Detective Pikachu
Credit: Warner Bros, IMDB

Detective Pikachu v Sonic the Hedgehog: Translating Game to Screen

Paramount Studios recently released their first Sonic the Hedgehog trailer and it was not received well. The internet exploded with both Sonic and film fans alike criticising the adaptation, reacting in disgust to the hedgehog’s human teeth and features. For many this feeling was an inevitability, video game films consistently fail. However, with Detective Pikachu being a critical hit, many are questioning if this long time ‘rule’ can be broken. Perhaps adapting a video game to the big screen has just never been done in the correct way until now.

Let us get one thing straight – even Hollywood’s most esteemed studios care very little about the legacy and history of a franchise. They only see big characters, such as Sonic or Mario, as highly marketable and therefore highly profitable tools. They see them as an opportunity to pull in fans on the sole promise of seeing their favourite characters in a new way. Film studios are also often insistent on making all major executive decisions without much consultation of the game makers. As a result they lose the true essence of what made these games appealing to their fans.

Pikachu’s design has been cultivated and finely shaped

This is why the Sonic trailer has been received so poorly in comparison to Detective Pikachu.

Pikachu’s design has been cultivated and finely shaped by Game Freak since the mid-90s to the point where it is now iconic. The cute, yellow mouse was well recreated on the big screen, with other Pokémon that appeared in the film also remaining true to their original art.

This unfortunately now raises the issue of overworking their staff

Sonic, however, has been warped by the film creators into a much more humanoid creature. Some of his most recognisable features have been erased to make his design seem realistic in our world. His conjoined eyes and spaghetti-like legs are gone, much to the dismay of his most dedicated fans who continue to face disappointment in recent years (with the exception of Sonic Mania).

In response to the backlash Paramount responded, stating they will redesign the character for the film’s release in just 6 months. This unfortunately now raises the issue of overworking their staff, mimicking the crunch that plagues the gaming industry. The lack of commitment that Paramount has towards its film direction, rolling over at any backlash, also further emphasises its aim to simply cash in on a popular character. Indeed, it is this level of disconnection that dampens the anticipation for a video game film.  Michael Fassbender admitted he had never played any Assassins Creed games, despite being the lead in its film adaptation.

This project was made by a passionate team of fans

After watching Detective Pikachu, however, I now have some hope for the future of video games being translated into film. This buddy-cop style production made sure to constantly remind you of the reason you came to see this film – the Pokémon. The amount of fan service and easter eggs hidden in this film for the hardest of hardcore is spectacular and shows that this project was made by a passionate team of fans dedicated to ensuring they do the games justice.

I doubt that Sonic the Hedgehog can recover from such a negative reception, hopefully indicating to film studios that engaging with a video game’s lore and community is essential in creating a high-quality product, especially if Detective Pikachu turns into the commercial success that it is predicted to be.

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