Sonic the Hedgehog is set to be given a makeover ahead of the upcoming Paramount movie based on the legendary Sega hero, a response to widespread backlash to the character’s design. While the trailer sparked concerns about the comedic direction and soundtrack choices, those concerns were trivial in comparison to Sonic fans’ disbelief about the character’s bizarrely human-like appearance. The movie was originally slated for a November release, but only time will tell if the character’s redesign will delay its theatrical debut.
Such vociferous criticism on social media was impossible for the studio to ignore, with director Jeff Fowler stating a willingness to take that criticism on board. There will also be a desire to give this Sega character the Hollywood outing that it deserves. With Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic and Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik, there is enough star power to carry the movie. However, a fundamental failure to portray Sonic appropriately would be devastating for both character and studio.
Paramount should take inspiration from successful screen animals
Paramount’s first effort humanised Sonic to a disconcerting extent, but there are plenty of examples of film studios successfully indulging the sweeter elements of an animalistic character. The Marvel Cinematic Universe could have easily portrayed Rocket Raccoon with the same human facial features of Sonic. However, Marvel’s decision to make the character appear completely raccoon-like ensures that Rocket’s presence is not jarring.
The release of the Detective Pikachu movie at a similar time to the Sonic trailer hasn’t worked in Paramount’s favor. Early responses to the movie suggest that the realism of the Pokémon world is one of the strongest elements of the film, which somewhat sets a high bar for future movie adaptation of classic video games. Other than Ryan Reynolds’ titular detective, it appears that Detective Pikachu simply allows Pokémon to be Pokémon.
Similarly, many forms of media thrive on allowing animals to be animals. For the most part, Goose stole scenes in Captain Marvel because it acted purely as a cat. One of the slots online at Chumba Casino is Kitty Glamour, which introduces a feline character which actually looks like a regular cat (albeit one with a penchant for jewelry). Many slots use fantastical characters as themes, so a straightforward portrayal of a real animal stands out. Away from felines, it is captivating to watch the fluffy terrier Olivia as she remains oblivious to her criminal surroundings in Widows, just as a dog should do.
No need to overdo anthropomorphism
Sonic may not be able to be portrayed quite so naturally, given that he’s blue, extra-terrestrial and fond of wisecracks. However, there is certainly no need to anthropomorphize him to the extent displayed in the trailer. Giving an animalistic character human tendencies or features doesn’t necessarily mean that they will integrate seamlessly into the human world. That is the conclusion that Paramount have finally reached, so it will be interesting to see what the final incarnation of Sonic will look like.
Fan efforts to redesign the character have already sought to correct the most human aspects of the original depiction. Many have removed the disturbingly human teeth, while also altering Sonic’s posture to combat the ‘human in a costume’ uncanny valley aura that it had originally established. Sonic may never look ‘real’, but it is imperative that Paramount let Sonic shine on his own merits as he has done throughout decades of Sega games.