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Sonic the Hedgehog (film)

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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
Narrated byBen Schwartz
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$306.8 million[9][10]

Sonic the Hedgehog[b] is a 2020 action-adventure comedy film based on the video game franchise published by Sega. The film is directed by Jeff Fowler in his feature directorial debut and written 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 find his lost rings and escape Dr. Robotnik.

Development for a film began in the 1990s, but did not go beyond the planning stage until Sony Pictures acquired the film rights in 2013. Production involved the collaboration of Sega Sammy's Japanese studio Marza Animation Planet, with Fowler brought in to direct in 2016. After Sony put the project in turnaround, Paramount Pictures acquired it in 2017. The majority of the cast signed on by August 2018, and principal filming took place between September and October that year in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Following the negative reaction to the first trailer in 2019, the film's release was delayed by three months to redesign Sonic.

Sonic the Hedgehog premiered at the Paramount Theatre on January 25, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 14, 2020. Critics praised the performances, Sonic's design, light-hearted tone, humor and its faithfulness to the source material, but criticized its plot for a perceived lack of originality.[11][12] The film set the record for the biggest opening weekend for a video game film in the United States and Canada. It grossed $306 million worldwide, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 2020,[13] and the highest-grossing video game film adaptation of all time in North America. A sequel was announced on May 28, 2020.[14]

Plot

Sonic, an extraterrestrial blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds, finds himself sought after by a tribe of echidnas for his power. His guardian, Longclaw the Owl, gives him a bag of rings that can create portals to other planets, using one to send him to Earth while she protects him from the echidnas, and also gives Sonic a map to a planet filled with mushrooms to use if he finds trouble on Earth. Ten years later, Sonic enjoys a secret life near the town of Green Hills, Montana, but longs to make friends. He idolizes the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski, and his veterinarian wife, Maddie, unaware the pair are planning to relocate to San Francisco soon, as Tom has been hired by the San Francisco Police Department.

One night, Sonic becomes upset over his loneliness when playing baseball by himself, and runs at supersonic speed as a result, inadvertently triggering an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest. Roboticist and scientific genius Doctor Robotnik is enlisted by the United States Department of Defense to uncover the source of the outage. Robotnik discovers and tracks Sonic, who hides in the Wachowskis' shed. Tom discovers Sonic and accidentally shoots him with a tranquilizer, causing him to send his bag of rings through a portal to San Francisco. Tom reluctantly agrees to help Sonic before Robotnik arrives at the Wachowskis' house and the two flee. As the pair evade Robotnik, who labels Tom a domestic terrorist, they slowly bond, with Tom learning about Sonic's desire for a real friend.

Robotnik comes across one of Sonic's quills, discovering the power in it has the potential to fuel his robots, and becomes obsessed with capturing Sonic. As he tracks them down, Tom discusses his plans to leave Green Hills, which Sonic disapproves of. Shortly after defeating a robot sent by Robotnik, an explosion injures Sonic. Arriving at San Francisco, Tom brings him to Maddie, who revives him. While Tom explains about their situation to Maddie, Sonic receives a new pair of sneakers from Maddie's niece. The group soon head to the roof of the Transamerica Pyramid, where Sonic's bag of rings landed, and recover them. Robotnik arrives in a hovercraft and attacks them, forcing Sonic to use a ring to send Tom and Maddie back to Green Hills.

Sonic flees from Robotnik, who uses the power of Sonic's quill to match his speed. The two engage in a chase across the world, ultimately returning to Green Hills. Robotnik incapacitates Sonic, but Tom and the other townsfolk intervene, allowing Sonic to regain his strength and reclaim his lost energy. Overcoming Robotnik, Sonic defeats him by sending him to the mushroom planet. Following the incident, Tom and Maddie decide to stay in Green Hills and let Sonic live with them. The US government erases all evidence of the events, including records of Robotnik's existence. Meanwhile, Robotnik, still in possession of Sonic's quill and having lost his sanity, begins plotting his revenge. On Earth, a twin-tailed fox from Sonic's world emerges from a ring portal in search of Sonic.

Cast

Additionally, Colleen Villard, the voice of Tails in the video game series since 2014, reprises her role for the mid-credits scene.[26] Garry Chalk, who previously voiced Grounder and Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Underground respectively, appears as the US Navy Chief of Staff. Donna Jay Fulks voices Longclaw, an anthropomorphic owl and Sonic's caretaker.

Production

Development

Development for a film adaptation of 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 greenlight 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.[27]

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. While the draft received a positive response among MGM and Sega executives, Sega COO Shinobu Toyoda 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.[27]

In 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the rights to produce and distribute a film based on Sonic the Hedgehog.[28] 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 who had produced pre-rendered cutscenes for several Sonic the Hedgehog games.[29] 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.[29] In February 2016, Sega CEO Hajime Satomi said the film was scheduled for 2018.[30] 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.[31] Patrick Casey, Josh Miller, and Oren Uziel were writing the screenplay, while Casey and Miller wrote the story.[31][32]

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.[33] In February 2018, it was announced that the film would be released in November 2019.[34][35]

Early drafts for the film featured Sonic's "Super Sonic" form from the video games. However, the ideas was discarded, as Fowler felt "[i]t didn't make sense to obviously bring in the Super Sonic thing just yet", and wanted the film to focus on the origins of Sonic and Robotnik's relationship.[36] Early drafts also featured more scenes in Sonic's world, with Tails being presented as Sonic's best friend in his world.[37] Another draft also featured Tails as a main character in the film. However, Tails' role was eventually reduced to a cameo in a post-credits scene when the filmmakers choose to develop the story around Sonic being alone on Earth, and choose to instead use Tails in order to tease a potential sequel.[37]

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.[38] A day later, it was announced that James Marsden was cast in an undisclosed role, but later revealed to be Tom Wachowski.[19] In June 2018, Tika Sumpter was cast. Jim Carrey was cast to play the villain, Dr. Robotnik.[17] In August 2018, Ben Schwartz joined as the voice of Sonic.[39] Schwartz, a fan of the original video games, was chosen for the role after Fowler and Miller casted him for a test reading as they pitched the project to several studios.[40] Having enjoyed his performance, they officially casted Schwartz as the voice of Sonic.[40] A few days after Schwartz' casting, Adam Pally and Neal McDonough were cast.[41] Debs Howard and Elfina Luk joined the cast the following November.[42] Riff Raff was cast in an undisclosed role, but was cut from the film.[43][44][45]

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.[46]

Visual effects and design

Comparison of Sonic's design in both trailers: Original in April's trailer (top); Edited in November's trailer (bottom)

The visual effects are provided by Moving Picture Company (MPC), Marza Animation Planet, Blur Studio, Trixter, and Digital Domain.[47] The production team created a realistic version of Sonic using computer animation, adding fur, new running sneakers, two separate eyes,[48] and a more humanlike physique.[49] They used Ted, the living teddy bear from the Ted films, as a reference to insert a CGI character into a real-world setting. Executive producer 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.[48]

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.[50] On May 2, 2019, in response to the near-universal criticism of the design, Fowler announced on Twitter that Sonic would be redesigned.[51] The film was delayed from its original release date of November 8 to February 14, 2020 as a result.[52] 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.[53] Sonic was redesigned by the Japan-based Marza Animation Planet.[54] The redesign added an estimated $5 million to the production budget,[55] took around five months, and was achieved without stressful overtime.[50]

Music

In February 2019, Tom Holkenborg, who previously worked with executive producer Miller on Deadpool, was hired to compose the score.[56] The soundtrack was released alongside the film on February 14, 2020 in both digital and physical formats. Riff Raff, who had a role in the film but was cut, appears on the soundtrack.[57] An original song, "Speed Me Up" by Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil Yachty, and Sueco the Child, appears on the soundtrack; the single was released on January 24 by Atlantic Records.[58] "Speed Me Up" received 15 million streams, along with 1.8 billion views for the "Speed Me Up" TikTok challenge.[59] "Friends" by Hyper Potions, which previously appeared as the opening theme of Sonic Mania, also appears, along with arrangements of tracks from Masato Nakamura's score for the original Sonic the Hedgehog (1991).[60] Holkenborg attempted to capture the feel of Nakamura's soundtracks for the Sonic and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) games, using Yamaha FM synthesizers similar to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive console's YM2612 sound chip.[61]

Release

Sonic the Hedgehog was originally scheduled to be released sometime in 2018 by Sony Pictures Releasing, but in February 2018, shortly after taking over the rights, Paramount Pictures rescheduled it to November 15, 2019.[30][62] The film was later moved a week earlier to November 8, 2019.[63] Following the announcement of Sonic's redesign in May 2019, director Jeff Fowler announced that the film would again be delayed to February 14, 2020, to get "a little more time to make Sonic just right."[64] The film's world premiere took place at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles on January 25, 2020.[65]

Marketing

The heavy criticism of Sonic's initial design led to Fowler delaying the film's release for a further three months to redesign the character.[51]

Test footage was screened at the Comic Con Experience in Brazil on December 6, 2018,[66] and was followed by a teaser poster was released on December 10, 2018, revealing the silhouette design of Sonic.[48] It received a mostly negative response from critics and fans,[67] and was compared unfavorably to another 2019 video game film adaptation, Detective Pikachu, which had added fur and skin textures to the Pokémon characters.[49] Sonic's humanoid appearance was described as evoking an uncanny valley response.[68] Former members of Sonic Team, who created the Sonic the Hedgehog games, also expressed surprise.[69] 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.[70][71] The film's official Twitter account posted an image of Sonic behind a sign reading: "Can't a guy work out?"[72] 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.[73]

The first trailer premiered on April 4, 2019, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas,[74] and was released online on April 30. It received near-unanimous criticism,[75][76][77] with Gita Jackson of Kotaku calling it "horrific" and "a blight upon this weary earth".[75] Sonic's design was criticized for its humanoid appearance,[75][77] while some writers found the use of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" jarring.[78][79] Conversely, CNET's Sean Keane praised the humor and references to the games.[80] 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.[81]

A second trailer revealing the redesigned Sonic was released on November 12, 2019.[82] The trailer received far more positive responses, with many praising Sonic's new design. The tone and the humor also received positive reviews as well as the choice of song with J. J. Fad's "Supersonic".[83] Naka said he felt the new design was "much more Sonic-like".[84] The second trailer received the highest like-to-dislike ratio of any trailer on Google in the last three years.[85] The film's trailers have garnered a total of more than 500 million views worldwide.[59] As a promotional tie-in, the version of Sonic seen in the film was added as a playable character to the Sonic Dash and Sonic Forces mobile games.[86]

Home media

On March 20, 2020, Paramount announced that Sonic the Hedgehog would be released to home media earlier than planned, as many film studios took the decision to release earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[87] The digital version was released on March 31, with Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and DVD versions following on May 19. All home media releases include an original short film entitled Around the World in 80 Seconds.[88][89][90]

Reception

Box office

Sonic the Hedgehog grossed $146.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $160.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $306.8 million.[9] It is currently the second highest-grossing film of 2020.[13]

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.[91][7] After making $21 million on its first day (including $3 million from Thursday night previews), estimates were raised to $64 million.[92] It went on to top the box office with a $58 million debut over the three-day weekend, and $70 million over the four, breaking Detective Pikachu's record for the biggest opening weekend by a video game-based film. It was also the fourth-best President's Day holiday weekend and Jim Carrey's second biggest opening weekend, behind Bruce Almighty (2003).[59] The film's success was contributed in part to the redesign of the lead character and the publicity it created, and the resulting delay to the film's release that allowed it to open during a peak time when it would face less competition from other family films.[93] In its second weekend, Sonic the Hedgehog made $26.2 million and retained the top spot at the box office, bringing its ten-day domestic gross to $106.6 million.[94][95] Sonic the Hedgehog made $16.3 million in its third weekend and was dethroned by newcomer The Invisible Man.[96] On March 14, it became the highest-grossing film based on a video game in US box office history, surpassing Detective Pikachu.[97]

Sonic the Hedgehog was released in 40 countries during its three-day opening weekend, topping the international box office with $43 million. Its strongest international regions were Latin America and Europe, with its largest openings being $6.7 million in Mexico, $6.2 million in the United Kingdom, $4.3 million in France, $3.3 million in Germany, and $3 million in Brazil. Worldwide, it made $101 million over the three-day weekend and $113 million over the four days.[98][99] In its second weekend the film again topped the international box office with $38.3 million from 56 countries for a ten-day overseas gross of $96.5 million, and topped the global box office again with $64.6 million for a ten-day worldwide gross of $203.1 million. Its largest international markets in its first ten days were the United Kingdom ($19.1 million), Mexico ($12.3 million), and France ($9.1 million), retaining the top spot in these markets. The film opened in 16 new markets, led by a number-one debut in Russia ($6.3 million).[100] In Japan and China, the release has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[101][102]

Critical response

Jim Carrey (pictured in 2008) 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 64% based on 222 reviews, with an average rating of 5.78/10. 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."[103] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[104] 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 viewers they surveyed saying they would definitely recommend it.[59]

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 clichés, 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."[105] 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."[106] Corey Plante of Inverse called it a "road trip superhero movie" and "the best superhero movie of 2020" so far.[107] 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."[108]

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."[109] 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."[110] 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."[111]

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."[112] 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".[113] 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."[114]

Sequel

In January 27, 2020, during an interview, Carrey brought up that the expansion of the character Dr. Robotnik could lead up to a potential sequel, "I wouldn't mind going to do another one because it was so much fun, first of all, and a real challenge to try to convince people that I have a triple-digit IQ... There is so much room, you know, Robotnik has not reached his apotheosis."[115]

In February 2020, director Jeff Fowler said that he plans for a potential sequel to feature more elements from the video games.[36] In March 2020, Marsden confirmed that he had signed on for multiple sequels, stating, “I believe, I don't know if I'm supposed to say, as many as they want to make. Yeah, that's my somewhat vague answer.”[116]

In April 2020, Marsden expressed interest in a sequel featuring Tails and additional characters from the games,[117] while Fowler expressed interest in featuring Sonic and Tails' friendship from the games and further developing Dr. Robotnik in a potential sequel.[118] Later that month, Ben Schwartz felt a sequel would make sense because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[119] Co-writer Pat Casey said there had been talks about a potential sequel featuring more elements from the games, but that it had not been approved yet.[37] He expressed interest in a shared universe featuring both Sega and Nintendo characters, but saw it as "unlikely."[37]

A sequel was announced on May 28, 2020, with Jeff Fowler returning as director & Pat Casey and Josh Miller returning as screenwriters. It was also confirmed that Tim Miller, Hajime Satomi, and Haruki Satomi will also be returning as executive producers and Neal H. Mortiz, Toby Ascher, and Toru Nakahara producing the sequel.[14]

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. ^ Known in Japan as Sonic the Movie (Japanese: ソニック・ザ・ムービー, Hepburn: Sonikku za Mūbī)

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