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Why Doing a Direct Movie Adaptation of a Sonic Game Won’t Work

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I’m seeing so. many. comments. about how people hate the idea of the 2019 Sonic movie. People have been showing skepticism about the movie, but never more until just recently, when the basis of the plot was revealed:

“… a small town [comes] together to help the sheriff save Sonic… from the government chasing after him.”

Ever since then, people have been angrily demanding to know where Tails is, why they aren’t doing an Adventure adaption, where the Death Egg is, why there are humans, where the giant robots are, etc., etc., etc. 

I can easily tell you that the reason they’re not going to do a straight, direct adaption of the games is THE MEDIUM. 

There are a few things to understand about entertainment mediums. 

First of all, movies and video games are not the same things. That’s obvious. Likewise, stories told in movie and video games are tailored in ways that a) fit the chosen medium, and b) are relevant to the target audience. “Sonic the Hedgehog II”, for example, worked well as a video game. The reason? Not the storyline or the characters, but the gameplay. The plot was as bare-bones as it could get: Sonic and his new friend Tails team up to stop Dr. Eggman and destroy the Death Egg. 

That’s it. That’s literally the whole story. So why are people attracted to it? Like I said, the gameplay

A movie that follows that exact plot is going to be short, boring, and overall dull. The reason? The audience can’t interact with a movie in the same way they can a video game. All they can do is watch, and they’re only going to be interested in watching the movie if they are invested in the characters, invested in the story, and invested in the emotional/character development, or the overarching themes and lessons. 

Even with a game like Sonic Adventure II, which has a much meatier story, a movie that’s a direct adaptation just wouldn’t work. More needs to be added for the audience to be invested. 

On top of that, the audience for the Sonic movie is not made up entirely of gamers or Sonic fans. This movie is being made specifically to draw in new fans – in other words, people who know little to nothing about Sonic. There needs to be something there that will make them consider watching this movie. A blue hedgehog that can run at the speed of sound isn’t going to necessarily be a great selling point by itself. 

So yes, a new story has to be made – something that will not work as a video game, but may work as a solid plot for a movie. Yes, humans will be involved to help push this new story along. But don’t worry; Sonic will still be the main character, as shown below:

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source: Tails' Channel on Twitter

One of the key elements here that I think Paramount is trying to focus on is familiarity. How much can the audience relate to and sympathize with the characters? The more they can relate and sympathize, the higher the chances they will be invested in the characters’ plights and want them to succeed. 

For example, one of the biggest reasons “Guardians of the Galaxy” included 80′s and 90′s pop songs was to induce a sense of familiarity – a sense of “human”, if you will. The movie is very out there; it’s about a bunch of aliens on all kinds of alien worlds doing alien things. And yet, when we get that opening  scene with Star-Lord dancing in an alien temple, using weird space-tech, and kicking around bizarre little creatures, we’re not lost because the music – something earth-bound and human – keeps the audience stable. It essentially gives the audience a solid place to stand where they can easily slip into the movie and get around the weirdness to embrace the more universal and understandable aspects of the film: the themes of family, abuse, and companionship. 

Back to the Sonic movie. The target audience – who, as we’ve already established, isn’t invested in the titular character – needs to have something human and familiar to grip onto as they explore Sonic’s character and his plight. The driving question: why should I care about Sonic? Why should I care about his story?

There is nothing – literally nothing – except for the execution of the story to get the target audience invested. There’s no fun gameplay gimmicks, no beating stages and feeling accomplished, and no time-attacks and surpassing high scores. It’s ALL story, plot, character development, and familiarity. 

TL;DR: Doing a direct adaptation of a Sonic game won’t work as a movie because the two are completely different in terms of medium, and different mediums have different audiences and require different standards to work well.

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That's nice, but

1) If people are attracted to Sonic sense of speed, why putt him in live action enviroment which most likely will be detrimental to expirience.

2) Why putting human co-star would add "familiarity" to Sonic? Bunch of Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks movies proved that we can get invested into non-human characters if they strugglest are relatabably human.

Meaniwhile Smurfs, Chimpmunk and even Sonic X proved that humans can be annoying distraction, if not down right ruin the expirience.

3) Archie/IDW comics exist. They about "game" Sonic, more less. They work.

In conclusions, you're right; doing 1:1 game adapatation probably wouldn't work. But what they doing will probably work even worse.

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2 hours ago, Spooks said:

The target audience – who, as we’ve already established, isn’t invested in the titular character

I think that sentence alone sums up my entire problem with a Sonic movie. It's not gonna be made for the actual fans, and to make a movie out of the franchise/character, it's gonna have to be skewed/altered so much, the question arises: what was the point of using the franchise/character to begin with if it'll have barely anything to do with it?

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I just think adaptations are boring, if you want the story to be 1:1, it doesn't work, we already know the whole thing, where's the surprise?

At least here we can speculate where Eggman fits since the government apparently is taking an antagonistic role, even though most of the movie will probably be predictable and cliché. I liked Guardians of the Galaxy, I certainly hope they take inspiration from that.

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I disagree, and think this has more to do with Hollywood's misguided belief that things need to be grounded to our reality or that there has to be some kind of human character as co-protagonist for the audience to relate because apparently, the personalities of the Sonic characters are just not enough to do that.

Isn't it funny how in contrast, the Japanese are much more capable of producing animated feature films based on game properties that actually achieve what the americans just never could: being faithful to the source material.

I think that there was no excuse for taking the live action direction with the Sonic movie when it could instead have been realized using CGI to properly represent the characters and their surreal world.

Storywise, while a lot of characters like Knuckles or Shadow can't just be added and expect for people (especially new audiences) to already know whom they are as each demand their own story arc to be properly introduced, I think that a movie adaptation featuring just Tails and Amy could be made as they don't need a backstory, they're some of the more relatable characters as well as each having a unique dynamic with the protagonist that could offer some character development for Sonic, who is known for being selfish about his freedom yet through the interactions with these two, he'd learn that opening up to others doesn't mean he has to sacrifice nor compromise his freedom, instead sharing it.

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2 hours ago, Drifting Jack said:

I just think adaptations are boring, if you want the story to be 1:1, it doesn't work, we already know the whole thing, where's the surprise?

Tell that to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movie adaptations that made bucketloads of money.

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1 hour ago, Tarnish said:

Tell that to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movie adaptations that made bucketloads of money.

Yeah but even the lord of he Rings moves are not 1:1 I mean Tom Bombidil isnt in them.

Same goes for the Potter films too, time constraints do have a lot to do with things however.

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4 hours ago, Skull Leader said:

I disagree, and think this has more to do with Hollywood's misguided belief that things need to be grounded to our reality or that there has to be some kind of human character as co-protagonist for the audience to relate because apparently, the personalities of the Sonic characters are just not enough to do that.

1000% agree here. Many film developers... especially the ones who work on live action media often delude themselves into believing that all films have to be made in overly copy and pasted brain-dead exact ways or it won't sell. They almost never have faith in the original product's appeal or it's fan base or the possibly that the new viewers might have the ability to enjoy things the same way the original fans did, and they rarely ever have strong evidence to support their paranoia good enough. Because movies cost so much money this results in most movie devs losing their confidence in the media and they throw out anything they feel might be remotely risky "AKA anything that isn't exactly the same things everybody else does" resulting in a soulless product that is barely if at all any different from all other cash grab mass produced rubbish.

And more annoying yet and is when people try to defend this kind of nonsense with simply the poor shallow level collation logic of "Well almost everybody does it that way, so that must mean no other way works!" I guess if everybody is jumping off a bridge then you should too with that logic! But if they ever bothered to dig little deeper and pull their heads outta their keisters long enough they'd realize many other media has debunked much of that logic by being successful using other methods outside of the stranded... sometimes the exact methods that their silly film school classes tried mind-washing them into believing won't ever work. It's not like everybody who creates Hollywood style films are some Infallible deity experts on the understanding of all entertainment, otherwise despite using all the basic movie making tricks we wouldn't see countless flops and other poor choices that ruined the media they made which they had full confidence in only to be woken up to reality when it gets bashed in reviews afterwards.

The idea that you can’t please both fans and casual new viewers is typically a pure delusion and lie made by people with pointless ulterior motives or have been brainwashed by others. It undermines how fans of a media came to exist in the first place, especially if it's one of the already hugely popular well known franchises like Sonic The BLOODY Hedgehog! If a big number of people fell in love with a certain media in the past, then it should work again on new people without resorting to basically spiting on the original concept and fans, tossing them in the trash and creating something barely related to the original idea. There is NO POINT in using a preexisting media and fan base to base and bounce your product on and off of if you are going to go right around and pretend they don’t matter and say it is only being made for new viewers at the same time. It’s hypocritical logic to make new media that way and always has been.

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Well funny thing is that making a main protagonist a human is what helped the transformers films.

Though if you want a better example there is always the godzilla films.

I dont mind a human protagonist but it has to be done right, it can work if in the right hands.

But this is Hollywood of course and its rare that happens so any skepticism I understand.

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@Spooks, while I get where you're coming from I would like to ask you to address my concerns. To wit;

My first problem is that I see Sonic as a globetrotting adventurer and thrill seeker who can take care of himself and is typically the hero because of being larger than life, yet in this basic plot snippet he is the one needing saved and is not presented as the hero. The current snippet of plot doesn't even hint at Sonic ever being the hero or protagonist. He almost feels like little more than a tertiary character or a simple catalyst to jump start the story about this town and sheriff. You could honestly replace Sonic right now with any character on the run from the government and the plot would still work. 

My second problem, is that Sonic is typically the motivator, the one who makes everyone around him want to be more because they are motivated by him. Yet, in the tidbits that we have been provided the general reading is that Sonic is the one needing to be motivated, which is a departure from his self motivating character. Further, he is set up to be motivated by the audience surrogate, whose sole job is to sell the general audience on Sonic the character. In a situation where Sonic needs to be motivated by the audience surrogate the entire role of audience surrogate falls apart because why should I even care about this character who needs to motivated by the character making him believable for the audience. Now if it's like Terminator 2 I can see it working since John Connor teaches the T-800 how to effectively be human, but you still have to sell the audience on killer android from the future. The job of the audience surrogate should be to sell the audience on a globetrotting, meter tall, day-saving, blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that can run at the speed of sound, hero. From what I've seen so far, the audience surrogate isn't being used to sell that idea and then have a character arc follow, but is being presented as the catalyst that makes Sonic who he is and stripping him of any agency in the process.

My last primary concern is that to me Sonic is a globetrotting adventurer who seeks out adventure and never shrinks down from a problem, yet here he is being shown to pretty much hide in a small town in the middle of nowhere. That again is stripping of aspects of his core character and undermining any sense of personal agency that he has. I get that this movie version is supposed to be a different version and take on the character, but at what point is it acceptable to strip a character of their very identity and sense of personal agency to sell them in name only and alienate the fans while not creating a bridge to the main product, SEGA's near three decade established mascot.

Anyway, whether you feel you can address these concerns of mine or not, I hope you can at least see that my concerns about the movie has nothing to do with existing game plots or characters, but Sonic himself, the character who brought me into this franchise and is easily my favorite in it. Undermining his sense of agency, stripping him of the aspects that make him who he is, reversing his role as the hero and motivator, and having him shirk away from trouble are concerns of mine that have been presented by what little has been said about the movie. Add in that there is no aspect of globetrotting and it really starts to rub me the wrong way. You can't tell me that Sonic can't do it since Indiana Jones and James Bond are also globetrotters (for admittedly different reasons) who have diverse casts of characters to sell the world, story, and in Indy's case even mythical artifacts to the audience. 

TL;DR: My concern is I'm not being given Sonic the Hedgehog or a reasonable facsimile. I feel like I'm getting ET who does not make me think of Sonic in the least and have to ask why not Indiana Jones who at least has some similarities to the globetrotting hedgehog. 

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1 hour ago, MadmanRB said:

Well funny thing is that making a main protagonist a human is what helped the transformers films.

Though if you want a better example there is always the godzilla films.

I dont mind a human protagonist but it has to be done right, it can work if in the right hands.

But this is Hollywood of course and its rare that happens so any skepticism I understand.

Transformers has long had humans in significant roles as allies to the Autobots. Who were established from Day 1 as outsiders to humanity. Sam Witwicky is far less at odds with the core of Transformers than the cop character is from all evidence.

And Godzilla is supposed to be a representation of the atomic bombings that were done to Japan. A beast. He should be far less "humanized" than Sonic.

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12 hours ago, Spooks said:

That’s it. That’s literally the whole story. So why are people attracted to it? Like I said, the gameplay

The target audience – who, as we’ve already established, isn’t invested in the titular character 

1) Your argument here doesn't work because you're assuming the absolute only reason anyone likes Sonic is for his gameplay and nothing more and that's absolutely untrue. Even back in the Genesis days, while the speed was a huge part of the marketing, so was his character, his attitude. This was emphasized in the cartoons of the era like Sonic SatAM, and especially the comics. More character driven narratives than just "Watch Sonic go fast." 

I mean, we even have the other cartoons like AoStH, Sonic Underground, the OVA and the Archie/IDW comics where no gameplay is involved but still manage to connect both with pre-existing fans of the franchise and people who don't play the games at all. Anecdotal evidence doesn't really count, I know, but I've spoken with a few people who would call themselves Sonic fans who haven't played a game in years (or at all!) but love(d) the comics (Archie, when they were still going.) 

2) And that's the problem - you can't just take a giant franchise like Sonic, give it a theatrical release and tell the fans who made that possible that it isn't for them. That just doesn't work. That's not to say that they should be pandering to us, but this is the entire problem - this movie isn't being made from a place of love, or care, or passion for the source material. It's being made for money, and nothing more. 

Yeah, at the end of the day, the goal of any commercial product is to make money, but with something like this, the quality will suffer greatly because the people making don't care about the franchise if this is their mindset.

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Nobody has told me what Sonic the Edge Movie has to offer that the source material doesn't. Since it is supposed to draw in hordes of movie goers a plot that's Sonic 1 Expanded wouldn't.

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2 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

@Spooks, while I get where you're coming from I would like to ask you to address my concerns. To wit;

My first problem is that I see Sonic as a globetrotting adventurer and thrill seeker who can take care of himself and is typically the hero because of being larger than life, yet in this basic plot snippet he is the one needing saved and is not presented as the hero. The current snippet of plot doesn't even hint at Sonic ever being the hero or protagonist. He almost feels like little more than a tertiary character or a simple catalyst to jump start the story about this town and sheriff. You could honestly replace Sonic right now with any character on the run from the government and the plot would still work. 

My second problem, is that Sonic is typically the motivator, the one who makes everyone around him want to be more because they are motivated by him. Yet, in the tidbits that we have been provided the general reading is that Sonic is the one needing to be motivated, which is a departure from his self motivating character. Further, he is set up to be motivated by the audience surrogate, whose sole job is to sell the general audience on Sonic the character. In a situation where Sonic needs to be motivated by the audience surrogate the entire role of audience surrogate falls apart because why should I even care about this character who needs to motivated by the character making him believable for the audience. Now if it's like Terminator 2 I can see it working since John Connor teaches the T-800 how to effectively be human, but you still have to sell the audience on killer android from the future. The job of the audience surrogate should be to sell the audience on a globetrotting, meter tall, day-saving, blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that can run at the speed of sound, hero. From what I've seen so far, the audience surrogate isn't being used to sell that idea and then have a character arc follow, but is being presented as the catalyst that makes Sonic who he is and stripping him of any agency in the process.

My last primary concern is that to me Sonic is a globetrotting adventurer who seeks out adventure and never shrinks down from a problem, yet here he is being shown to pretty much hide in a small town in the middle of nowhere. That again is stripping of aspects of his core character and undermining any sense of personal agency that he has. I get that this movie version is supposed to be a different version and take on the character, but at what point is it acceptable to strip a character of their very identity and sense of personal agency to sell them in name only and alienate the fans while not creating a bridge to the main product, SEGA's near three decade established mascot.

Anyway, whether you feel you can address these concerns of mine or not, I hope you can at least see that my concerns about the movie has nothing to do with existing game plots or characters, but Sonic himself, the character who brought me into this franchise and is easily my favorite in it. Undermining his sense of agency, stripping him of the aspects that make him who he is, reversing his role as the hero and motivator, and having him shirk away from trouble are concerns of mine that have been presented by what little has been said about the movie. Add in that there is no aspect of globetrotting and it really starts to rub me the wrong way. You can't tell me that Sonic can't do it since Indiana Jones and James Bond are also globetrotters (for admittedly different reasons) who have diverse casts of characters to sell the world, story, and in Indy's case even mythical artifacts to the audience. 

TL;DR: My concern is I'm not being given Sonic the Hedgehog or a reasonable facsimile. I feel like I'm getting ET who does not make me think of Sonic in the least and have to ask why not Indiana Jones who at least has some similarities to the globetrotting hedgehog. 

You make a lot of good points here, and I thank you for being polite in your discussion. Yes, I agree that the Sonic we know in the video games, comics, TV shows, etc. is "a globetrotting adventurer and thrill seeker who can take care of himself". 

I don't believe that the movie, if done correctly, will disregard that. I think that will definitely be a part of his personality that the target audience will get to see from him. I'd like to think that the iteration of Sonic we're going to get in the movie will -- again, if done correctly -- be a brand new iteration of Sonic. I have no clue as to what kind of iteration that will be, but I don't think it will be him hiding away and being scared. It could be him realizing that he needs help sometimes and can't do everything by himself, or maybe we might see the filmmakers play with his emotions a little more, making him a little more vulnerable in some aspects.

I do see why you are concerned and I also wouldn't want the filmmakers to turn Sonic into someone passive and scared, and if done correctly, I highly doubt they will. 

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27 minutes ago, Spooks said:

I also wouldn't want the filmmakers to turn Sonic into someone passive and scared, and if done correctly, I highly doubt they will. 

Well actually one can make those elements into something good for Sonic, as long as those dont become his defining traits it would be okay.

They could incorporate his fear of water as a plot point and as for making him passive well if this is his first time in the real human world him being more passive would be understandable.

But again these should be more plot points rather than defining him

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Um...no.

Mind you guys, I’ve not read this whole topic yet, but With that disclaimer aside, I want to give my thoughts to the OP.

The reason why a direct Sonic movie adaptation can’t work is because Hollywold and the Film industry doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to making such adaptations—and it’s not just game adaptations, if shit like Dragon Ball Evolution and the Last Airbender are any indicators.

Otherwise, Sonic is fully capable of making a damn good film that uses all the material that has been made. In fact, he’s already had one.

On top of that, Sonic has had over five cartoons, five comics, all of which are predominantly storytelling mediums and some of which are more favorably looked at than the games themselves. There’s nothing about the medium that prevents Sonic from making a movie, it’s everything about the people making the movie that’s the problem—I’d wager if Disney/Pixar (even despite how they’re handling Star Wars) or Dreamworks tried their hand, they’d make a premise with far better reception than the shite that’s being made for him now.

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36 minutes ago, Almar said:

Nobody has told me what Sonic the Edge Movie has to offer that the source material doesn't. Since it is supposed to draw in hordes of movie goers a plot that's Sonic 1 Expanded wouldn't.

Sonic as an actual character, with an arc to go through and some sort of character development, like a protagonist in an actual story.

Like, by the time Sonic 1 starts, Sonic's basically already completed his growth as a person. He's a cool, confident, and caring dude who's ready, able, and willing to fight the bad guys to protect the innocents. Where does he go from there? What is the internal conflict? How is Sonic going to be different at the end of the movie than he was at the start? Sonic's not exactly a complex or nuanced character, nor is the world around him, and Sega's probably not going to want movie-Sonic to develop in a direction that puts him at odds with their vision for the character, so I really don't see where you could take a Sonic that's ripped straight from the games.

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Sonic X adapted the adventure games into pure story pretty well. I think you could adapt even Sonic 1 in a way that works if you're a very skilled and creative writer. 

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2 hours ago, Diogenes said:

Sonic as an actual character, with an arc to go through and some sort of character development, like a protagonist in an actual story.

Like, by the time Sonic 1 starts, Sonic's basically already completed his growth as a person. He's a cool, confident, and caring dude who's ready, able, and willing to fight the bad guys to protect the innocents. Where does he go from there? What is the internal conflict? How is Sonic going to be different at the end of the movie than he was at the start? Sonic's not exactly a complex or nuanced character, nor is the world around him, and Sega's probably not going to want movie-Sonic to develop in a direction that puts him at odds with their vision for the character, so I really don't see where you could take a Sonic that's ripped straight from the games.


Even if you go with the assumption that Sonic as a character hasn't changed from the 90s to now, there are entire franchises based around simple, even borderline one note characters and how the tension comes from how they refuse to change even when the world around them is changing. Superhero movies don't really have complex characters and haven't had them for a long time. 

 If you decide to push the character further regardless, you could take the fact that the guy built up a stable set of friends over time and make something out of the idea that it takes a while for him to realize he needs the help of others. This has been done countless other times in the franchise, but for a big budget adaptation it's okay to start from square one and go over new ideas for the new audience. This take would also put an appropriate amount of focus on actual Sonic characters.

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15 minutes ago, Josh said:


Even if you go with the assumption that Sonic as a character hasn't changed from the 90s to now, there are entire franchises based around simple, even borderline one note characters and how the tension comes from how they refuse to change even when the world around them is changing. Superhero movies don't really have complex characters and haven't had them for a long time. 

 If you decide to push the character further regardless, you could take the fact that the guy built up a stable set of friends over time and make something out of the idea that it takes a while for him to realize he needs the help of others. This has been done countless other times in the franchise, but for a big budget adaptation it's okay to start from square one and go over new ideas for the new audience. This take would also put an appropriate amount of focus on actual Sonic characters.

I think that there are lots of things that can be done with Sonic regarding his friends, like what if Sonic starts to take them for granted? What if some of them like Tails and/or Amy feel that Sonic doesn't trust them to be capable to help him during the more dangerous/critical moments? 

These are things that could be explored using long established character that are already part of Sonic's life and without the need of having to introduce an audience surrogate.

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