With the Sonic the Hedgehog movie premiering in local theaters tomorrow, the movie took a lot of blows from fans and critics in the early promotions that lead to a major makeover. Did the redesign helped in making the film a major blockbuster, or was it already doomed from the beginning?
Video game movies had their share of subpar quality, so it’s not a surprise for fans not to expect much whenever a new video game movie is announced. Though these recent releases seem to be breaking the curse that has been haunting the medium for years, one of these includes Detective Pikachu last year that sold really well and received with the positive response from fans. And the new movie about our fastest little guy could be that latest addition.
Sonic the Hedgehog movie was teased in late 2018 with a silhouette followed by some alleged image leaks in the succeeding weeks, worrying fans that their favorite blue speedster might be butchered by Hollywood for the sake of realism that spearheaded box office success like The Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When the official trailer was finally revealed in April 2019 and it was bombed with dismay from both fans and the general audience as Sonic was more humanoid in which the former staff of Sonic Team expressed their disappointment. A month later, director Jeff Fowler acknowledged the criticisms and announced that they will be redesigning Sonic and will move the release date from November 2019 to February 2020. Fast forward to the end of 2019 and the new official trailer showcased the redesigned Sonic, fans have praised the change and were more excited to see the film on the following year.
The movie is focused more on a light-hearted adventure where the opening shows the young Sonic dashing through a familiar Green Hill zone in his world (along with a very familiar tune from Hyper Potions’ track for the recent Sonic Mania game), we then discover that his super-speed ability has been sought after by many and Sonic must run away to different worlds to escape their evil clutches. Fast forward to the present, we see Sonic trying to cope with his loneliness by being a cool kid that is doing those sick moves but still hopes that someday he could find someone that he would consider a friend. While hiding from the public eye, Sonic idolizes the sheriff of Green Hills, Montana (yep, that’s a Sonic reference) Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden) who is a role model to the town, hence calling him the Donut Lord by Sonic. They both eventually have a fateful encounter in the early part of the movie where most of the plot will start to kick in. What’s good with the movie is how they start the origin story as being original but still maintaining the lore of the characters that fans known to love, this allows more creative freedom to the film while still giving respect to the source material.
Ben Schwartz voicing as Sonic did an incredible job in making the character more likable while still maintaining that drifter who lives as he wants daredevil attitude. James Marsden as the human companion of Sonic was a great casting choice as the dynamics of the two suits well, where it could be reminded of an adult who wants to go to the next level and a young teen who wants to experience the new things in the world. It also made their comedy antics funny and natural. Technically you could say that the movie can be a story about bros having a road trip as their adventure. Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik was also a good choice, having him perform to his 90’s comedic style fits well to the egoistic madman that added more character to the mad scientist stereotype, or you could say having him with that kind of villain stereotype fits naturally. Though in some cases his comedic antics can feel dated or cheesy to newer audiences, but it’s still an effective humor for the younger ones, especially the kids. Supporting casts does little much impact on the story, as it only adds up to more comedic interactions with Sonic and Tom or to push the plot further, but in some cases, it had some great moments in the film.
Action scenes were quite a few, but it was still a thrill to see Sonic dashing at full speed, knocking off Robotnik’s sentry robots in style. The drawback of the action is it lacks that creativity in making the scenes more memorable, in some cases the time-slowing action scenes were already used up by some of the recent superhero films from the past years. It was still fun to watch, but it tends to become unoriginal and forgettable. The redesign for Sonic was the best decision ever, it maintains the familiar look without compromising the characteristics of Sonic being an iconic character, while still giving some sense of realism with the fur texture to make him look more alive. His facial expressions were spot-on, making Sonic more likable and showing the full realization of his character, it is something that might not translate well if they retained the original realistic design.
And the film can’t be about a video game franchise without Easter eggs! The references and shout outs were well-placed, bringing a big smile to fans watching it. From Easter eggs that are not forcefully placed for the viewers to see like shameless product placement, they are well-executed that they can give you a great laughing moment when you realized it was an Easter egg (we laughed our asses off when we saw that Sanic meme in one scene). There were also some references to the classic tunes of the game, for the classic track of Green Hill Zone to the newer track for the opening of the new Sonic Mania game (which I mentioned early from this review), it was a pure nostalgia trip for Sonic fans or anyone who grew up playing the games.
Story-wise, there is nothing spectacular with the plot, as it is basically your typical family movie about two dudes having an adventure while learning the importance of friendship. Nothing wrong for having a very simple plot, as it doesn’t need to be something epic as long as the pacing of the story is easy for the viewers to understand and appreciate. There was nothing much on building the lore for the Sonic franchise, as it does not provide additional backstories on Sonic’s world, but the setup for the movie is enough to establish a world-building for possible sequels. The film runs at around 99 minutes, so those who are used to lengthy action movies may feel shortchanged and would want for more.
Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t bring anything new or groundbreaking in terms of story or plot-twists, nor it makes it stand out as the best movie of the year. What it does however, provide a fun and decent film where anyone can watch with friends who also grew up playing Sonic or with the family to introduce the character to the new generation. It’s those moments where a film shines through by being simple, having great character interaction along with the right amount of action and comedy. It managed to maintain the core fundamentals of the video game icon while letting it establish its own world-building for potential sequels. The decision to redesign Sonic was the right one, it’s rare for a company to actually listen to fan outcry and actually did someone to redeem themselves, and like or not, things would have gone differently if they didn’t make that decision.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5
And just like with Marvel movies, be sure to catch the mid-credits scene for a surprise treat. I’d recommend this movie to anyone who played the Sonic games or anyone who are into video games. Tag along with your friends and your family as well, it’s gonna be a fun ride.
Sonic the Hedgehog will premiere in the Philippines on February 19