Sonic the Hedgehog is speeding his way into theaters.
Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Sonic the Hedgehog, Jennifer Lawrence, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. If one of these names sounds out of place, it shouldn’t. Sonic the Hedgehog may be a video game series but the character’s star power and sales numbers (over $1 billion in revenue) put his value right up there with Hollywood’s biggest stars. Looking to capitalize on Sonic’s international fanbase, Paramount Pictures has secured the film rights to produce a Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared on the Sega Genesis video game console in 1991. The series exploded in popularity and Sonic became the face of the company. Sonic’s chief rival, Mario, may have received a live-action movie in 1993 but Sega’s red shoed ‘dude with a tude’ is still tapping his feet waiting for his time in the Hollywood spotlight. After 26 years, it appears a live-action-ish Sonic movie will finally happen.
Before Paramount acquired the rights, The Sonic the Hedgehog Movie had been simmering on the backburner over at Sony Pictures for a couple of years. The initial plan was to create a live-action/animated CG-hybrid series similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with Deadpool director Tim Miller onboard as a producer, Jeff Fowler set to direct, and Josh Miller and Patrick Casey working on the screenplay.
Producer Neal H. Moritz (22 Jump Street) was overseeing The Sonic Movie (listed on IMDb as Sonic the Hedgehog) when he worked at Sony. After Moritz left Sony for Paramount he made securing the rights to Sonic the Hedgehog one of his first orders of business. While the picture was at Sony, the plan was to churn out at least one new Sonic Movie a year. Here’s a series description according to Deadline,
[The] Pic will focus on Sonic’s rivalry with characters from the video game, including his evil nemesis Dr. Eggman. Sonic uses his stature as world’s fastest hedgehog to move at supersonic speed to protect his friends from their enemies.
After reading the Sonic the Hedgehog movie announcement there’s only one question worth asking: Will Sonic the Hedgehog be the first great video game movie? Hollywood has been making video game movies for nearly 30 years and the genre is still waiting for its first masterpiece. Actually, forget masterpiece, how about something universally adored? The highest grossing video game movie of all time is Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ($131,168,070) which came out in June of 2001. That’s right. 2001!
Is it possible that Sonic the Hedgehog is the film that changes video game movies forever? The film’s director, Jeff Fowler’s, IMDb page is light on credits. His only directing credit is a short from 2004 titled, Gopher Broke. Sonic the Hedgehog’s screenwriters are more prolific but their joint credits on titles like Team Hot Wheels: Build the Epic Race don’t fill me with optimism.
At a time when Hollywood is willing to mine any property that offers a hint of name recognition it’s baffling that video game movies aren’t a lucrative genre. Last year, two newcomers, Assassin’s Creed and The Angry Birds Movie made it into the top ten highest grossing video game movies list. It’s worth noting that Assassin’s Creed, a series known for its deep mythology and intricate characters, fared far worse than The Angry Birds Movie, which is based on a series that is essentially plotless.
For the Sonic the Hedgehog movie to succeed, Fowler and his screenwriters must pay homage to the series’ colorful world and beloved characters without alienating newcomers, which is the formula countless big screen remakes stick to. Considering that we’ve seen successful adaptations of The Brady Bunch, Pirates of the Caribbean, and 21 Jump Street, an enjoyable (and profitable) Sonic the Hedgehog movie sounds doable.
Sonic the Hedgehog is scheduled for a 2019 release.