The Sonic the Hedgehog film franchise will be giving a dedicated fanbase the chance to see some of their favorite characters on the big screen for the first time. Based on the standard of quality set in the first film, and the glimpse of the second, fans know they'll look great, but how will they sound?
One of the most beloved characters in Sonic's massive catalog of sapient woodland creatures is the iconic edgy anti-hero Shadow the Hedgehog. Known as the ultimate life form, Shadow seeks to understand his origins. Shadow first appeared in 2001's Sonic Adventure 2, as both antagonist and playable character, before starring in his own self-titled outing in 2005. Since then, he has remained a complex figure throughout the franchise, serving as a dark mirror to Sonic who occasionally joins with the heroes to save the world.
Updated on April 27, 2022 by Joshua McCoy: Now that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is finally out, fans have gotten the chance to see the film's grand reveal. That's right, Shadow is confirmed by the film's end-credits scene, which marks the first-ever big-screen appearance for the character. Though he did briefly appear, teasing bigger things to come, he did not get a chance to speak in his big reveal. No word has been given on the official casting of the character, so fans are still free to speculate. There are a few fan-favorite options that have floated to the top of the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Shadow the Hedgehog call sheet.
There are essentially two ways to portray Shadow; one-hundred percent sincere dark anti-hero, or a parody of the concept trying way too hard to be cool. Either way, Shadow is an important character to the Sonic canon and his storyline is a fan favorite, so if the movies continue, he's likely to make a much larger impact upon them.
Kirk Thornton is an accomplished voice actor who has portrayed such characters as Jin in Samurai Champloo, Saix in Kingdom Hearts, and, since 2010, Shadow the Hedgehog. Now, typically it would be out of the question to cast the in-game voice actor for the big-budget Hollywood update, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 just broke that tradition by casting Colleen O'Shaughnessey as Tails.
With that in mind, Thornton could reprise his role as Shadow for the 18th time in just over a decade. Thornton brings a genuine level of intimidation to Shadow that is often missing. Thornton portrayed Shadow in the Sonic Boom animated series, wherein he was essentially the only serious character in a silly comedy show. Though it's a long shot, Kirk Thornton is a tried and true performer who gave Shadow the voice fans fell in love with over the past decade, so he's the easiest choice for the role in the film.
This star of The Mandalorian is well known for his portrayal of a taciturn, cold-blooded, gun-toating, intimidating loner, all of which makes him a perfect candidate for Shadow. Pascal is extremely popular for numerous performances, including the aforementioned title role in The Mandalorian and Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones. Pascal can sell an anti-hero effortlessly, but he is also extremely charming, meaning he could take the character in a variety of directions.
The biggest drawback of Pascal taking over this particular character would be the risk of making Shadow too likable, but that could be subverted by making him more comical than his source material. The character is often mocked for the tone of his portrayal, having a very funny performer like Pascal take the role of Shadow would bring more fun to the role.
The social media explosion after Idris Elba announced his casting as Knuckles very nearly drowned out excitement for the movie itself. Casting the star behind Neo and John Wick to play the ultimate life form would have that effect all over again. Keanu Reeves is a great actor, and his career is deeply varied and prolific.
A modern film take on Shadow would essentially be a PG talking animal version of John Wick, often complete with real guns, so why not get the man himself to take the role. Keanu Reeves' best-known voice acting role is probably Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077, another role that conveys a particularly teenaged depiction of cool. Reeves could make Shadow as cool as the most devoted fans see him, standing out as a sincere grim anti-hero in a fun comedic world.
This casting choice would be based almost entirely on the strength of Arnett's Batman in The Lego Batman Movie. If the Sonic film universe decides that Shadow should carry a comedic edge, Arnett is the perfect candidate. Shadow is a character who is defined by his unshakeable self-confidence, unironically proclaiming "I'm the coolest" in the middle of a fight.
Arnett's brand is characters who swagger through life without ever questioning themselves, and his performance as an aggressively self-reliant arrogant Batman cements that role. A take on Shadow that is blissfully free from self-awareness would be hilarious for most, and probably still idolized by some. Arnett would be the ideal casting choice to allow Shadow to blend into the action-comedy world of the films.
Starring in everything from Narnia, to Atonement, to Wanted, to Sherlock Gnomes, McAvoy has one of the most varied careers in the industry. With that kind of pedigree, it's tough to find a role McAvoy's talents would fail. His multifaceted role in Split and Glass shows off some fun range that conveys a real willingness to play with anything he's given.
Though Shadow has been voiced by a number of performers, his voice has always been similar. McAvoy's closest performance actually comes from the audiobook presentation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, in which he portrayed Dream. McAvoy is a great choice for the role due to his seamless ability to shine anywhere, his excellent voice, and his sheer charisma.
No version of this list could've ever been complete without The Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal in the running. Anyone who has stumbled upon the social media reaction to the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Shadow the Hedgehog reveal has seen two names drift to the top of the running. The first is Keanu Reeves, the second is Jon Bernthal. There's almost too much in common between Bernthal's most popular characters and the way that Shadow has been portrayed over the years.
Bernthal is a gifted actor who has starred in massive media properties such as The Walking Dead, Baby Driver, and Fury, as well as passion projects like Small Engine Repair. He's performed some solid voice performances in video games like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. His role as Frank Castle is obviously the best comparison point to Shadow. Fans can probably hear Bernthal's naturally intense and intimidating voice in the role, with his trademark roar bringing an extreme quality to the kids' movie. The best possible use of Bernthal's talents would be in a Shadow the Hedgehog solo project, allowing him to take on the role of gun-toting anti-hero, as he is well-known for doing. Bernthal is a self-evidently stellar choice for a serious take on Shadow the Hedgehog, and he'd be a revelation against Idris Elba's Knuckles.
Now here's an actor who could find the perfect middle ground between a straight and a silly performance as Shadow the Hedgehog. Foxx is a naturally hilarious performer, with an easy charisma that makes him entertaining, even in his less stellar projects and roles. Foxx has been prominent in the industry for a long time, and his chops as a compelling action figure and a hilarious comedic force are well established.
Though Foxx doesn't have a ton of voiceover performances under his belt, he does have one of the most distinct voices in Hollywood. His role as the eponymous Django in Django Unchained features his voice at its most growly and intimidating. His role as Bats in Baby Driver remains scary, while also letting him play around with some sillier tendencies. Perhaps most impressively, his role as Dean "MF" Jones in the Horrible Bosses films provides a perfect faux-intimidating performance that devolves into comedy. A kid-friendly version of Foxx as Jones could be the perfect middle ground between the two versions of Shadow the Hedgehog. Foxx would be perfect in any version of the role.
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