By Philip Orona
A little over a year ago, my 5-year-old son had discovered the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons in the kids’ section of Netflix. I sat down and asked him what he was watching and he proceeded to tell me about a blue hedgehog that runs like the Flash, loves chili-dogs, and is a hero. After listening to how excited he was about it, I began to tell him about the rich history of Sonic the Hedgehog and discussed his video game origins. For anyone between the ages of 30 to 45 who owned a Sega produced console, (I have owned 4, so clearly I have been team Sega for a long time) Sonic the Hedgehog is an institution that has slowly wasted away to middling and bad-new-gen console releases. Visibility on the lovable blue blur has been kept on life support thanks to streaming availability of the various cartoon series that continued on as the video game well ran dry. Sonic has survived due to the hard work of the Sega faithful who have brought us several independent Sonic games.
Sadly, we currently own exactly zero Sonic the Hedgehog games. But I showed both of my boys some YouTube videos of the classic Sonic Trilogy gameplay and now I think I am now on the hook for picking up some Sega Classics titles on our Nintendo switch. I was not optimistic when I saw the first trailers for the Sonic movie. Sonic’s design was just creepy and weird. It wasn’t just me, nearly the entire video game fandom was in an uproar. Happily, the movie studio listened to the masses and pushed the movie back in favor of a redesign. My oldest son saw the trailer for the movie which had the redesign and he was so excited. He begged my wife and me to take him and his little brother to see it. After seeing the movie on opening weekend, the changes were perfect and the box office numbers are looking promising with a video game movie record breaking 57 million domestic. It was a genuinely enjoyable film for the family but beyond that, it was actually a good video game adaptation. My boys absolutely loved it.
Discussing this with a fellow Co-worker/video game enthusiast/cinema fanboy, I realized that nearly every video game based movie up to this point is absolute crap and possibly for the first time the public has had 2 good video game based movies, in a row to boot. This is also perhaps only the 7th kid-friendly video game based movie we have had in the history video game based cinema. This shortlist consists of Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon (maybe), Angry Birds 1 and 2, Ratchet and Clank, Detective Pikachu and now Sonic. I don’t count the Pokemon animated films, which I’d file under anime similar to Street Fighter 2 animated, Fatal Fury and the Persona series. It astounded me how nearly all of the roughly 37 video game based films are aimed at the PG-13 to R crowd. This is a huge mistake and missed opportunity. Half of that short family-friendly while better than the majority of the overall list, were just bad. We can Thank Uwe Boll for most of the tragedy in the PG-13 to R category. Seemingly, Hollywood has discovered that a rated R superhero film can do well if it has the right people backing it. Hopefully Sonic The Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu will help Hollywood find the same magic with G and PG video game based movies. Imagine how well a rated PG Fortnite movie could do with the right crew at the helm.
We look at most of these movies with rose tinted glasses as gamers. As much as I enjoyed the first Tomb Raider film, the first couple of Resident Evil films, Mortal Kombat 1 and Prince of Persia, they were not very good. Watchable and even somewhat enjoyable in a fanboy sort of way, especially if you are an action junkie who can turn off your brain and zone out like you would a video game. Assassins Creed and Hitman were missed opportunities and Agent 47 was hilariously bad. Great material to work with but they just didn’t execute due to awful writing or trying to cram too much into the movie without plot or character development. It feels like for some of these movies, the directors and or writers never bothered to play the games they were adapting. I honestly didn’t bother to see Rampage, Warcraft or the last Tomb Raider movie. The trailers for those films didn’t grab me, but I may try to catch them during a lazy weekend on Amazon Prime or Netflix. The Need for Speed movie made me cringe as both a video game fanboy and a gear-head, which made me question exactly who that film was for. The Resident Evil and Silent Hill video game Horror films are more action\suspense than outright horror which may not be a bad thing. It certainly keeps the movies from being boring and slow-paced but far from Oscar nomination material.
Looking at the upcoming lineup, I am hopeful for the future of video game movies. Even though most of them again are aimed at an older demographic. Slated for Release within the next 2 years we have Monster Hunter, another Mortal Kombat,, Uncharted and Minecraft. I am hoping Minecraft is executed with the same thoughtfulness and detail that the Netflix telltale series was published with. I am also hoping Hideo Kojima will be fully involved in the rumored Metal Gear films and at the same time, I am also cheering for Nintendo to give us a rated G Super Mario cinematic experience for the sake of my children while we wait patiently for a Detective Pikachu 2 and another Sonic the Hedgehog film. Let’s not leave 10 and under demographic to Disney, people! There is money to be made!