Just when the curse of terrible video-game movies was lifted earlier this year in Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider, it was only a matter of time before audiences had another series to worry about.
According to a new report from Deadline, Golden Globe-winning comedian Jim Carrey is in final negotiations to join James Marsden in the new live-action/CGI adaptation of the Sonic the Hedgehog video-game series.
Set to be released in November 2019 by Paramount Pictures, the film is under the helm of Jeff Fowler, the Oscar-nominated director of the 2005 animated short film Gopher Broke, who’s now working alongside producers Neal H. Moritz (The Fast and the Furious franchise), Toby Ascher (Sleeping Dogs), as well as executive producer Tim Miller (Deadpool).
This last choice being curious since Miller was fired from the Deadpool franchise for “creative differences” against the vision of star/producer Ryan Reynolds.
Carrey, returning from a comedy hiatus which produced dramatic flops such as Dark Crimes (2016) and The Bad Batch (2016), will star alongside Westworld star James Marsden and Tika Sumpter in unspecified roles.
It’s likely the comedian will play the video game series’ iconic villain Dr. Ivo ‘Eggman’ Robotnik, the mad scientist often shown trying to steal the magical ‘Chaos Emeralds’, conquer the world with robots and imprison the nation’s animals for his own benefit.
This evil plan is interrupted by Sonic, the peaceful blue hedgehog forced to use his super-speed abilities to save the day.
Since 1991, this simple franchise has turned into a major success for Sega, turning their loveable mascot into a household name with over 350 million units sold across several iterations on consoles, tablets and mobile devices.
Talks of a theatrical adaption has spanned over a decade, though recent years have shown the franchise take significant dips in quality and relevance among audiences to the point of disparaging memes.
Once seen as the alternative to Mario, Nintendo’s successful mascot, Sega have rarely missed opportunities to cash-in before worrying about the actual quality.
This is why despite the mention of talented celebrities such as Carrey, Marsden and prosperous producers, the mention of the live-action aspect should concern fans and newcomers who expect engaging animation a franchise like Sonic the Hedgehog is known for.
With exception to outings like Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, both produced during the company’s popular Dreamcast era, it’s believed the Sega franchise has been at its weakest since the involvement of realistic humans among these larger-than-life animal characters.
The decision to blend CGI with live-action material suggests we’ll likely see the film go in the overly complex direction of 3D video-games past, such as the dreaded Sonic 2006, rather than stories which stick to the 2D roots that made the series a video-game juggernaut.
The recent success of Sonic Mania Adventures (see first episode below), the YouTube series which released just 3 months ago earning millions of views per episode, proves there’s a genuine interest in the voiceless 2D animation, which gave the series a unique personality.
The elimination of voice talent is a risk I wouldn’t prefer, granted, but consider the risk the studio has taken in choosing animation turned live-action, a notorious method for producing disasterpieces such as Bill Murray’s Garfield (2004-06), The Cat in the Hat (2003) and The Smurfs (2011-17) franchise.
While Paramount has the success of the Spongebob (2004-15) films under their belt, one of which blending animation and live-action with wit, this isn’t a promising recipe.
The film is set to be released 6 months after Detective Pikachu, the new CGI meets live-action video-game film set around the popular Pokémon character helping a boy find his father, with Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds as the star.
The success of this film, said to use “motion-capture in nature”, will help decide whether the Sega alternative will have as strong an opening weekend as needed to be considered a box office success.