Sonic the Hedgehog Review: A fast-paced, fun adventure that’s pleasing for fans and families
The live action/animated hybrid adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog is actually quite a unique instance in the film industry. After the horrendous initial design of the iconic SEGA character, fans were incredibly outspoken about their distaste for the design and it was so strong that the film was delayed from November to February and the design was heavily overhauled. Upon seeing the new design, it seemed like fans were reinvigorated and seeing the flood of posts on social media saying to “support the film because they listened to us” was really incredible. Personally, while I don’t think fans should always be a dictating force that has the power to change a film (i.e. Rise of the Skywalker), this was one instance where the change was understandable because of how iconic Sonic’s look is.
Looks aren’t everything though, and there was still a lot the film had to bring to the table in order to make fans feels vindicated and deliver a fast-paced sense of fun for the whole family. Thankfully, Sonic the Hedgehog’s first live action-ish adventure on the big screen doesn’t disappoint and provides plenty of great fast-paced fun for the whole family.
The film follows Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), a super-fast anthropomorphic hedgehog from a different planet that is forced to escape to Earth at a young age when a mysterious force looks to steal his power. Now, all alone, Sonic spends his days in the small town of Green Hills, Montana attempting to have fun in his hideaway cave and fantasizing about having friends. After having a big blow-up about his loneliness one night, he causes a major power outage that attracts the attention of the U.S. government. Looking to see what caused this unnatural phenomenon the government sends Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a crazed and reclusive robotics expert, to capture and test whatever caused the blackout. With Robotnik hot on his tail and being unable to escape to a new world after he loses his bag of traveling rings, Sonic can only rely on the help of a local cop, Tom (James Marsden), to help him escape.
The first act of this film is very impressive in how it introduces viewers to Sonic and the human characters. Most of the time, Sonic comes off as annoying with his quick one-liners and over-zealous attitude, but that doesn’t happen here. Sure, he still has an incredibly energetic personality and plenty of hit or miss one-liners, however it all stems from the loneliness he’s felt from being on Earth in quiet. It’s makes all of the zany and wild things he says and does instantly likeable and its trait that’s played with very well and easy to connect to. Not to mention, the script and Schwatz’s performance really give Sonic a genuine charm that can be felt as he plays an entire baseball game by himself, zooms all the things he has in his caves, and picks up quick action lines from watching movies that Tom is watching.
His new design really makes him come to life on-screen and even though you can tell that he’s not actually there, especially when he hits people with things and in certain action sequences, the visuals are surprisingly great. From the slow-motion scenes that are clearly inspired by the Quicksilver scenes in Fox’s later X-Men films to the fast-paced finale between Robotnik and Sonic, the design of Sonic likely wasn’t the only improvement to the visuals. Even the robots that Robotnik uses look good and I like the simple design that will likely get crazier in future sequels. Even just having some sound effects from the games and nods to other adaptations of the iconic character is nice, but there could’ve been a lot more for fans to enjoy.
Other than Sonic’s design and the franchise’s characters, the games have become iconic for its incredible music and it’s completely absent. The score is incredibly generic and while some of songs work, I can’t help but wonder how incredible they would’ve been with some of great music or music at least inspired by some of the franchise’s best tracks. Great character designs, 16-bit styled credits, and two absolutely amazing post-credit scenes that fans will love are great, but without the amazing music being there it just feels like a big part of what makes Sonic great is missing.
Marsden and Carrey also come with a strong charm that makes their respective characters a lot of fun and very memorable. In reality, if Marsden and Carrey just phone-in their performances and act like they don’t want to be there, this movie just simply wouldn’t work. However, they genuinely look like they are having a great time with the material and it makes their characters a lot of fun. Tom’s motivation of wanting to actually save someone because the town he works in is so dull is actually kind of interesting and his relationship with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) is actually very sweet. Not to mention, the friendship he grows with Sonic is touching at times and Marsden’s commitment definitely elevates Tom past some of the more cliché dialogue and writing put behind him.
Carrey is the obvious scene-stealer though as he evokes the kind of body humor and personality that kickstarted his career to have a bit of a return to form as the iconic Dr. Robotonik. Throughout the film, he’s genuinely hilarious with all of the ridiculousness that comes with Robotnik’s narcissistic attitude and every scene with his current partner in crime, Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub), is great. The rivalry he has with Sonic feels fitting and even the way he obsesses in capturing Sonic and harnessing his power to maintain his perfect record gives Carrey plenty to work with. As a fan of Carrey, seeing him let off leash like this is an absolute blast and I’d love to see him again as Robotnik in the future – especially with the new look that’s hinted towards the end of the film.
Outside of the characters, the film services as a perfectly fun adventure that’s perfectly solid for the whole family. There’re some jokes for both younger and older viewers that are definitely hit or miss and some of the side-characters, like Tom’s partner Billy (Adam Pally), just are given forced jokes that make them kind of annoyingly dumb. There’re also plenty of moments of “movie magic” that might make viewers suspend their disbelief a little more often than usual. For instance, there’s a moment where Tom and Maddie have to sneak Sonic into a secured area and the way they get in is quite a stretch and is one of the many moments that you kind of just have to go with in order to not question things. Also, in the future, let’s not have sequels have as much obnoxious product placement because the Olive Garden jokes were super forced and really dumb. Overall, though, the film definitely has not only care in bringing the beloved franchise to the screen, but also giving it a story with heart that anyone can appreciate.
Sonic the Hedgehog brings the iconic character to the life on the big screen in a way that anyone can appreciate and will please any fan. It’s certainly a strong step forward in adapting video games into movies in the same vein as Detective Pikachu, and frankly, I’d love to see SEGA bring some their other franchise to the big screen. From an anime-styled adaptation of Jet Set Radio to a fantasy driven adaptation of Nights, the options are endless for what SEGA could still offer. However, for now, SEGA is going to have their hands full with more Sonic adventures that I’m more than excited to see.
Watch the Trailer Here: