Detective Pikachu's cinematographer weighed in on why Pikachu looks better than Sonic. In the years since CGI first became a common and easily accessible tool for filmmakers, a wide variety of characters have been brought to life on screens both big and small. Many of these characters are well known; meaning the pressure to accurately depict them has become a tremendous challenge in itself.
At times, CG characters have been greeted with praise by fans, but there have also been numerous instances in which the effects used to depict beloved characters have not been well received. Most recently, Paramount has found itself in quite the conundrum as a result of their take on Sega’s video game superhero Sonic the Hedgehog. The production has faced so much negative feedback since first introducing the live-action Sonic that Paramount has recently announced they will be heading back to the drawing board in order to completely redesign the character. With several live-action versions of famous animated films or characters currently on the way, Paramount’s Sonic fiasco has consistently stood out.
Thanks to Newsweek, we now have another opinion weighing in on the matter, as John Mathieson, director of photography on the upcoming Detective Pikachu has made it clear that his film looks far superior to Sonic the Hedgehog. Mathieson, who was actually offered the job of cinematographer on Sonic, but turned it down to work on Detective Pikachu, claims that the biggest difference between the two films comes down to film vs. digital. Detective Pikachu was shot using traditional (but increasingly rare) film, while Sonic was shot using digital video cameras.
Mathieson pulled no punches while explaining the reasoning behind his opinions, saying that he was “so glad we don’t look like that” in reference to Sonic’s current appearance. Unapologetically expanding on the concept of film vs. digital in this context, Mathieson went on to say:
“If all we’re talking about is how these two films look, our film is better than Sonic the Hedgehog and I’m sorry, I don’t care who I upset by saying that, but I think it looks better. There’s no reason why you can’t shoot a film like [Detective Pikachu] or Sonic the Hedgehog on film. If you had, [Sonic the Hedgehog] would look more realistic. I look at Sonic the Hedgehog and I just go ‘yeah whatever.’ Film hasn’t been made better by digital. People are lazier, they don’t try as hard, don't try things out. I find it very difficult to use, especially these huge Marvel superhero films because [director of photographers] all look the same. It all goes in the computer and gets washed up. You don’t see the individuality of the photographer and that’s a shame. It’s difficult to bring a look to a film that’s made by lots of people that’s gone through a big computer. That’s what they are, computers with lens attached to them.”
Though he does appear to be coming down quite hard on using digital video to shoot down films, Mathieson does concede that when used properly, digital can still be stunning. In the case of Sonic, however, Mathieson has made a valuable point. Placed side by side, it’s not hard to see the immense detail and realism imparted in the character of Pikachu. And whether the studios like it or not, fans can and will immediately notice when a character like Sonic isn’t given the degree of effort that it deserves.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) release date: Feb 14, 2020