The Sony Cinematic Universe

Taking inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony Pictures has today announced plans to launch their own video-game movie adaptation universe called PlayStation Productions – but we’re just going to call it the Sony Cinematic Universe, or SCU, because (a) I like that name better, and (b) PlayStation Productions overseer Shawn Layden is already drawing the parallels himself, saying that “[we] looked at what Marvel has done in taking the world of comic books and making it into the biggest thing in the film world”. In other words, they think they can unseat Marvel at the box-office. Which is fine – but with PlayStation?

Apparently so, and there are over 100 game titles that Layden and SCU president Asad Qizilbash are interested in adapting to the big and small screen. That probably includes best-selling games like Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, and…Crash Bandicoot.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this news follows the success of Detective Pikachu, which became (just barely) the best-reviewed video-game adaptation on Rotten Tomatoes. But the hard reality is that, for the most part, video-game adaptations are massive failures, critically and often financially. They also seem to attract a lot of negativity from the fans they desperately want to please, some of it so overwhelming that film studios feel compelled to cave in to pressure (looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog).

Why would anyone want to try and build an entire cinematic universe around video-game adaptations? It’s not like this is the first time PlayStation games have been adapted – just look at Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its 2018 reboot Tomb Raider, (oh yeah, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, how could I forget about that one) all of which were burdened with poor audience scores and staggeringly bad reviews. Even Angelina Jolie couldn’t save the franchise from a solidly “Rotten” rating. Ryan Reynolds, meanwhile, has narrowly saved the blossoming Pokémon franchise from a similar fate, but for how long? Detective Pikachu may have offered false hope to all the Hollywood moguls looking to jump on the bandwagon – are we seriously now going to get a Crash Bandicoot movie? Does anybody want that? Anybody?

Okay, well now that we’ve raised the possibility, I probably do want that, but I’m not going to admit it.

So, is the video-game movie curse officially broken with the success of Detective Pikachu? I doubt it. But then again, Angry Birds, a movie based on an iPhone app, garnered millions of dollars at the worldwide box-office – so what do I know? But maybe now is the time to start building a Sony Cinematic Universe: The Witcher video-game adaptation is going to release on Netflix later this year, and a Nintendo Mario Brothers movie is still in production at Universal – that’s something that could easily wipe out all the competition.

I’m wishing Layden and Qizilbash all the luck in the world, but the current track-record – and the curse – give me little hope for the future of their fresh new cinematic universe.

“Sonic The Hedgehog” Trailer!

There’s a serious problem with video games being turned into movies. Has anyone noticed that they never work? Yet for some reason these adaptations keep being made, despite the fact that games simply aren’t suited for this type of medium.

You see, video games are interactive entertainment, whereas movies are not. Movies are about stories, and video games (for the most part) are not. So when a video game gets turned into a movie, you lose the interactive element, the part that makes the game entertaining, and you gain hours worth of new story: the boring part. Very few people play a game for the story – especially with something like Sonic the Hedgehog, which has a simple “plot”, if it can even be called that, and instead focuses (as it should) on running around different themed levels and collecting points. The layout of a game, however, does not and cannot work for a movie – so instead of challenging themselves, the filmmakers decide to simply throw out everything that made the game special to fans, except for a few sound effects and minuscule hints, while focusing their attention on crafting a generic story that can be called Sonic the Hedgehog if it loosely employs some of the game’s characters and logo.

It doesn’t work like that, though, and they know it. Trying to give Sonic a new plot so that it can appeal to mainstream audiences is a faulty strategy – it’s an affront to the fans, and it’s unlikely to capture much attention from the general public considering that another movie featuring a human teaming up with a feisty animal sidekick is already about to hit theaters – that being Detective Pikachu, which actually knows how to make the inaccessibly deep Pokemon mythology easy for audiences to understand and enjoy, at least based on the overwhelmingly positive reactions to that movie’s trailers. Meanwhile Sonic finds itself in an unenviable position where its official trailer has, as of this writing, 47 thousand likes on YouTube – and 47 thousand dislikes.

There’s really not that much to say about the trailer itself, because it looks even more one-dimensional than the original game. Sonic the Hedgehog somehow ends up in the modern world (because, why not?), and teams up with James Marsden to defeat Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, how low you’ve sunk). Sonic looks and sounds like a cheap knock-off Pikachu – but much less adorable, much less unique, and much less relateable. In an attempt to make the 1990’s Sega game accessible to modern audiences, Paramount has committed a huge mistake.

And so we’re left wondering how this video-game/movie chimera could have been avoided, if the film had hearkened back to its roots as a somewhat cheesy and simplistic game that didn’t take itself too seriously: they could have even used old-fashioned pixelated special effects to capture that style, or sent James Marsden into a Sega console so we could see him work his way out through the game. But, seriously, changing the Paramount stars to gold rings is the best they can do?

Trailer Rating: 4/10