Well, here we are — the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. It’s finally here. After a disastrous launch trailer forced Paramount to push the movie back four months for a redesign, many fans speculated as to whether or not the redesign would be any good, or even worth it for that matter. When the second and final trailer released, and the redesign was seen, the internet swooned with praise and relief. That relief, however, only lasted for a moment as the real question remained: was it going to be good?
After sitting through all 100 minutes of it, I can say — without a shred of hesitation or doubt — that Sonic the Hedgehog… is above average!!!
Yes, it seems Sonic is not the dumpster fire that many people were speculating. Is Sonic the Hedgehog a great movie that finally pushes away the notion that all video game movies are horrible? No. Sonic still has a large share of problems and clichés that hold it back quite a bit. But compared to the Super Mario Brothers movie, the Doom movie, the Street Fighter movie, the second Mortal Kombat movie, or the majority of the Resident Evil sequels, Sonic could be doing a whole lot worse.
Thankfully, the animation redesign makes Sonic look and feel like… well… Sonic. He’s the hedgehog we remember from the cartoons and games with a standard fish out of water plot, of course. Ben Schwartz delivers a pretty good performance as Sonic, layering him with jokes and fears and making the blue blur a fleshed out and complex character. For a movie such as this, it was a pleasant surprise to have a real emotional attachment to our main character. I say that because this is a Sonic movie and no one had any hopes for it to begin with.
The movie’s pacing is also on point. It never dragged and, quite ironically, never felt like it was going too fast. Every scene was exactly as long as it needed to be. Makes sense seeing as how it’s…you know, Sonic and he’s gotta go fast. Not only that, but the story, while basic, has some pretty good narrative beats and themes that work so well for the plot. Sure, they’re standard, but they work.
Another solid aspect of this film were the various references to the Sonic games and memes. These references weren’t ham-fisted or forced and actually fit naturally in with the world presented. Even Sonic’s iconic rings play a big role in the movie and they never once felt forced or cheap.Compared to fan service in Star Wars or Marvel, it was far more subtle. And I have to commend the filmmakers for doing something new when it comes to films based on nostalgic properties.
The action was also very cool. I found myself wide-eyed and laughing as Sonic pulled off numerous Quicksilver scenes from Days of Future Past over and over again with great results. Slo-mo and Sonic go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly. I thought the action would get stale pretty quickly, but it was one of the elements that actually held up the best. Well, that and our lord and savior: Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey is probably the best aspect of this movie. He’s not as complex as Thanos or even a C-Tier Marvel villain, but his performance as Dr. Robotnik makes me love him more and more. He’s quirky and threatening at the same time, providing equal moments of being funny and downright terrifying. Carrey brings all the best parts of his career and talents to the forefront and it works. Sure, some of the stuff he does can be cringey and a bit dated, but it’s Jim Carrey. After a career like that, he’s allowed to be cringey and dated, because no one is going to bat an eye.
Unfortunately, Sonic‘s narrative can’t help but feel like every fish out of water story ever. Tragic backstory that forces character to Earth. Check. CGI main character interacting with real people. Check. James Marsden from Hop. Check. Uncomfortable moments where they do a Fornite dance to appeal to the younger audience. Check and check. This movie feels like it was supposed to be made in the early 2000s. You know, before people got smart and realized you can actually just animate your video game property, like the Netflix series Castlevania. If you took out all the pop culture references, you would never know it was made in 2020.
The comedy is also pretty hit or miss. Some jokes are just flat out hilarious while others are not even chuckle-worthy. It’s almost like the movie flips a coin on whether or not it wants to be funny. At one moment we have a self-aware Quicksilver scene where Sonic is so over-powered it’s actually hilarious, and the next moment we have someone getting hit in the balls. One moment we have a reference to Sanic (which is brilliant if you know anything about internet history), and then the next moment Tom’s wife’s sister makes her seventh joke about getting a divorce. Comedy is subjective, but for me, it really did feel like it was a 50/50 split here.
The VFX also gets pretty hairy at times. Actors don’t look at Sonic at several points in the movie, but rather, a few inches above him. These aren’t blatantly noticeable, but if you’re aware of the redesign, then it’s impossible not to notice it. And like the comedy, Sonic can go from looking really good, to a literal video game character. I do understand that the animators were thrown into overtime because of the redesign, which may be the reason why the VFX look the way they do sometimes. Knowing this, I’m willing to give the VFX a pass, but I don’t think others will feel the same way.
Thankfully, there’s only one thing about Sonic the Hedgehog that didn’t work, but it’s a pretty big one: the non-existence of character motivation. Why did the government bring in Robotnik if they knew he was crazy? Why did Sonic choose to trust Tom out of everyone else in Green Hills? Why does Robotnik hate Sonic so much? Why hasn’t Sonic used the Rings to go anywhere else since he arrived in Green Hills almost fifteen years ago? Why hasn’t Sonic checked up on his friends? These are questions you will ask and never get any answers to.
Because of this, you won’t really care what’s happening to anyone on screen beyond Sonic and Robotnik, and only because they feel the most fleshed out. This isn’t saying that any of the performances were bad by any means, actually quite the opposite. All the performances are really good — great even. It’s just that I couldn’t care what happens to anybody here.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 Stars
I cannot stress how bad Sonic the Hedgehog should have been. Sonic’s franchise has never been one for subtlety, or a good story, or good games, or even a good fanbase, so the fact that the movie is as good as it is feels like a bloody miracle. Despite all of its flaws, there is more good here than there is bad and the fact that director Jeff Fowler and Paramount listened to fans and redesigned the character is praise-worthy alone. Sonic really was a fun ride at the theaters, and with the two post credit scenes — yes, two — I am excited to see where they go from here.