Films that are based on video games never had the best track record. From the Super Mario Bros. movie which was released in 1993 to 2016’s Assassin’s Creed, every video game movie has been poorly received by fans and critics alike. Even the best among them like Mortal Kombat are hardly considered to be cinematic masterworks.
When it was announced that there would be a live-action film based on Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog, fans reaction were predictably cynical. These are two beloved brands that fans have cherished for decades; of course, fans will be more critical towards them. What can Hollywood studios do to help sell this movie idea, when most are already deriding the films before they could even give them a chance?
The way each film is marketed tells a tale of two different ways to promote a film. One way is currently well-received, while the other is being ridiculed before anyone of else could adequately watch it.
Let’s compare and contrast what makes these two films’ marketing so different.
It’s odd to think of how more positively well received Pokémon: Detective Pikachu has become. When the film was first announced, it received the same kind of mockery that past motion pictures based on video games have received. While there is always hope that an upcoming video game based movie will finally buck the trend and be an adequate film, fans have been burned too many times.
But as more and more footage of Detective Pikachu is being released, the more fans began warming up to the film. While there are always going to be skeptics, the film’s trailers and marketing have won most fans over. What another current movie trailer has Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”? It gives the film its personality and makes it more appealing to the audience. It’s not going to be a hit everyone but doesn’t need to be. You need to advertise the right people, and the audience will grow.
On the contrary, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie remains ridiculed, and it continues to be scoffed at. The more and more fans get to see about the project, the more they derided it.
So what’s the main difference between the two projects?
It’s possible that fans were won over by Detective Pikachu’s charming trailers. From Detective Pikachu’s voice acting to the fascinating world that the film takes place in, there is an undeniable charm to the film.
Detective Pikachu also benefits from well-received CGI. Though the Pokémon in the film does not necessarily look real, the CGI has a sense of style and grace that makes Pokémon appear believable. I do believe that Pikachu is talking to the main protagonist of the film.
The film also benefited from the presence of Ryan Reynolds, the voice actor of the titular Detective Pikachu. Reynolds natural charisma and genuinely funny personality help sell the film, despite the lukewarm response his casting was initially received. Reynolds was a big reason why Fox Studios’ Deadpool was such a success. Deadpool also had off-the-wall marketing that made the film look appealing.
This is a contrast to Sonic the Hedgehog’s marketing. Most of what we know of the movie comes from leaks, a few promotional materials, and trailers that were shown in conventions but never were released online. Not only does it give us a minimal view of the film, everything we have seen for the film has not been well received.
From Sonic’s weird CGI legs in that one promotional image to the full leaked image of Sonic himself, nothing about the film has been positively received. When a trailer was finally released online, fans were still not pleased by the way the film looks. Having a remix of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” is undoubtedly a bold move, but it doesn’t have the same effect as Detective Pikachu’s use of 80s soundtracks in their trailers.
Ben Schwartz, the voice of Sonic in the move, and James Marsden, the human lead of the film, are charming actors. However, they both fail to match the same kind of off-kilter charisma that Reynolds was able to bring for Detective Pikachu. Currently, Jim Carrey’s portrayal as the evil Dr. Robotnik is what most fans are talking about, for both good and bad reasons.
But then there’s also the fact that Detective Pikachu looks more like its source material. Based on the Detective Pikachu video game, a spin-off to the main Pokémon games, the movie matches the general tone and story of the game. The Pokémon look like the Pokémon from the games, mix with some realism.
Detective Pikachu comes across a film made by people who understand the product. This is something I often say about films that are based on anything, but for a film to be adequately adapted, you need to understand why the source material is appealing to so many people in the first place. Someone doesn’t always need to be a fan of something to properly turn it into a good movie; they need to know what makes it appealing.
That is why so many video games based movies fail; they aren’t always made by people who don’t quite “get” the material. It always comes across as a cheap cash grab for a big studio to take advantage of. At least that is what I get from seeing these films getting made.
That’s the sense I get from seeing anything related to the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Sonic doesn’t look like Sonic, the Dr. Robotnik doesn’t look like Dr. Robotnik (unless we count that brief moment at the end of the trailer), the robots don’t look like the robots from the game, and the story isn’t based on anything from any of the games. It just seems like a child-friendly movie starring a blue furball with teeth that is also named Sonic.
Of course this doesn’t seem fair to compare the two. Detective Pikachu is closer to release date, so there will obviously be more advertising for the film.
There’s also the possibility that the Sonic the Hedgehog movie may exceed people’s expectations and turn out to be a decent film. I’m not holding my breath on that one. Nothing against the actors and the people who work behind the scenes, but the film does not look objectively good. The CGI is bad, Sonic looks bad, and overall looks lame.
There’s also the genuine possibility that Detective Pikachu may not be good. With that said, I have better faith that Pikachu will be a better movie than Sonic. Not only does Detective Pikachu have a lot of goodwill for how well it is advertised, but it also has the benefit from early positive response from those who viewed the film early.
In the end, it is very much possible that Detective Pikachu is better received than Sonic because Detective Pikachu may be a better movie. Objectivity is always through the eyes of the beholder, so determining if something is good or bad depends solely on the individual. However, everything of what seen of Detective Pikachu looks better than Sonic the Hedgehog, which may explain why one of these films are doing better in marketing. We will see,
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, produced by Warner Brothers Studios, Legendary, and The Pokémon Company, will release in theaters in the United States starting May 10. Sonic the Hedgehog, produced by Paramount, live-action film is slated to release on November 8.