Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

A tale of two trailers: Two sides of the video game movie coin

by Tanner Kinney Nothing is more cursed and inspires worse nightmares than movies based on video games. It seems like every time, whether the source material is good, bad, or mediocre, the producers of these films know absolutely nothing about the games and just make a movie that vaguely resembles its namesake. From the original stinker in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, or the Uwe Boll classics like Bloodrayne, or even the seven thousand Resident Evil films that exist to keep the director and his wife employed, it’s all bad. Even the best video game movies are only good by comparison, and the bar is so low it’s knocking on Satan’s wine cellar. So, if you were to approach me and tell me that not just one, but TWO high-profile video game movies based on classic franchises were releasing this year, I would be shocked. Surely they’ve learned their lesson, right? You can’t just keep brutalizing beloved franchises into whatever Hollywood-approved picture and expect something watchable, you have to try something new! Break the mold, prove that the game deserves to be turned into a full movie and not just a Netflix mini-series or Cartoon Network show. Yet, here we are, with both Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog slowly approaching our theaters, menacingly, with hyper-realistic fur and way too many quips.

What’s interesting, though, are the reactions to these two movies; they are complete polar opposites of each other. While people are fawning over the cool redesigns of Pokemon in Detective Pikachu, along with the fact that Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is voicing Pikachu, the same people are screaming in (justified) horror at the Sonic redesign that makes him look like a naked man-hog. Detective Pikachu honors the legacy of the franchise with dozens of easter eggs and fun references, while Sonic has two characters, some random powers, and a time-stop gimmick stolen from X-Men: Days of Future Past. So, I wanted to discuss some reasons why people might be reacting so negatively to Sonic when Detective Pikachu is receiving glowing praise.

Detective Pikachu worked to win people over

An important thing to note is that Detective Pikachu didn’t have everyone on board on day one. Even on this very site, some of my fellow editors had doubts about whether or not it would be a colossal trainwreck of epic proportions. The Pokemon looked cursed, Mr. Mime looks evil, the world is so strange, we know nothing about the story, etc. People weren’t prepared for hyper-realistic Pokemon, and even I wasn’t prepared for hyper-realistic Pokemon. I remember seeing that Mr. Mime and asking myself, “What is this? Why is this? Do I like this?” To answer the question: yes, I did like it. It wasn’t until a couple more trailers released and people got to warm up to not only Ryan Reynolds as the cuddly Pikachu, but also the world and how it was designed. The sleek, modern design of the city contrasting with the natural looks of the Pokemon started to grow on more and more people. Now, at the time of writing, we are a week and some change away from release, and the movie is looking golden. Especially in the wake of the Sonic trailer, it looks even better. So, will people warm up to the Sonic movie? My guess is a soft maybe. Unlike the Detective Pikachu designs, which are only strange compared to the original designs but work together cohesively, the new Sonic design doesn’t really gel well with the world he’s in. Many people have made impressive fan edits of Sonic to make him look more classic, and while they look impressive still, they likely would still be as unsettling in motion. As fellow Byte writer Jack Gillespie aptly worded it: “Seeing him in motion literally triggered my flight-or-fight response.” However, there are still good aspects to the trailer we have yet to see more of. The writing is very much 90s-level cheesy, and playing on that would benefit the movie significantly. Showing more Jim Carrey in action wouldn’t hurt either since his Dr. Robotnik is one of the few actually good decisions this movie makes. The action also doesn’t look that bad, and there are hopefully more creative action sequences within the film. If we don’t go on a trademark Sonic loop-de-loop, the film can truly be considered a failure.

Sonic the Hedgehog gets almost everything wrong

The Sonic the Hedgehog trailer, to me, is more interesting than the Detective Pikachu trailer for the sole reason that it feels like they got every single thing they could possibly get wrong horribly, tragically wrong. Movies that intentionally try to get everything wrong couldn’t concoct the level of badness that Sonic manages to achieve. It breaks the conventional barriers of trailer making that were previously shattered by Suicide Squad with a legendary sonic boom. And, at least to me, that makes it wonderful. To everyone else, that doesn’t make it look good. So, what exactly does this trailer get wrong? The casting puts great actors into roles way below their pay grade, particularly the wonderful James Marsden getting put sidekick to ANOTHER CGI animal. Visually the movie is unsettling, as we’ve already discussed. There are a number of unanswered questions and questionable decisions made for some of the characters. The movie follows absolutely NO plot threads of any Sonic game ever. On top of all that, absolutely none of the jokes land, even if they are delivered in a comedic way and almost manage to be funny. The things that are funny are funny for the wrong reasons, like Sonic having teeth or the random usage of “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Speaking of, the cherry on top is the usage of a looping sample of “Gangsta’s Paradise” interspersed between generic trailers noises and sound stings. There are so many questions about this one choice alone. For example, why use that song? What does it mean in relation to Sonic the Hedgehog? If you were gonna pick a cheesy 90s song to represent Sonic’s dated nature, why not use some more up-tempo song? Europop, for example, would work wonderfully. Classic Sonic Butt-rock would fit fantastically as well. Was Crush 40 just too expensive to contact? Hell, even “Running in the 90s” would be better, even if it’s a little on the nose. I can’t think of a song that fits as badly as “Gangsta’s Paradise,” although I’m sure there’s something.

The game was rigged against Sonic from the start

The biggest thing working against the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is the concept of the movie itself. As established, movies based on video games have to work twice as hard as any other movie to win people over. That much is evident from Detective Pikachu. Add on the posters for the movie that showed a silhouette of the Hellbeast they named “Sonic,” and an already skeptical public was starting to sweat at the thought of seeing it in action. As leaks started to drop about Robotnik making breastfeeding jokes or the song picked for the trailer, people were expecting a disaster. People WANTED a disaster, and in all honesty, the Sonic trailer is bad and dated, but not any more so than other similar trailers. The fact that the trailer was as bad as people expected just served to prove everyone right. Yet, I’m willing to bet if the trailer was a mind-blowing spectacle and a perfect recreation of everything people wanted from Sonic, there would still be hate. There would still be memes about Sonic having teeth or collecting dirty old shoes. There would still be jokes about whatever song they selected, and edits of the trailer featuring great moments of the Sonic community. Sonic is the punching bag of classic game characters because of how inconsistent the series has been in quality. There are as many people who blindly hate Sonic as there are people who blindly love Sonic and all of their strange original characters. And while I’m more in the camp of “Sonic was never good,” I’m willing to admit the deck was stacked against Sonic from the start. Now, we’ll just have to wait for a second trailer to see if things can’t improve for the Blue Blur. Will we bring back classic Sonic tunes and references? Will he skateboard at all? Are there going to be any actually good jokes? Hopefully, the answer to these questions is “yes.” I’d love for this Sonic movie to be good like Detective Pikachu is likely going to be. However, I’ve got a bad feeling that Sonic the Hedgehog will be the cinematic equivalent of Sonic 06: a trainwreck you have to see to believe. And I couldn’t be more excited.
Sources: Twitter, YouTube,  Featured Image: IMDb