Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Sonic the Hedgehog)

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Sonic the Hedgehog is owned by Paramount Pictures and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

Directed by Jeff Fowler

Tis a day that we have been all dreading for… I don’t know, two months now?  Yeah, it looks like those horrible production skills were not in fact a mistimed April Fools prank and were leading up to an actual movie whose trailer has just been released.  I’m not gonna lie.  Whether or not this actually ends up looking good or is total hot garbage is immaterial to me because I’m looking forward to this thing no matter what form it takes.  Will it be the former which would be unbelievably impressive considering they have to work around that rather awful design, or are we stuck with the latter which is exciting in its own right just to see what depths a studio will sink to when given this monkey’s paw of a franchise?  Well the only way we’re gonna find out is diving right on in!  Okay, so right off the bat we see a blue blur of energy streak by on some empty country road which then speeds through a forest into what looks to be Peter Rabbit’s hole in the ground.  The place is adorned with various pieces of trash and snack foods he’s managed to scrounge up over the years, a giant stack of shoes which becomes somewhat suspect when you realize he wears the same pair all the time, and a cassette player because I guess kids are supposed to know what that is?  Oh, and it gets better!  The song that Sonic pops into the player and scores the entire trailer is none other than Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise.

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I guess we’re officially past Eye of the Tiger being the go to inspirational music cue.  God, we’re all getting old…

From there the trailer is about what you’d expect from a teaser.  What threadbare plotting there is doesn’t make much sense and I wouldn’t be surprised if later trailers end up contradicting what’s set up here which again, isn’t all that much.  Basically, Sonic is just an anthropomorphic hedgehog doing his anthropomorphic hedgehog thing which means that ON OCCASION he will go so fast as to… knock out all power in the Pacific Northwest of the US?  Yeah, something tells me that scene happens under MUCH different circumstances in the finished movie.  In any case, the government sends some dude to… I guess capture the creature, and it turns out to be Eggman (Jim Carrey) though he isn’t given a name in the trailer.  While he’s off being obnoxious in that way that’s still at least a LITTLE bit endearing when coming from Jim Carrey, a local cop (James Marseden) finds Sonic in a shack or whatever and the two team up.  From there it’s a series of chases between the two heroes and Eggman; the latter of whom has some seriously advanced weaponry despite his claim that he wants to capture the creature and study him.  I’m not sure how much there’ll be left to study after you run over him with a tank or blow him up with missiles, but I guess I’m not the one cashing those fat government checks to do it, so what do I know?

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“Can you believe they PAY me for this!?”     “No, not really…”

Before we get into THE RANT which you know is coming, are there any notable details to be gleamed from the trailer?  Well if you’re looking for fan service or clues as to stuff from the games, you’re out of luck.  I get the feeling this is going to be ONE HUNDRED percent divorced from anything in the games; up to and including Tails and the Chaos Emeralds.  We’ll have to wait and see I guess, but what the trailer chooses to show us is very little in terms of world building and is instead a series of sizzle shots.  Now at least two of them look pretty cool with a warp ring being implemented at one point and a scene with missiles that is at least framed well even if the presence of this weird Sonic just kinda saps all the energy out the room.

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“Why don’t I have a real watch?  Have I really not stolen one of those yet?”

Characters and plot wise, we don’t have anything to work with here.  I love Ben Schwartz and his particular brand of comedy which will HOPEFULLY shine through in the movie, but here he barely has anything to say and what he’s given to read is bad even for a kid’s movie.  We also see James Marsden who is a fine actor but he barely even talks in this trailer and there’s also a female co-star played by Tika Sumpter who doesn’t say ANYTHING in here or given any context to her presence, but we’ve got a few months and a few trailers to find out more about here.  What struck me the most about this trailer though were the environments which frankly look VERY cheap.  Everything is lacking in life and personality which is a far cry from its most direct competitor Detective Piakchu which had a vibrant world that felt believable and lived in.  It honestly looks like they had the budget to shoot in two locations and an office building to get this movie shot, and I guess paying for all of Jim Carrey’s mustache wax sapped away whatever budget was left for extras.  Speaking of whom, the only one bringing anything to the table here Jim Carrey who’s hamming it up like he usually does and I told a BIT of a lie earlier when I said there was no fan service because there IS a moment at the end of the trailer where we see him in full Eggman garb, so at least we have that to look forward to.

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“I AM THE EGGMAN!!”     “Goo goo g’joob, sir…”

Okay, let’s get into the meat of this.  First, I WILL give the movie a bit of credit for one thing!  They realized that Sonic should be wearing socks and those have been added in, so… yay?  Yeah, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about the design which is still a nightmare to behold, but we all knew that from the production stills and seeing it in motion doesn’t help things.  What’s throwing me for a bit of a loop is nineties nostalgia at play here and honestly it goes to probably the most fundamental issue with Sonic the Hedgehog that admittedly has been talked to death by everyone and their mom.  NO ONE AT SEGA KNOWS WHAT SONIC IS SUPPOSED TO BE!!  The use of a cassette player in what appears to be a modern setting, the song that practically no one under the age of ten has ever heard of, and even the inclusion of everyone’s favorite actor from 1996 Jim Carrey all underscore this as something of a nostalgia piece rather than aiming at a younger audience; a film for the fans of the series if you will.  If that was the case though, then why does nothing in here remind us of the Sonic the Hedgehog we know and (arguably) love?  Why is his design so radically different and why is he all alone in a world of humans?  Even if you want to stay away from the later additions like Rogue, Big, Blaze, and Silver, there’s no room for Tails?  Are we gonna have to wait for a post credits stinger to see a glimpse of Knuckles? Heck, you’d think with Infinity War tearing it up at the box office that they’d EMBRACE the Chaos Emeralds as their own off brand infinity stones, but they’re completely absent here and even if they DO show up in the movie I’m guessing its only gonna be for the third act; same with the full Eggman costume we see at the end of the trailer.  With all that it seems like they’re trying to get a younger audience who don’t even know about Sonic’s ridiculous baggage at this point which would be fine, but again the nineties baiting is about as well integrated as a punch to the face and in the best case scenario will go over the heads of the younger audience rather than confuse them or turn them off of it.  It’s not a shock that Sonic continues to be a confused mess of a franchise even when jumping to a new medium, so I don’t expect this to be good, I don’t expect it to do GREAT numbers (I’m not quite sure it’ll be a flop, but it’s certainly possible), and SEGA’s gonna go back to the drawing board once again to try and find out what went wrong.  Honestly, if you want a GOOD Sonic narrative then go pick up the IDW comics which have been pretty darn good for the most and at least have a clear understanding of what they want to be.  That is until someone at SEGA decides this movie needs a four part mini-series which, like everything else Sonic related, I will be compelled to seek out.  Yes, I am indeed part of the problem and I am sorry…

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