We’re all excited to see Shadow the Hedgehog skate onto the big screen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. He’s one of the most enduringly iconic characters in Sonic’s impossibly vast menagerie of woodland pals. Takashi Iizuka and Shiro Maekawa, who imagined a gun-toting edgelord version of an already 90s-cool character, deserved an award. However, Shadow’s canonical history is comically messy, with one scene the filmmakers can’t put in a PG- 13 rated movie. Shadow frequently forgets his past, but how will Jeff Fowler and the three screenwriters handle his memories?
Shadow the Hedgehog’s Backstory Takes Strange Turns
Sega introduced Shadow in Sonic Adventure 2, the landmark sequel to Sonic’s first foray into 3D gameplay. Though Shadow will enjoy his film debut in Sonic 3, he has been a franchise staple since 2001. That game lays out his backstory. Shadow originated from illegal genetic experiments authorized by the President of the United Federation. Project Shadow sought to construct a weapon of mass destruction under the guise of seeking immortality. The President recruited a reluctant scientific genius named Gerald Robotnik to lead the project. Gerald feared and despised Project Shadow’s goals but believed he could engineer his experiments toward curing disease. His beloved granddaughter, Maria, suffered from Neuro-Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Gerald contacted a godlike alien called Black Doom, using its blood as a genetic base to create the ultimate life form. Despite multiple failed attempts, Gerald succeeded, and Shadow was born.
News of Project Shadow leaked to the Guardian Units of Nations or GUN, a military force on Earth. They attacked the project’s orbiting base, Space Colony ARK. Perhaps inheriting his creator’s kindness, Shadow cared deeply for Maria. A GUN soldier shot Maria, killing her instantly as she sent Shadow away in an escape pod. GUN took Gerald into custody, forcing him to continue his research in a black site prison. Gerald went mad with grief, creating a program to crash ARK into the Earth. Shadow spent years in a cell with his creator, eventually convinced to carry out his plan to end life on Earth. Gerald was summarily executed by firing squad. GUN placed Shadow in suspended animation for years until Gerald’s grandson, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, reawakened the ultimate life form. When you see Shadow in the post-credits scene of Sonic 2, try imagining those events having put them there.
Sonic 3 Can Play Fast and Loose With Shadow
The Sonic movies invented a new canon for the franchise. The first film created a home comparable to Mobius from the classic games. Many titles in the long-running series imagine a new version of Earth, but the movies see Sonic and his friends leave their old world to inhabit this reality. Sonic 2 introduced GUN forces, using them to set up Shadow’s presence in the narrative. They have Shadow in stasis, as they did in his first appearance. Jim Carrey’s Eggman could break him out of storage and kick off the absurd plot of Sonic Adventure 2. However, the flashbacks frequent in that title will have to look different.
Sonic 3 could make Shadow another refugee from a far-off planet, but the film could also clean up his backstory. The dead child will be the sticking point, though not the only one. PG films can’t kill kids, especially not via direct gun violence. It’s a Sonic movie, not Face/Off. Gerald Robotnik’s rise and fall is comparably toxic. Kids can grasp a mad scientist, but state-sponsored weapons development followed by an execution might raise some concerns. Content concerns aside, Shadow’s backstory could take ages to explain. The space-faring action set pieces of Sonic Adventure 2 would be spectacular on the big screen, but the challenge is getting there.
Shadow could be the product of mad science sent to carry out a dead man’s vengeance on a heartless world. It feels slightly heavy for a movie that will likely feature a dance number. Characters motivated by deceased family members are nothing new, but kids are rarely gunned down on screen. The censored version of Shadow’s backstory might feel a bit too Saturday morning cartoon, but the classic iteration would be surprising. Shadow will come to the big screen with some of his past in-tact, but Maria might not make the transition.