When Sonic The Hedgehog was announced to have a new live action movie, the video game playing public groaned so loud in disappointment that you could hear it in space. Sonic fans are so used to disappointment with their furry blue video game franchise having Hedgehog that it’s a normal reaction; and when the first ever trailer was released, that disappointment was thrown into overdrive. But luckily a delay in the film to fix up the title character has paid off, with Sonic The Hedgehog making almost 3 times it’s $85 million production budget at the box office. So what do we think? Well I’ll tell you at the end of the review.
Title: Sonic The Hedgehog
Production Company: Sega Sammy Group, Original Film, Marza Animation Planet, Blur Studio
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Produced by: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Takeshi Ito
Starring: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter & Jim Carrey
Based on: Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega
Release dates: February 14, 2020 (Worldwide)
Running time: 99 minutes
Rating: PG (United States) / PG (Australia)
Sonic, an extraterrestrial blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds, finds himself sought after by a tribe of echidnas for his power. His guardian, Longclaw the Owl, gives him a bag of rings that can create portals to other planets, using one to send him to Earth while she protects him from the echidnas. Ten years later, Sonic enjoys a secret life near the town of Green Hills, Montana, but longs to make friends. He idolizes the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski, and his veterinarian wife, Maddie, unaware the pair are planning to relocate to San Francisco soon, as Tom has been hired by the San Francisco Police Department.
One night, Sonic becomes upset over his loneliness when playing baseball by himself, and runs at supersonic speed as a result, inadvertantly triggering an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest. Roboticist and scientific genius Doctor Robotnik is enlisted by the United States Department of Defense to uncover the source of the outage. Robotnik discovers and tracks Sonic, who hides in the Wachowskis’ shed. Tom discovers Sonic and accidentally shoots him with a tranquilizer, causing him to send his bag of rings through a portal to San Francisco. Tom reluctantly agrees to help Sonic before Robotnik arrives at the Wachowskis’ house and the two flee. As the pair evade Robotnik, who labels Tom a domestic terrorist, they slowly bond, with Tom learning about Sonic’s desire for a real friend.
Robotnik comes across one of Sonic’s quills, discovering the power in it has the potential to fuel his robots, and becomes obsessed with capturing Sonic. As he tracks them down, Tom discusses his plans to leave Green Hills, which Sonic disapproves of. Shortly after defeating a robot sent by Robotnik, an explosion injures Sonic. Arriving at San Francisco, Tom brings him to Maddie, who revives him. While Tom explains about their situation to Maddie, Sonic receives a new pair of sneakers from Maddie’s niece. The group soon head to the roof of the Transamerica Pyramid, where Sonic’s bag of rings landed, and recover them. Robotnik arrives in a hovercraft and attacks them, forcing Sonic to use a ring to send Tom and Maddie back to Green Hills.
Sonic flees from Robotnik, who uses the power of Sonic’s quill to match his speed. The two engage in a chase across the world, ultimately returning to Green Hills. Robotnik incapacitates Sonic, but Tom intervenes, allowing Sonic to regain his strength and reclaim his lost energy. Overcoming Robotnik, Sonic defeats him by sending him to another planet. Following the incident, Tom and Maddie decide to stay in Green Hills and let Sonic live with them. The US government erases all evidence of the events, including records of Robotnik’s existence. Meanwhile, Robotnik, still in possession of Sonic’s quill and having lost his sanity, begins plotting his revenge. On Earth, Tails, a twin-tailed fox from Sonic’s world, emerges from a ring portal in search of Sonic.
- Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic
Sonic here is as much to do about the CGI redesign he was given as well as the care and attention both the writers and Schwartz gave him. The redesign turned Sonic from a nightmare into a lovable creature that you want to comfort and protect. Schwartz is a stand out as Sonic since his voice, while not completely matching the video game Sonic, does a great job of coming close to that version while giving his own spin to the character.
- James Marsden as Thomas Michael “Tom” Wachowski
Marsden is the ‘human connection’ to the movie and really doesn’t live up to the job at hand. There is something about his performance that is really down and lacking energy, especially when he is teamed up with the much more faster and upbeat Sonic. Through the whole movie, Marsden’s character Sargent Wachowski is more focused on moving to San Francisco where he can escape being the family based local law enforcement and becoming a member of the SFPD as a standard cop because he thinks it will be more enjoyable. But that’s his whole character; even as he grows to understand Sonic and a love for his family’s position in their hometown, he really doesn’t show it. A shame really because I actually think the whole movie would be better without him as both a character and an actor.
- Tika Sumpter as Maddie Wachowski
Ok, Sumpter as Maddie Wachowski is who the movie should have used as the ‘human connection’ in Sonic The Hedgehog. Since she is a veterinarian, her connection to want to protect and keep Sonic alive through the film would make more sense. As an actress, Sumpter is a hoot who gives both a serious and comedic nature to her character in the times where she is on screen, especially when it comes to Sonic. However, her character is wasted with very little screen time and reduced to a small check-in subplot till the third act when she actually somewhat becomes involved in proceedings, but even then she isn’t used enough in my opinion.
- Lee Majdoub as Stone
A government agent who works for Robotnik. Yep, that’s it. Stone should have been a character who is both the lackey to Robotnik while being the technical brains behind all the robots used in the film, sort of like Snivley was in the Sonic The Hedgehog ‘Sonic SatAM‘ cartoon. But all we got was a Government translator of sorts who stood around telling other people what Robotnik said in layman’s terms and bringing the big guy coffee. A real shame because you could have used him to create a nice villain bridge into a sequel given how Robotnik ended up.
- Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik
While the Robotnik we got in the Sonic The Hedgehog movie was a lot skinner than the larger rounded version we are used to seeing but he is funny as hell. Carrey pulls of the high IQ weirdo really well, making himself both relatable while keeping his distance from other ‘lesser minds’ through the movie. I really don’t want to go too into Carrey’s performance as Robotnik because it’s one of those things that you really need to go see to understand and enjoy. But I will point out that there is an amazing nod to the game series where Robotnik controls his drones and robots through a modified version of the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis 6 button controller built into his gloves with the controls on one side and the buttons on the other side of each glove that he uses both at once for controls. Amazing.
What worked for me in Sonic The Hedgehog is just about everything. A lot of attention (After the backlash) was given to Sonic, the plot and even the use of references to the game so that fans like me who would see it day one would be happy with the finished product, all while making this a great little family movie about a blue alien who comes to Earth and wants to be loved and have a family.
Sonic himself is so emotional that you can’t help but want to reach through the screen and want to give Sonic a hug during those moments when he is alone and sad, you’ll shed a tear when Sonic gets that simple high five that he wanted his whole life, you’ll cheer as he speeds through all sorts of scenes avoiding Robotnic during the final chase scene. Hell, you’re going to laugh your ass off at the silly antics that Carrey goes through as the highly intelligent but weird Robotnik too. You’ll find yourself going “I know that reference” when they are used in the movie too, even newcomers will be attracted and want to know more about Sonic, where he is from and if Robotnik will return in the next film. You can’t help but be drawn into the world the writers have created in the 99 minutes of screen time.
If there is anything that really drags Sonic The Hedgehog down as a film is the human factor. James Marsden is just a drain on screen the entire time he is on screen because I think he didn’t want to put in a performance worth seeing. It’s almost like he got the script, saw the name ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ and just went “Oh well, it’s going to be crap anyway” and just turned in a basic performance according to his contract. Same goes for Tika Sumpter and Lee Majdoub, who both just give terrible and un-noteworthy performances. But it’s hard to blame them when their character are basically sidekicks to Marsden and Carrey, and also get very little screen time.
Then there are some stupid situations, like Sonic speeding off and running right into the ocean when he was heading to San Fransisco, or disappearing for a moment to go see the world’s biggest rubber band ball on his own (off-screen) and returning to do something annoying. Then there is Sonic dancing… Or doing that stupid ‘floss’ dance that was popular with kids about 5 years ago and only found in Fortnight now; it’s dated the movie instantly and really made Sonic seem out of place more than a furry blue alien could be. I know pop culture things are ‘hip to the kids’ but even the kids in the cinema were heckling about how dated that dance was. Finally there is the bar fight scene where Sonic goes slow motion. It was cool when Quicksilver did it in the X-Men movies, but it’s getting lame seeing a speed based character doing a million things in slow motion and messing with things like gravity and the laws of momentum that I started to yawn a bit when it happened.
Overall Sonic The Hedgehog is an achievement in video game based movies because it doesn’t suck at all. Sonic is a great as a character and the writers did a great job in making him relatable and funny. Jim Carrey is a god in his role as Robotnik as its a return to the 90s comedian that we all know and enjoyed. (Not that his other major role in Kidding on Netflix isn’t great, that’s also an amazing show where Carrey shines as an actor.) While the rest of the cast is so-so, they do give at least something to progress the plot forward even if their characters don’t do much (Except Marsden, who’s lack of care shows here).
As for if you should go see Sonic The Hedgehog while it’s still playing in the cinemas? Of course you should! Sonic The Hedgehog is an actual good family video game movie and deserves to have a sequel made and the only way we’ll see that is if we fight against the media and Twitter haters (And Birds of Prey hardcore feminist fanbase) so this movie makes bank and gets a green light for Sonic The Hedgehog 2… and buy the Bluray/DVD because the extras should be worth it for Jim Carrey flubs alone.
Sonic The Hedgehog is what you get when you do something for the fans by people who listen to the fans and are fans themselves. The love and attention given to this film, including completely remaking the CGI model of the main character, shows that when you make something that means a lot to people in a way they want to see it, then it will be something worth seeing time and time again.
- Sonic model revised after fan backlash
- Lots of small subtle nods to the games
- Jim Carrey at his absolute goofy best
- Sonic is so well written that you connect emotionally to him
- Outside of Robotnic, all human characters are boring
- A lot of cliche moments and scenes
- Too much Earth, not enough Mobius
- Media and Twitter backlash blaming this for Birds of Prey box office failure