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Sonic the Hedgehog (prelude)

First, Paramount was the studio that (except for The Incredible Hulk) helped to produce and release every film in the Phase I lineup of the MCU. They were perfectly situated to buy up Marvel, and then somehow, they still lost it to Disney. It was all downhill for Paramount from there.

At around the same time as Iron Man, Paramount had partnered with Bad Robot, house of a certain up-and-coming multihyphenate named J.J. Abrams. Paramount handed him their Star Trek franchise, leaving him to clean up the mess as they continued their decades-long mission of pissing on Gene Roddenberry’s legacy and shaking down the fanbase for every penny it was worth.

Then Abrams hopped over to play with Star Wars at Disney, apparently switching sides in one of the oldest and most useless pissing matches in geek history. Or maybe the folks at Paramount were still bitter about losing Marvel to The Mouse. In any case, Paramount retaliated by scuttling Overlord with a bad release date and worse marketing. Little wonder that Abrams soon cut ties with Paramount and took Bad Robot over to Warner Bros.

Yes, Paramount still technically has the Abrams-produced Mission: Impossible series, with two additional movies currently in back-to-back production. But the departure of Bad Robot (in addition to the encroaching age of Tom Cruise) has long-term prospects looking grim.

Then there’s Hasbro. Paramount and the toy empire had a billion-dollar partnership by way of the Transformers franchise. Everything else — Battleship, Jem and the Holograms, both G.I. Joe films, etc. — was a laughingstock and an immediate failure. And that’s not even counting all the rumored films in development (Monopoly, Candy Land, View-Master, etc., ) that never materialized.

All of this came to a head when Transformers: The Last Knight tanked, costing the studio an estimated net loss of over $100 million. If Bumblebee hadn’t been so far in development at the time, it might have been cancelled then and there. And even after the spinoff made back twice its budget (still the lowest grossing entry in the series), Paramount has been unable or unwilling to capitalize on that film’s success. It’s a safe bet that the “Transformers Shared Universe” has been put on indefinite hold.

Could Nickelodeon be the studio’s savior? Not since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crashed and burned. Dora and the Lost City of Gold made back $120 million against a reported $49 million budget — respectable numbers for a stand-alone film, but not enough to build a franchise on. You want to make a four-quadrant billion-dollar film series out of SpongeBob? Good luck.

Paranormal Activity has long since flamed out. The studio has been mangling the Terminator franchise almost as badly as they’ve been sabotaging Star Trek. And of course we can’t forget how they lost DreamWorks Animation to Universal back in 2016.

But even after all of that, the final nail in the coffin didn’t come until April 30th of 2019.

If it’s true that a trailer shows you the movie that the studio wishes they had, what the high holy blue-blazing fuck did Paramount want with Sonic the Hedgehog?! The trailer is so impossibly godawful, I don’t even know where to start. The reaction to it was so swiftly and universally toxic, I don’t know what more I could possibly say.

I mean… just look at the fucking thing! The bewildering choice of music. The painful attempts at juvenile humor. And that’s not even getting started on the umpteen million things that are so disturbingly and disgustingly WRONG with the design and animation of the title character. Saturday Night Live could’ve made this as a Hollywood parody and it would’ve been cut for time.

In this one trailer, we see a textbook example of what I like to call a “malicious disappointment”. This was a trailer that could only have failed on purpose. With a mere three minutes of footage, Paramount declared to all the world what any fan of Star Trek and/or Terminator should’ve already known: Paramount hates you.

To repeat, Paramount hates you. Fuck everyone in general, fuck you specifically, fuck Sonic and all his fans, and fuck the whole medium of cinema. Paramount wouldn’t know how to make a million dollars if they had a winning lottery ticket in their goddamn hands. They wouldn’t know a great movie if it was handed to them on a plate.

(Side note: No, literally — Paramount had The Irishman and they sold it to Netflix. That happened.)

If any of that sounds like an exaggeration… just look at the trailer again. Sweet Christ almighty, look at that abomination again.

But then I guess somebody got fired, because a rare thing happened, and it happened almost immediately: The filmmakers listened. The good news was, Sonic would get a redesign, and the film would get pushed back to allow more time for adjustment. The bad news was, the movie got dumped in a godawful Valentine’s Day release date, and the VFX studio responsible for the design overhaul shut their doors eight months later.

Cut to November of 2019, right about the time when the movie was first supposed to come out. We got a new trailer, and… well, it was objectively better than the first one. Not that it could’ve been much worse. “Supersonic” by J.J. Fad was a far better choice of song, and the jokes weren’t aggressively painful. And of course, the new Sonic design was more cartoonish and cute, more in keeping with the iconic video game hedgehog we all know and love.

Overall, the second trailer is faster, more colorful, more fun… all comparisons aside, I might even dare say it’s… good?

Then we’ve got “Speed Me Up”, a song made specially for the film by Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty, and Sueco the Child. That’s gotta be a mess, right? Just look at that hodgepodge of mumbling goofuses all slammed together. Well, the video dropped a few weeks ago, and… um… wow.

I mean, it’s not exactly the next big #1 single or anything. But compared to the mumblecore rap shit on the radio nowadays, it just might be. The lyrics are halfway intelligible, the flow is pretty solid in places, it’s upbeat, it’s catchy, the Sonic tie-in nicely enhances the overall product… yeah, this is way better than it had any right to be.

I mean, Eminem is a better rapper than all of these artists put together, and his “Venom” tie-in song was magnitudes worse. Just saying.

With all of that said, of course I don’t want to get my hopes up. At this point, all the VFX work and selective editing in the world can’t change the fact that this is still a movie about a cartoon character escaping his own dimension to go on a buddy comedy here in our world. An idea that’s been attempted multiple times and has never resulted in anything positive, ever.

(No, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? doesn’t count. Even in that movie, the “real” world was a period noir parody built around human/’toon interaction as an ordinary everyday occurrence.)

But then I remember something: This is Paramount. They’ve been going downhill for the past ten years, and I just spent half a blog entry talking about what a joke they are. Why the hell would I expect anything of quality from them at this point?

For that matter, this is Sonic the freaking Hedgehog. I’d have to write a whole ‘nother blog entry about Sonic’s abysmal decline — the character has been a video gaming punchline since goddamn 2006. Sega keeps making video games for Sonic, swearing up and down that this will be the time they finally get it right, and only the most delusional of fans still hold out hope. Sega can’t even make a good Sonic video game in 2020, why should we expect a good Sonic movie out of them?!

Jim Carrey is a washed-up has-been, still mugging for the camera like it’s just as funny now as it was in goddamn 1994. James Marsden has been in the public eye for the past 20 years, and he’s still a C-lister at best. Nobody knows who Ben Schwartz is, and nobody has to know he’s even in this movie. The director and screenwriters are all newcomers, so they’re likely in place as studio puppets — they might have more to worry about, but it’s no great loss if their careers are stillborn.

So, yeah. At this point, what does anybody have to lose? The bar has been set so impossibly low, it could only succeed. Certainly, that second trailer and the tie-in single have been pleasant surprises. There’s no way this could possibly be as bad as we all think. Could it?

I guess we’ll see when Sonic the Hedgehog opens this weekend.

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  1. Ping from Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins (preface) » Movie Curiosities:

    […] (Side note: I’ve already gone into great detail about how hopelessly fucked Paramount is, over here.) […]

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