Hollywood has long tried to capitalize on the financial success and cultural relevance of video games by turning them into feature-length films.
Unfortunately, there has always seemed to be something lost in translation between the game controller and the theater. These films have tended to make back their production budgets — so studios keep making them — but fail to become as beloved as the video games they’re based on.
Movies like “Super Mario Bros.,” “Street Fighter,” “Need for Speed,” “Assassins’ Creed,” “Prince of Persia,” and both iterations of “Tomb Raider” have all been widely panned at the box office over the last three decades.
And Paramount Picture’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” appears to be joining that list.
With a 65% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 98 reviews, “Sonic” is currently the third-highest rated video game adaptation, but as more reviews pour in, it seems the Sega-inspired film suffers from the same pitfalls as its predecessors.
While the redone visual effects have been lauded as a stunning improvement over the initial design of Sonic, critics are less unified on their opinion of the overall film.
The majority of the praise that was given to the film was for Jim Carrey, who portrays the villain Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, and the return of his exaggerated and unpredictable comedic antics. His performance was often cited as the perfect counterbalance to a script comprised of “derivative” storytelling and “skimpy” character development.
A history of rotten adaptations
The Rotten Tomato rating has become a benchmark for movies over the last two decades. Rotten Tomatoes’ website is often consulted by moviegoers before they decide to go see a film. The company aggregates reviews from major publications and reputable blogs and determines what percentage of those reviews were positive versus negative.
If at least 60% of a film’s reviews are positive, it will receive a red tomato, and be considered “fresh.” If it is less than 60%, it is given a green splat. In order to be considered “certified fresh” at least 75% of a movie’s reviews must be positive.
Including “Sonic,” only three films based on video games have garnered “Fresh” ratings on the review platform. “Detective Pikachu” and “The Angry Birds Movie 2” are the other two.
Ben Schwartz voices Sonic in Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
But just because video game movies have been poorly reviewed doesn’t mean they haven’t seen box office success.
Currently, the highest-grossing video game adaptation at the box office is Universal’s “Warcraft,” based on the World of Warcraft online game. It hauled in $433.6 million in worldwide ticket sales in 2016, but has a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Not to mention, over the course of seven films, the “Resident Evil” franchise — distributed by Constantin Film, New Legacy film and Impact Pictures over the years — has earned $1.2 billion at the global box office. With production budgets that range from $30 million to $60 million that is enough of a box office return to justify more installments in the franchise.
“Sonic” is forecasted to tally $35 million to $45 million in box office sales during its U.S. opening, as it is one of the few family films in theaters during a holiday weekend. Also, many Sonic video game lovers are expected to head the theaters to see the flick.
Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC, owns Rotten Tomatoes.