The trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film hit the internet on Tuesday. The response was less than enthusiastic, with many people complaining about the character’s design. While the vast majority expressed displeasure, I was not one of those people. While at work, I watched the trailer and gleefully yelled: “I’m pumped for this movie!” As someone who loves Jim Carrey and Sonic, it was a match made in heaven for me. The new design for Sonic wasn’t incredible, but it was far from terrible. I liked that the studio wanted to make the character its own creation. Well, Paramount has now decided to redesign Sonic before the film’s release. While this seems like a win for fans, I’m not too thrilled. In fact, I think Paramount caving into the criticism can have damaging consequences in the future.
New look, same attitude, and that’s okay
Sonic acts like I’ve known the character for years. He talks like a smart ass, he’s edgier than Mario and Crash Bandicoot, and his attitude is very ’90s. Sonic is very much a character from that time, but there’s a charm to him. His look is what takes some time to get used to. The short, spunky hedgehog doesn’t exist anymore. He’s taller, more muscular, and has some human features to him. Considering the trailer explains his character is an alien, his new design makes sense. Regardless, we are not in the ’90s — this is 2019. Characters have changed over the years. While Mario has stayed the same, iconic characters have received redesigns over time. Let’s not forget Sonic Boom. Look at how all of the characters had different looks. That show and design were intended for a younger audience, and the character models reflected that.
With Sonic the Hedgehog, Paramount set out to make a universe all its own. This isn’t connected to the games and in fact looks to be loosely based on the source material. Sonic’s look is unique to the world the film is establishing, even if Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik adopts his iconic look at the very end of the trailer. Why should there be such backlash over a character design? Does the studio need to please everyone? With today’s announcement, I can’t help but feel that Paramount was forced into creating something that wasn’t their vision to begin with. Let’s not forget that someone’s job was to work hard on a character design. There are also artists and effects people that spent months creating the look for the entire film. A redesign takes them back to the drawing board.
It’s Sonic now. Who’s next?
Sure, Sonic The Hedgehog looked different in the trailer, but as I said, that was Paramount’s call. Sega also worked with the studio, so the company was okay with the new design. I can’t help but think of when Ninja Theory released DmC a few years ago. When it was revealed, fans were outraged over Dante’s new look. People threatened to boycott the game, and I remember hearing my peers talk about how the game would fail critically and financially. After launching, it reached 86 on Metacritic, and it had good sales, just not as high as Capcom had hoped.
Just because something isn’t to your liking, that doesn’t mean it’ll be bad. Not everything is well received upon its initial reveal. A lot of people trashed Captain Marvel when the teaser trailer debuted. I was part of the group of people that expressed displeasure over the reveal of Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite. While the latter didn’t wow me as I thought, it was far from a disaster. It’s a shame that we live in an internet culture where the majority automatically goes after things without giving time to process what they’ve seen.
In a brilliant piece at IGN, Brian Altano talks about his quick negative reaction to the trailer, how he joined in on the trash talk on Twitter, and then how he immediately regretted doing that. After all, he notes, the movie isn’t even geared toward him.
It’s like the majority of people online like to pile on with a popular opinion and roll with it. How many people trashing Sonic even planned on watching it in the first place? I’ve seen so many people saying that Detective Pikachu looks excellent while Sonic doesn’t. Why should they be compared? Just because they’re video game adaptations? I don’t think that’s right. Why are we pitting different things against each other?
Conclusion: Nervous about the future
Look, I’m not taking away from people being happy. There are a lot of fans on Twitter rejoicing over the fact that Sonic is getting a redesign to their liking. I hope that this leads to people going to see the movie. I would hate for Paramount and Sega to cave in, only for the film to flop in the box office. That would make this whole controversy be for naught. C’mon. If you are someone who championed for Sega to change Sonic’s look to what we’re getting in the final product, watch the film. If you were planning on watching Sonic the Hedgehog with the original design, please support it in November.
When people are very vocal, studios seem to listen. While this can be a good thing at times, I think it leads to something dangerous. It robs people of their creativity. I like when people switch things up and subvert expectations. Redesigns can lead to new experiences and bring in new fans. Change is not a bad thing. In fact, change leads to new and exciting things. Sonic the Hedgehog may not have been what most fans were expecting, but it was a daring decision. Unfortunately, we won’t see this version hit screens, and that’s a shame.
I’m scared for the future of movies and video games. I’m concerned that people are so vocal that studios are compromising their own vision to please people that may or may not even be interested in the first place. Sonic the Hedgehog is going to be the catalyst for how studios react to audience feedback going forward. We’re in for a wild ride, and I don’t think the future is bright for creativity when studios care too much about how too many people feel.
For the other side of this debate, check out Greg Bargas’s article about why the Sonic redesign is a good thing! Then let us know in the comments where you fall on this debate.