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With $800,000 on Wednesday, and thus a new $148.9 million 20-day cume, Paramount and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will today pass the unadjusted $148.9 million domestic total of Sonic the Hedgehog. That includes $146 million from its pre-Covid release and a few extra bucks from its summer-of-2020 reissue when it was among a handful of recent releases helping keep open theaters open for business. Regardless, that’ll make Jeff Wadlow’s Sonic 2 the biggest-grossing video game-based movie ever in unadjusted domestic earnings. That’s the second time in a row that Sonic has broken that specific box office record, making it (by default) the Batman or Spider-Man of video game franchises.
It will, presumably tomorrow, become the first video game-based movie to pass $150 million in unadjusted grosses. But what about inflation? Well, once it passes $155 million this weekend, it’ll best the adjusted grosses of Pokemon: The First Movie ($85 million in 1999) and Mortal Kombat ($70 million in 1995) to become the second-biggest “tickets sold” video game movie. Alas, it isn’t getting anywhere near Angelina Jolie’s first Tomb Raider, which earned $131 million in 2001 which would be $212 million when adjusted for inflation. Fun fact: the notion of Jolie as the ass-kicking Lara Croft in a big-budget ($115 million) actioner was so enticing that it opened with $47 million in June of 2001.
That was the third-biggest opening ever for a non-sequel behind X-Men ($54 million in 2000) and Jurassic Park ($50 million in 1993). Alas, it wasn’t very good (it was clearly cut to ribbons in post-production). Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, a much superior blend of Indiana Jones and James Bond pairing Jolie with a cast-to-type Gerard Butler, paid for the sins of its predecessor with a miserable $65 million domestic gross. And thus, the “Tomb Raider Trap” was born! Conversely, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 benefited from the goodwill of its surprisingly solid predecessor, a film that didn’t put nostalgia and fan bait ahead of just being a genuinely enjoyable kid-friendly fantasy adventure comedy.
I wasn’t huge on Uncharted, but A) my son liked it well enough and B) the film got the results Sony was hoping for. The $120 million actioner, starring cast-to-type Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, has earned $146 million domestic (behind only the two Sonic films sans inflation among video game movies) and will likely be dragged kicking and screaming in protest across the $400 million worldwide milestone before exiting theaters. That’ll put it behind only Rampage ($430 million in 2018), Detective Pokemon ($433 million in 2019) and Warcraft ($438 million in 2016), although only Rampage (which cost just $120 million) qualifies as an outright smash. So, yeah, I think the video game curse is over.
Sonic the Hedgehog, which was mostly done even before Covid, earned “just” $306 million worldwide in early 2020, with the sequel currently sitting at $290 million global. It may not reach the very top of the video game list for global grosses, but A) neither film got/will likely get a boost from China (Warcraft earned $220 million after a frontloaded $90 million Wednesday/Thursday debut and Rampage earned $155 million there) and B) when you don’t cost more than $110 million you don’t need China to save your butt. Again, Paramount has been on such a roll of late (Scream, Jackass Forever, The Lost City, etc.) that I’m looking forward to Top Gun: Maverick this morning.
More importantly, Sonic the Hedgehog is a successful franchise because, how novel, audiences saw and liked the first film and showed up for more. Yes, Paramount has stated intentions for a Paramount+ streaming show for Idris Elba’s himbo scene-stealer Knuckles, but that was only after the first Sonic was a well-liked hit and they knew Knuckles would be an audience favorite. I’m not over the moon about this automatic multimedia saturation, but that’s how it goes at least for the short term. Regardless, after years in the dark ages, Sonic the Hedgehog is Paramount’s first successful new IP franchise since G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Star Trek both in the summer of 2009.
As for the video game curse, that was a non-entity since Tomb Raider and Rampage both earned respectable grosses ($56 million/$274 million and $101 million/$433 million) in early 2018. Marquee characters with genre-specific plots are the key, as well as making a movie that works whether or not audiences give a damn about the IP. That Sonic the Hedgehog 2 features an extended comic subplot for Natasha Rothwell shows that the filmmakers understood this. I frankly couldn’t care less what Sonic 3 does with, as teased by the film’s mid-credits cookie, Shadow the Hedgehog. I just want to see Rachel teaming up with Knuckles and/or finally meeting up with Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik.