meanwhile, Robotnik slowly loses his sanity as his search for Sonic becomes more obsessive. Sonic disapproves of Tom's decision to leave Green Hills, arguing that he is leaving his true friends. Sonic is injured by one of Robotnik's drones shortly before the two arrive in San Francisco, where Tom is reunited with Maddie. Maddie helps revive Sonic, and the three travel to the Transamerica Pyramid, where Sonic's bag of rings landed. Robotnik and his robots attack them at the top, but Sonic uses the rings to teleport Tom and Maddie back to Green Hills before taking on Robotnik. Using the power of Sonic's quill, Robotnik achieves supersonic speed and pursues Sonic across the world.

Robotnik and Sonic's fight eventually makes it back to Green Hills, where Robotnik overpowers Sonic. However, Tom intervenes, and Sonic regains his strength after Tom refers to him as a friend. Sonic reclaims the energy that Robotnik is using. With help from Tom, Sonic uses a ring to send Robotnik to a planet made of mushrooms. With Robotnik defeated, Tom and Maddie decide to stay in Green Hills and let Sonic live in their house with them. The US government erases all evidence of the incident, including records of Robotnik's existence. However, Robotnik, still in possession of Sonic's quill, begins plotting his revenge.

In a mid-credit scene, Tails, an anthropomorphic two-tailed fox from Sonic's world, emerges from a ring portal in search of Sonic.

Cast

  • Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic: An anthropomorphic blue hedgehog with supersonic speeds who is on the run from Robotnik and the United States government. Schwartz also provided the facial motion capture for Sonic.[14][15]
    • Benjamin L. Valic as young Sonic
  • Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik: A mad scientist and inventor who is after Sonic's super-speed powers for world conquest.[16] Carrey described the character as "a madman" and added saying; "He's got 300 IQ so it took a week and a half to prepare" and later said; "Robotnik wants to control humanity with the machines. Sonic is a power that he needs to control the world."[17] Sonic nicknames him "Eggman" - his alias from the video game series - in reference to his egg-shaped robot drones.
  • James Marsden as Tom Wachowski: The sheriff of Green Hills who wishes to join the SFPD. He befriends Sonic and aids him in his quest to stop Robotnik. Sonic refers to him as 'The Donut Lord'.[18]
  • Tika Sumpter as Maddie Wachowski: Tom's wife who later helps him and Sonic evade Robotnik. She is a veterinarian and referred to as 'The Pretzel Lady' by Sonic. [19]
  • Lee Majdoub as Stone: A government agent who works closely with Robotnik.[20]
  • Natasha Rothwell[21] as Rachel: Maddie's sister
  • Adam Pally as Wade Whipple: A police officer in Green Hills and Tom's friend.[22]
  • Neal McDonough as Major Bennington: A soldier who holds a dislike to Robotnik.[22]
  • Frank C. Turner as Crazy Carl: A conspiracist in Green Hills who refers to Sonic as 'The Blue Devil'.[23]

Additionally, Colleen Villard, the current voice of Tails in the video game series, reprises her role for the mid-credits scene.[24] Garry Chalk, who previously voiced Grounder and Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Underground respectively, appears as a US military officer. Riff Raff was cast in an undisclosed role, but was cut from the film.[25][26][27] Donna Jay Fulks voices Longclaw, an anthropomorphic owl and Sonic's caretaker.

Production

Development

Development for a film adaptation based on the Sonic the Hedgehog video games began in 1993 during production of DIC Entertainment's television show Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Michealene Risley, the newly appointed consumer products director who helped green-light Adventures, negotiated with several Hollywood producers. Sega CEO Tom Kalinske, however, was wary of damaging the brand, citing the commercial and critical failures of the Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter films. Despite Kalinske's concerns, Sega was enthusiastic about a film adaptation. In August 1994, Sega struck a development deal with MGM and Trilogy Entertainment Group, with Pen Densham as the executive producer of the film.[28]

MGM and Sega hired Richard Jefferies, an associate of Risley from her days at Marvel Comics, to write a film treatment. At the time, Sega was developing Sonic X-treme for its next console, the Sega Saturn, and asked Jefferies to feature the Saturn in the screenplay. Jefferies' treatment, entitled Sonic the Hedgehog: Wonders of the World, was submitted in May 1995. The story involved a 12-year-old boy named Josh Pinski accidentally bringing Sonic and Robotnik to life from his Saturn; Josh and Sonic battle to stop Robotnik stealing the world's landmarks and turning the Earth's children into robots. While the draft received a positive response among MGM and Sega executives, Shinobu Toyoda[clarification needed] suggested Kalinske replace Robotnik with a meaner villain. MGM canceled the project after a failed attempt to revive the film at DreamWorks; Jeffries suggested that the film was scrapped as both Sega and MGM wanted a higher share of the profits, while Densham said it followed creative differences between Sega and Trilogy.[28]

In 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the rights to produce and distribute a film based on Sonic the Hedgehog.[29] On June 10, 2014, a live-action animated film was announced as a joint venture between Sony Pictures and Marza Animation Planet, a Japan-based subsidiary of Sega Sammy Group.[30] It would be produced by Neal H. Moritz by his Original Film banner alongside Takeshi Ito, Mie Onishi, and Toru Nakahara, and written by Evan Susser and Van Robichaux.[30] In February 2016, Sega CEO Hajime Satomi said the film was scheduled for 2018.[31] Blur Studio's Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler were hired in 2016 to develop it; Fowler would make his feature directorial debut, and Miller and Fowler would executive produce.[32] Patrick Casey, Josh Miller, and Oren Uziel were writing the screenplay, while Casey and Miller wrote the story.[32][33]

On October 2, 2017, Paramount Pictures announced that they had acquired the rights after Sony's Columbia Pictures put the film into a turnaround. Almost all of the production team remained unchanged and intact.[34] In February 2018, it was announced that the film would be released in November 2019.[35][36]

Casting

On May 29, 2018, it was reported that Paul Rudd was in talks for a lead role as Tom, "a cop who befriends Sonic and will likely team up to defeat Dr. Robotnik", but was later denied.[37] A day later, it was announced that James Marsden was cast in an undisclosed role, but later revealed to be Tom Wachowski.[18] In June 2018, Tika Sumpter was cast. Jim Carrey was cast to play the villain, Dr. Robotnik.[16] In August 2018, Ben Schwartz joined as the voice of Sonic.[38] A few days later, Adam Pally and Neal McDonough were cast.[39] Debs Howard and Elfina Luk joined the cast the following November.[40]

Filming

Principal photography began in mid-September 2018 and ended in Vancouver, Ladysmith, and Vancouver Island on October 16, 2018. Post-production and additional photography took place in October in New York, where Carrey shot his scenes.[41]

Visual effects and design

 
Comparison of Sonic in both trailers; from top to bottom: original design from the first trailer released in April and edited design from the second trailer released in November.

The visual effects are provided by Moving Picture Company (MPC), Marza Animation Planet, Blur Studio, Trixter and Digital Domain.[42] The production team created a realistic version of Sonic using computer animation, adding fur, new running sneakers, two separate eyes,[43] and a more humanlike physique.[44] They used Ted, the living teddy bear from the Ted films, as a reference to insert a CG character into a real-world setting. Executive producer Tim Miller said: "It would be weird and it would feel like he was running around nude if he was some sort of otter-like thing. It was always, for us, fur, and we never considered anything different. It's part of what integrates him into the real world and makes him a real creature." According to Miller, Sega was not "entirely happy" with the design of Sonic's eyes.[43]

On May 2, 2019, in response to criticism of the design, Fowler announced on Twitter that Sonic would be redesigned.[45] The November release date was delayed to February 14, 2020 as a result.[46] Artist Tyson Hesse, who worked on previous Sonic the Hedgehog media, was brought on to lead the redesign. Sonic was given larger and differently colored eyes, new sneakers, white gloves, and a less humanlike body to better resemble Sonic's video game design.[47] Sonic was redesigned by the Japan-based Marza Animation Planet.[48] The redesign added an estimated $5 million to the production budget.[49]

Music

In February 2019, Tom Holkenborg, who previously worked with executive producer Tim Miller on Deadpool, signed on to compose the score.[50] Antonio Di Iorio, one of Holkenborg's assistant composers, also contributed music to a majority of the cues heard on the soundtrack album.[51] It was released alongside the movie on February 14, 2020 in both digital and physical formats. Riff Raff, who had a role in the film but was ultimately cut, will appear on the soundtrack.[52] An original song titled "Speed Me Up" by Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty, and Sueco the Child appears in the film's soundtrack; the single was publicly released on January 24 on Atlantic Records.[53] The song "Friends" by Hyper Potions, which previously appeared as the opening theme of Sonic Mania, also appears during the film, along with arrangements of tracks from Masato Nakamura's score for the original Sonic the Hedgehog video game.[54]

Marketing

 
Sonic's initial design received heavy criticism for his overly humanoid appearance and lack of similarities to his game appearance. Fowler confirmed on May 2, 2019 that his design would be changed, with the film also being delayed for three months.[45]

Test footage was screened at the Comic Con Experience in Brazil on December 6, 2018.[55] A teaser poster was released on December 10, 2018, revealing the silhouette design of Sonic.[43] It received a mostly negative response from critics and fans,[56] and was compared unfavorably to another 2019 video game film adaptation, Detective Pikachu, which had added fur and skin textures to the Pokémon characters.[44] Sonic's humanoid appearance was described as evoking an uncanny valley response.[57] Former members of Sonic Team, who created the Sonic the Hedgehog games, also expressed surprise.[58]

A second poster was leaked online shortly after. Fans complained of a lack of resemblance to the games and criticized the positioning of Sonic's legs, spawning an Internet meme in which users recreated the position.[59][60] The film's official Twitter account posted an image of Sonic behind a sign reading: "Can't a guy work out?"[61] Images of the Sonic design were leaked in March 2019 to more fan criticism. Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka was "shocked" by the design and felt the ratio of Sonic's head and abdomen was imbalanced.[62] According to animator Max Schneider, Paramount expected that Sonic fans would object to the redesign but that general audiences would not care, as had been the case with their 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. He said Paramount felt the design gelled with the real-world setting and characters.[63]

The first trailer premiered on April 4, 2019, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas,[64] and was released online on April 30. It received criticism,[65][66][67] with Gita Jackson of Kotaku calling it "horrific" and "a blight upon this weary earth".[65] Sonic's design was criticized for its humanoid appearance,[65][67] while some writers found the use of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" jarring.[68][69] Conversely, CNET's Sean Keane praised the humor and references to the games.[70] Within two days, the trailer was viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube, and had received hundreds of thousands of "dislike" ratings, drastically outnumbering the "like" ratings.[71]

A second trailer revealing the redesigned Sonic was released on November 12, 2019.[72] The trailer received far more positive responses, with many praising Sonic's new design. The tone and the humor also received positive reviews.[73] Naka said he felt the new design was "much more Sonic-like".[74] Schneider said the redesign took around 5 months and was achieved without stressful overtime.[63] The second trailer received the highest like-to-dislike ratio of any trailer on Google in the last three years.[75]

As a promotional tie-in, the movie versions of Sonic (both Teenage and Baby variants) were added as playable characters to the Sonic Dash and Sonic Forces mobile games.[76]

Release

Sonic the Hedgehog was originally scheduled to be released sometime in 2018 by Sony Pictures Releasing under its Columbia Pictures label, but in February 2018, shortly after taking over the rights, Paramount Pictures rescheduled it to November 15, 2019.[31][77] The film was later moved a week earlier to November 8, 2019.[78] Following the announcement of the character's redesign in May 2019, director Jeff Fowler announced that the film would again be delayed for just one last time to February 14, 2020, to get "a little more time to make Sonic just right."[79] The redesign was later shown in a new trailer released worldwide on November 12, 2019. The film's world premiere took place at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles on January 25, 2020.[80]

Reception

Box office

As of February 17, 2020, Sonic the Hedgehog grossed $70 million in the United States and Canada, and $43 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $113 million.[9]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Fantasy Island, The Photograph and Downhill, and was initially projected to gross $40–50 million from 4,130 theaters in its four-day President's Day opening weekend.[81][7] After making $21 million on its first day (including $3 million from Thursday night previews), estimates were raised to $64 million.[82] It went on to debut to $58 million over the three-day weekend and $70 million over the four days, breaking Detective Pikachu's record for the biggest opening weekend by a video game-based film.[83]

Critical response

 
Jim Carrey was praised by critics for his performance as Dr. Robotnik, who compared it to the energetic roles from earlier in his career.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 145 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Fittingly fleet and frequently fun, Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game-inspired adventure the whole family can enjoy — and a fine excuse for Jim Carrey to tap into the manic energy that launched his career."[84] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[85] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, and PostTrak reported it received an average 4 out of 5 stars, with 70% of people saying they would definitely recommend it.[83]

Akeem Lawanson of IGN gave the film a score of 7 out of 10, praising the performances and the nostalgia, stating, "While this family-friendly action-comedy suffers from a simplistic story and leans too heavily on tired visual cliches, Sonic the Hedgehog is nevertheless boosted by solid performances from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. Their ongoing cat-and-mouse game is entertaining, and passionate fans of the Sega franchise should appreciate all the nods to Sonic's history."[86] Dami Lee of The Verge gave the film a positive review, praising the nostalgic elements seen in the film, writing that it "shines when it remembers it's based on a video game, and there's some genuinely fun stuff — like when Sonic uses his time-stopping powers or Robotnik's elaborate 'evil-plotting' montage that makes you wonder why more movies don't feature bad guys with choreographed dance sequences. Carrey plays up Robotnik as the cartoon villain he is, and it's a true delight to watch him in his element."[87] Corey Plante of Inverse called it a "road trip superhero movie" and "the best superhero movie of 2020" so far.[88] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter, gave the film a positive review, saying: "Flesh-and-blood actors help keep this game-derived kids' flick afloat."[89]

Gene Park of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying: "The Sonic the Hedgehog film is the furthest thing from Cats, despite the early comparisons. Wary fans expecting the usual easy target to mock will instead find something to fervently celebrate for years."[90] Amon Warrman of Empire gave the film two out of five stars, writing: "An on-form Jim Carrey can't stop Sonic's live-action debut from feeling like a missed opportunity. If the teased sequels do materialize, here's hoping the storytelling levels up."[91] Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times gave the film a negative review and wrote: "Sonic now resembles a cartoon hedgehog instead of a spray-painted marmot. But if anything was done to de-genericize the script, it hasn't helped. Not that the Sega games — in which the fleet-footed hero zips around doing flips and collecting gold coins (which here encircle the Paramount mountain) — gave the director, Jeff Fowler, much to work with."[92]

Variety's Owen Gleiberman criticized the tone: "For all the borderline tedium I felt at Sonic the Hedgehog, I do realize that this is a picture made for 8-year-olds. And they'll probably like it just fine. Yet I would also call the overly kiddified tone of the movie a mistake."[93] Writing for The Guardian, Steve Rose gave the film two out of five, saying elements were "clearly indebted" to other films, such as QuickSilver's powers in the X-Men movies, and finding the message of friendship "trite and familiar".[94] Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com gave the film one out of four, writing: "Sonic the Hedgehog is only as successful as the amount of time you want to spend watching its animated protagonist go on instantly forgettable adventures, and boy, is that unfortunate."[95]

Notes

  1. ^ Sonic the Hedgehog was developed by Sonic Team, published by Sega, directed and programmed by Yuji Naka, designed by Hirokazu Yasuhara, and illustrated by Naoto Ohshima.[2][3]
  2. ^ Japanese: ソニック・ザ・ムービー Hepburn: Sonikku za Mūbī

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External links