I’m probably more surprised than anyone that I actually went to see the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Having very loudly dusted my hands of the entire franchise more than once, but low and behold, I found myself with a day off and trying to decide whether to go and see Birds of Prey, 1917 and one other movie. So of course I got to see this damned one.
There were so many different angles Paramount and writers; Pat Casey and Josh Miller could have gone at this movie from, the one they chose ends up being the most predictable one. Which turns out to be the best movie they could have made, as Sonic is doing amazingly well at the box office.
The movie stars Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog, a super humanly fast hedgehog from another world. Badgered from birth by a big owl who tells him he must always run and hide from the people who would want to capture him and use his superpowers for their own means. His very quills seems to generate an ungodly amount of energy, which is maybe something he should be sharing with the world during a energy crisis, but whatever.
When Sonic and Longclaw are set upon by evil Echidnas, Sonic is sent to Earth using a bag of gold rings that allow him to make dimensional gateways. Thus we find ourselves ten years later with a Sonic who has been isolated and constantly following Longclaw’s dying words as to keep hidden from everyone.
The Sonic in this movie is basically a child, and not the “cooler than cool” hero that appears in the video games. That doesn’t mean there are references to the other iterations of Sonic littered throughout the movie. This particular Sonic takes some inspiration from The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, series of the early 90s. Which in itself seemed to be taking heavy inspiration from Bugs Bunny cartoons of the 50s and 60s.
It’s actually the perfect iteration of the character for the purposes this movie, which (as many people arguing on Twitter seem to forget) is aimed towards children. Let’s be real, Sonic the Hedgehog is a franchise for kids, as much as people like us who grew up on the original Mega Drive games want to believe otherwise.
Being on his own for so long has sent Sonic a little loopy, but has also made him yearn for family and friendship more than anything. Which is why he’s spend a good chunk of the last decade stalking James Marsden’s Tom Wachowski and his wife Maddie played by Tika Sumpter.
It’s a premise kids can identify with and connect to, as Sonic’s frustrations at his own solitude, caused by seeing the community around a kid’s baseball game, end up being the thing that cause him to wig out and accidentally cause an EMP. One that blows out the power on a good chunk of the west coast, which unfortunately bring the attention of the U.S. government and their eccentric agent; Dr. Robotnik, down upon him.
This version of the “lore”
Sonic’s journey in this movie is actually an origin story. As powerful as Sonic can be, he doesn’t realise it, because he’s spent almost his entire life with Longclaw’s words swirling around in his head. So his prerogative is to run away, it’s not until he finds himself with some real friends to defend that he make a realisation about himself and what he values that he does fight back.
But when he, Tom and Maddie are together, he really does seem like their trouble making child rather than the hero he is in pretty much every other iteration of his character. Which is really fine, there are so many different imaginings of the character outside of the games; in comic books and various t.v. series, I have no real issue with this just being a different imagining for the purposes of this movie. There are already a bunch of different Sonic’s for the different situations the creators needed him for, this is just one more for that list.
I haven’t gotten around to talking about Jim Carrey’s Eggman yet have I. Having seen a lot of Jim Carrey performances over the years, this one feels like a best of compilation all bundled up into one movie. There were so many little parts of his performance that felt like they were lifted right from his Riddler or Ace Ventura that I really have to wonder if he was told to do it by the director, or if he’s just at the point in his career where he is just thinking “fuck it” and enjoying himself.
Either way, he is a lot of fun in the movie.
How’s the movie as a movie
Outside of this weird connection to Sonic as a character, like actually taking him entirely off the table, this is about as generic as one of these kinds of kid’s film can get. There have been so many of these kinds of movies, ones that plop an animated character into the real world and partners them up with an incredibly inoffensive white dude. So much so that at times the motions of the movie feel pretty interchangeable.
It’s only really at the end and during the action sequences that the movie feels like it could be uniquely a Sonic movie. But even then, it uses the trick from X-Men Days of Future Past, in which time comes to a stop and we get a musical sequences of Sonic performing shenanigans. Which is a bit I’ve always been kind of bugged about when it comes to representations of super speed in movies. But that’s not really the point here.
Let’s compare this to the other movie that’s been at the forefront of my mind since this movie got announced: Detective Pikachu.
I was surprised about how good Detective Pikachu was, mainly because the movie did an excellent job creating a world that was truly unique to the movie. Unlike Sonic where I could probably totally replace sections of the movie with a Transformer, a teenage mutant ninja turtle, three different rabbits or a smurf and it probably wouldn’t have affected the movie in any major way. I terms of it’s story beat or it’s emotional peaks.
And ultimately, that’s my biggest complaint (which still might be too strong a word for it honestly) about the movie. It’s a kid’s movie first and a Sonic movie second. It could have been any character in the leading role of this movie and still done the same job. This could have been a perfect Speedy Gonzales or Roadrunner movie had the CGI artists been given a different character design sheet and nobody would have known the difference.
Even with that, the movie is perfectly serviceable and a very watchable family film. I wasn’t groaning or rolling my eyes at it at any point, and it even got a few chuckles out of me along the way, which I felt all the more thankful for after seeing the trailers that proceeded the movie tighten my guts up.
I’m just surprised a cinema screening that was made up of 75% kids under the age of ten didn’t seem to be reacting a whole lot to what was going on during the movie. Not one squeal even when Sonic started flossing. Either way through, this movie is definitely getting a sequel, and it probably deserves it. It’s certainly not the best video game adaptation out there, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse.