The Sonic the Hedgehog movie backlash is exactly what they want

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie backlash is exactly what they want
Josh Wise Updated on by

I really don’t want to talk about the teeth. If you’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film, then you’ll likely be feeling confused, bewildered, or just bothered. The concept itself – of a suped-up anthropomorphic hedgehog befriending a policeman and saving earth from Jim Carrey (someone ought to) – seems vaguely plausible. There are missiles and robots and rings that activate portals when they’ve no business doing so. Then, of course, there’s the main attraction: the disturbingly limber legs, the hooded eyes, the fingernails, and, yes, the teeth. The human teeth.

Obviously, the internet has had trouble processing the multifarious horrors of the trailer. Some people are amused by how unreasonably mental the premise is; others can't stop thinking about how creepy the teeth are; yet others are irritated at Jim Carrey, who seems to be phoning it in from Neptune or wherever he is. But there’s something else that disturbs me about the trailer, something insidious. It’s not as if there is anything inherently evil about the way the Sonic the Hedgehog adaptation looks; it isn’t that Paramount, after scooping up the rights to the floundering film from Sony, set out to mire civilisation as we know it in chaos. But they aren’t naive. This isn’t a wildfire; it smacks of a controlled burn.

They know what’s going on. You know they – they of spreadsheets and data, they of focus groups and test screenings. They did this. And good lord they’re rubbing their hands together now. All these Tweets and mentions and shocked reactions (and shame on me for writing this, I suppose) are doing a brilliant job of publicity. So much so that when I hear the word ‘Sonic,’ I don't think of those beloved early games anymore; I think of that trailer, those legs, and that mouth. They are laughing and scheming amidst the chaos. They needn’t have cast Jim Carrey; there seems to be a perfectly good Dr Robotnik lurking in the offices of Paramount.

It’s this that gets under my skin. I can imagine a bulky strategy folder, compiled months ago, before this almighty mess of a trailer was unleashed on us all. This folder, I imagine, contained headings like ‘initial social media response,’ ‘is this memable?’ and even – who knows – ‘test reactions on “accidental” reveal of characters legs through leaked promotional materials.’ I can also imagine some dastardly person – let’s imagine them to be called Seymour – was in charge of making last minute tweaks to Sonic’s mouth to ensure its memability. (I’m also quite certain there was a tab in that folder called ‘Tumblr porn?’)

Or, who knows, perhaps I’m being uncharitable. Perhaps Paramount are in some financial trouble and they need a big name and some big money and I should lay off Seymour. He’s probably a nice person. It’s just that if you plan on seeing the film, (a) in the same way you couldn’t look away from a car crash or a documentary on sharks, (b) after a few Ben Shaws Bitter Shandies with some friends, or (c) simply to laugh at ironically, it doesn’t make any difference. It’s all money – money doesn’t know if it’s being changed hands ironically.

And if I sound cynical, it’s because this whole thing smells of cynicism. They put Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio featuring L.V. in the trailer. Is that because it came out in 1995? Is it because this hedgehog is gangsta? Is it to make me think of Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds – because I already think of Michelle Pfeiffer; I think she’s underrated, and have done ever since her role in The Fabulous Baker Boys. But no, I think they put Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio featuring L.V. in the trailer to stir up the chaos. The madness is the method.

And look, it isn't as if I'm not morbidly curious myself. I am wondering quite how Dr Robotnik will shed his hair, mutate his mustache to tusk-like size, and swell to egg proportion. I wonder if he will use Sonic’s hair (spikes?) to clone him and create Shadow the Hedgehog, a test tube sequel – and perhaps said sequel will entail Shadow with two machine guns; can you imagine? But despite all this, I feel the overwhelming urge to resist any temptation toward excitement or anger or confusion. Or even disaster laughter. For all its zany, stupid, car crash oddity, this trailer isn’t as messy or as hapless as it seems. It has teeth.