I like adaptations. I really really like adaptations, they are my favourite type of film full stop. It also happens that I am a massive Sonic fan, a huge one in fact. So the announcement that Sony is giving Sonic the Transformers treatment is a fantasy come true.
I want this film to be great, not just good, and certainly not bad in any way. The reason for this is that it could so easily go wrong. The Sonic fan base is heavily divided on whether Sonic was made or ruined by adding a story in the first place, so half of them probably threw up when they heard about it.
Sonic has also fallen out of favour with the gaming community in the last few years, he isn't the top dog anymore and you're more likely to get a groan than a cheer when you tell a game fan that a new Sonic game is coming out.
The basic reason for this is the directions the franchise has taken. At first it was simple: you're a speedy blue hedgehog, gather rings, fight robots, give birth to many internet memes a few years down the line. This began to change when they updated from "classic" Sonic to "modern" Sonic. Sonic went from being a mute, pudgy, smiley little creature to a taller, talking, more edgy and much faster beast. This also coincided with the first 3D Sonic game coming out.
This new 3D Sonic franchise was at the forefront of Sega for several years until one mistake threw a bomb into it with Sonic 06. This game was universally panned for having poor story, too many characters and the grim possibility of sonic having a human love interest. Feel free to shudder at this point.
So, Sega abandoned full 3D games and decided the future was GIMMICKS! Everything from this point on would be GIMMICKS! There was no need to go back to the golden years of 2D Sonic or the silver years of 3D Sonic when there's GIMMICKS UNTIL THE END OF TIME!
And so Sonic became THE franchise that had had it's day. This means that the movie adaptation could do one of two things:
Resurrect the franchise, or try to push it further under.
This film could take everything Michael Bay inspires with each new movie adaptation of your childhood toys and make those feelings pale in comparison, or it could be a genuinely fine movie in the right hands.
But there needs to be rules with what the director does with it:
How is Sonic in the real world? Assuming he is at all.
Will this game take place on our earth, as the adventure series does, or would it take place on the other world where Sonic and other talking meta-animals live with no humans around, Möbius (as seen in the original Sonic cartoon series)?
If it takes place in the real world (and it probably should), how exactly? There are many possibilities: Does Sonic escape the video games into the real world (pretty naff idea if you want my opinion), Does he come from a parallel world to our own? (as depicted the cartoon Sonic X and to a lesser extent "The Smurfs").
I'd say the best option is to go with simplicity: just say Sonic is here, in our world, with no convoluted explanation or prologue. If it comes to it, just imply that he, Tails and Knuckles are all just products of evolution like us, and they've been keeping a low profile.
Which game will it draw inspiration from?
This is a video game movie, and bad things happen when you stray from the source material. Remember Prince of Persia? Or Doom? Or <gasp> the Super Mario Brothers Movie? They all decided to take the general idea of the games, and just do something else that you could kind of compare with the original, they weren't direct adaptations of games, just sort of based on them.
Sonic should not take this route, it leads to giving the studio too much control, and suddenly you're trying out a new story and that's never received well with an established property.
I put forward Sonic Adventure 1 for the Sega Dreamcast:
I feel confident that this is the best game for direct adaptation. There are a lot of reasons for this: First of all, it's an old game. It's the furthest back in sonic history you can go whilst still starring "Modern" Sonic. And that's important. Sonic as a franchise has diminished over time, and this was one of the last truly epic sonic games, so we need to back (as doc brown would say) but not too far. This is because this movie has been commissioned for one reason only: money.
Sega is selling the character rights because they want money and publicity, and for that, Sonic must appear in the form he appears in the games still being made today. So Sonic Adventure is the optimum choice, it's still modern Sonic, but it's from back when Sonic was grappling Mario for monopoly of the gaming world.
There are more reasons. This game comes with sequels, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, and Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic Adventure 2 is quite simply one of the greatest games ever made. The heroes and Shadow weren't far removed from them. Together they form a cohesive arc of stories set in the real world, a movie franchise couldn't do much better.
This game was also one of the first Sonic games to actually have a real story, characters have motives and drives and there's real spectacle and fear and heroism, so I really think this game is the right way to go.
(Also the final boss battle is pretty damn epic... and a remake of the game as a tie in wouldn't be too bad.)
What's going to happen with human characters?
There will definitely be human characters, there's no sense in denying it. It's live action and that means live action characters. You could gripe or complain or you could hope they do it right. And that IS possible.
Some people disliked Shia Lebeouf in the transformers movies. I disagree, I thought he made those movies what they are. But even if you didn't, have you seen the recent clip of Mark Wahlburg and Kelsey Grammer facing off in Transformers 4? There isn't a transforming robot in sight, but I'm still enthralled in that scene. Human characters are not filler, they can genuinely enrich a film. That being said; they can also ruin it.
What type of characters they write are pivotal. This film must NOT be a kids movie. Most of the people who like Sonic aren't kids any more, they're adults, so the film has to appeal to both parties, Sonic's loyal fanbase, and Sega's target demographic.
Kids being featured will drag down that adult appeal, it always does, but make it too grown up and you risk alienating the kids, and Sega won't like that and they WILL start demanding changes. So a compromise is needed. Cast teenagers. If possible, college age characters who could not be seen as children. This will prevent the film being too bogged down in feelings and overly corny, painfully cheesy storylines, and allows them to put in some serious action and worthwhile humour, but it won't be a bunch of real adults who simply cannot relate to video games on screen. I think Bay hit it on the head in Transformers with sam Witwicky, he couldn't have been done better than he was.
The tone of the film is also important. Again I think we should look to transformers for guidance. There's real peril and danger and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, and the characters never at any point sugar coated or baby-proofed that. It should be more like transformers, TMNT et al. in terms of tone and stay away from the sickly-sweet Smurfs paradigm.
This is made more urgent by the fact that the first sequel to this movie could very well be based around the character of Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow is a character you just can't water down. He is a misunderstood, disturbed and confused creature with no clear aim in life and no idea how to find peace or happiness, and for the most part with no motive to be a hero. I want to see his painful, tortured story and eventual inspiring redemption plotline on the screen because I've always considered his story one of the finest in all of gaming and full of philosophical lessons. So retrospectively, the first film can't set a childish tone.
This is the difference between an adaptation like Alvin and the Chipmunks, and an an adaptation like Iron Man.
I'm going to be hotly anticipating more information on this movie and I'd appreciate any feedback on my suggestions from fellow fans. Do you think there's a better game to base it on? Do you think it would be better with zero human characters?