|DETECTIVE PIKACHUVISUAL EFFECTSOSCAR|
At a time when the box office is in disarray, theaters are lying empty and unused, and major film releases are getting canceled or postponed, Sonic the Hedgehog has managed to claim a record by becoming the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time, at least at the domestic box-office.
The Paramount production currently stands at a little above $145 million dollars domestic collection. This puts it slightly ahead of Detective Pikachu, which managed to make around $144 million domestically. However, Detective Pikachu is still ahead of Sonic the Hedgehog in international territories, with earnings of over $400 million dollars.
The road to box office success for Sonic was paved with difficulties. The cult classic video game character has not been a part of the cultural zeitgeist for some time now, despite at one point being a rival to Mario in terms of brand identity among general audiences, and not just gamers.
Then there is the curse of the movie adaptation that most video game features suffer from. Few video game movies have managed to become successful since the days of the original Mortal Kombat movie, and the Resident Evil franchise that has largely run out of steam. The last attempt at a traditional video game movie franchise, Tomb Raider starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in the lead role, received mix reviews from critics and at the box office, as did Rampage.
While Detective Pikachu was technically a video game adaptation, the Pokemon characters the film used were already very familiar to audiences thanks to decades of animated shows and movies set within the universe. There was also the voice acting of international star Ryan Reynolds as the titular Pikachu, which helped give a boost to the film's earnings.
Sonic the Hedgehog has little of these advantages, with the most well-known cast member Jim Carrey having been largely absent from cinemas for a long time. The movie also sabotaged its own chances of success by initially coming up with a design for the character of Sonic that was panned by fans for looking too strange and horrifying.
Fortunately, the makers quickly course-corrected by responding to fan backlash and gave Sonic's design a complete overhaul, taking away the more realistic aspects of the alien hedgehog's physiology and giving the character a rounder, cuter, anime-esque look.
The final result was a character and storyline that audiences responded well to, especially younger viewers. While the film was deemed a by-the-numbers kiddie adventure, it had enough jokes and thrills to warrant an enjoyable time at the theaters for undemanding audiences. All of that warranted the film becoming a box-office success and paving the way to an entire Sonic movie universe, complete with a post-credits scene at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog teasing the arrival of Tails.
The future of video game movies appears to be looking bright at the moment, with the...
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
The 2006 Oscars will forever be remembered as the infamous ceremony where “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture. Ang Lee’s groundbreaking gay romance was the critical favorite and it won three of the eight Oscars it was nominated for that year: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Headlining actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal both earned Oscar nominations for their performances. The actors were asked to present during the 2007 Oscars telecast, but Gyllenhaal revealed in a recent interview with Another Man magazine via NME that Ledger turned down the opportunity because it would mean making jokes at the expense of the gay “Brokeback” love story.
“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal said. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, 'Oh, okay... whatever.' I'm always like, ‘It's all in good fun.’ And Heath said, 'It's not a joke to me — I don't want to make any jokes about it.’”
Gyllenhaal, “That's the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, 'No. This is about love. Like, that's it, man. Like, no.'”
Ledger was nominated in the Best Actor category but lost to “Capote” star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gyllenhaal lost to George Clooney in “Syriana” for Best Supporting Actor. “Brokeback Mountain” marked the first Oscar nominations for both actors. Ledger would go on to be nominated and win his Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor race for his role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Ledger received the Academy Award posthumously. “Brokeback” remains Gyllenhaal’s sole Oscar nomination to date.
Gyllenhaal has previously spoken about Ledger’s disdain for “Brokeback Mountain” jokes, but this is the first time the actor has revealed his late co-star turned down the Oscars. Gyllenhaal told “Today” in July 2019 that “Brokeback” marked a pivotal moment in his career. “It opened tons of doors,” he said. “It was crazy. It was amazing. It's defined my career in different ways. [But the film] is bigger than me...It has become not ours anymore. It's the world's.”
Read Gyllenhaal’s latest interview in its entirety on the Another Man website.