For good reason, since the debut of the first trailer, the main topic of conversation surrounding Sonic the Hedgehog has been the look of the titular speedster. But Sonic isn’t the only iconic videogame character making his cinematic debut this week, so too is the Blue Blur’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman if you prefer) and he presented problems of his own. Sonic the Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler reveals the difficulty with Jim Carrey’s Robotnik, saying:
With Robotnik, there wasn't quite so much to pull from with the source material, because he is very moustache-twirly, and for the purposes of the film, we were trying to keep him a little bit more grounded. I mean, we still obviously had a lot of fun with the character. The development that went into him, and all of that, was made so great, just by the casting of Jim Carrey, and all the ideas that he brought to it. It just felt like he really responded to the character in the most incredible way, and had so many ideas for how to develop him.
Based on Jeff Fowler’s comments to Digital Spy, adapting Dr. Robotnik for the big screen in live-action presented two specific challenges that go hand in hand. The first is that unlike Sonic, who is the star of the videogames and provides plenty of personality and character traits to pull from for his cinematic counterpart, Dr. Robotnik is fairly one-dimensional: he is a mustache-twirling villain.
That works fine when he’s just pixels on a screen, but Robotnik’s one-dimensional nature doesn’t work quite as well when adapted into live-action. Jeff Fowler wanted Sonic the Hedgehog to be a bit more grounded and translating Dr. Robotnik as he is in the source material, in all his mustache-twirling glory, would have been at cross-purposes with that.
So the one-dimensionality of Dr. Robotnik in the Sonic videogames, combined with the more grounded approach to the character in the feature film, made the character difficult for Jeff Fowler and the Sonic the Hedgehog team. Fortunately, they cast Jim Carrey and along with the actor, they found an approach that could work for the iconic villain.
Jim Carrey, who has not been particularly thrilled with the film bowing to public pressure on Sonic’s design, apparently brought a ton of ideas to the table on how to develop and portray Dr. Robotnik. The legendary comedic actor really connected with Dr. Robotnik and thanks to his involvement and ideas, they were able to overcome the difficulties that the villain presented.
It sounds like they had fun doing it to. Jeff Fowler says that although they tried to keep Dr. Robotnik more grounded than his videogame counterpart, they still had fun with him and there’s little doubt of that if you’ve seen the trailers for Sonic the Hedgehog. This isn’t Walter White we’re dealing with here; Jim Carrey appears to be full Jim Carrey with an over-the-top performance as Robotnik.
Dr. Robotnik might be more grounded than in the videogames with more shading and dimensionality to his character, but he is still without a doubt a ridiculous villain. That’s judging based on the trailers anyways. We’ll have to see the film to see more of him and his motivations and how Jeff Fowler and Jim Carrey brought one of the most famous and enduring videogame baddies to life.
Sonic the Hedgehog races into theaters on Valentine’s Day, February 14. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what other movies you can look forward to this year.