Friday, March 13, 2020

Green Phoenix - Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) Review

Sonic the Hedgehog poster.jpgA few weeks back, Red Diamond and I decided to check out the new Sonic the Hedgehog film. While I initially had no plans to review this particular film, I felt motivated to do so after seeing all the effort on the part of the production to...correct...some rather infamous glaring issues.

Video game films tend to have a, not all undeserved, reputation for terrible quality and when this film was first announced last year, it looked like that statement would continue to hold water.

And it all had to do with the design of Sonic himself.

Being as honest and as frank as possible, Sonic looked like absolute dogshit in the very first teaser posters and trailers. Looking far too cartoony to be real but far too realistic-looking to ever be considered cartoon cute, the original Sonic design essentially took a massive deuce in the uncanny valley.

And the internet made sure that absolutely everybody knew about it.

It was actually kind of incredible to watch a video game movie implode before it even reached the theatres in real-time. The design of Sonic could've very nearly sunk the entire project just from the teaser alone. It was then that the production team behind the Sonic the Hedgehog film decided to delay the film's release and completely revamp Sonic's design.

The result is what was delivered to theatres. A level of post-production on this scale for a video game movie due to public backlash is almost unheard of. And it is an incredible achievement what the CGI artists were able to accomplish. I felt like I had to support such a project.

Perhaps studios would listen to real audience feedback instead of "supposed" audience feedback.

So how did the film turn out? Is it an amazing work of art? Or is it like nearly every other video game movie?

  • Directed by Jeff Fowler
  • Produced by SEGA
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Running Time: 99 Minutes



Sonic is a blue hedgehog from another planet gifted with incredible speed and powers that allows him to tap into near unlimited amounts of energy. When some villains from his home planet force him into exile on Earth, Sonic begins to grow close to the small town of Green Hills, Montana, even though he is unknown to the rest of them.

When his isolation gets to be too much, Sonic makes a mistake that grabs the attention of the U.S. Government, who sends a special mercenary named Dr. Robotnik to find Sonic. Desperate to leave Earth, Sonic enlists the help of Green Hills sheriff, Tom, with driving him to San Francisco, where the means to leave Earth can be found.

What follows is a buddy road trip film where Sonic and Tom learn to be friends while escaping the clutches of the evil Dr. Robotnik.



Sonic the Hedgehog is not a spectacular film. I will be upfront about that. The medium of film has not been fundamentally transformed by its existence and, in all honesty, the film is kind of stupid and goofy.

But it is a fun kind of stupid and goofy and that's all it really needs to be. Sonic the Hedgehog is a quintessential popcorn flick. Something to put on in the background to make you laugh and, especially, make your children laugh. The film is very sweet and positive throughout, with a fairly generic message of friendship and acceptance.

The movie is wholesome with above-average effects, the occasional cringe-worthy modern (and therefore dated) reference, and a pretty stellar villainous performance by Jim Carrey. I think this film was just about as good a film as you could make with the premise of "iconic video game character comes to Earth" and is definitely the best in that category.

And the fact that they successfully created a self-contained narrative, whilst simultaneously building enough narrative elements to leave open a sequel or two is quite extraordinary for a video game movie.

VISUALS - 7/10

This is the segment that everyone wants me to talk about. When the first teasers for Sonic the Hedgehog were released to the public, reactions to Sonic's design were...

...controversial, to be as courteous as possible.

Image result for sonic the hedgehog design change
Sonic looks so much better.
If I were to be discourteous, it was an absolute fucking shit show of the highest order. Sonic looks like something out of a creepypasta and I can't even really watch the trailer all that often without getting creeped out. How the character effects artists were able to actually create that abomination and release it for presentation to the point where the audience could see it in a teaser is just absolutely mind-blowing to me.

Thankfully, the community response was...severe enough to pressure the producers and studio to take another look at their film's lead. And the result was actually pretty good.

Not amazing. Not ground-breaking, but definitely above average. Sonic looks like how I would imagine the character to look in a live-action setting. But he does have an appearance slightly above that of the live-action Yogi Bear or Woody Woodpecker. At no point do I believe he is real, but I can at least not be distracted by his appearance.

All of the other effects in the movie are of similar or higher quality, with Robotnik's badniks looking really impressive and the bar fight scene being the same as every other speedster "Time in a Bottle" sequence that seems to be all the rage with all Speedster superheroes these days.

On the whole, Sonic the Hedgehog is a completely average looking video game movie but based on what we almost got...I'm actually extremely satisfied with what we received.


The film's soundtrack was composed by Tom Holkenborg, who previously collaborated with Tim Miller on the Deadpool soundtrack. In that way, the soundtracks of these two films are strangely similar, being heavily reliant on parody, remix, and utilizing songs that have a peak memetic potential.

As stated above, the film has a scene that is almost a direct rip-off of the "Time in a Bottle" scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. Utilizing the song "Boom" by the X Ambassadors, the scene is fun to watch to be sure, but the song doesn't really add anything to this type of scene that things like "Time in a Bottle" haven't done before.
Image result for sonic the hedgehog jim carrey dance
"Where Evil Grows" - Fun but pointless.

The rest of the soundtrack is quite a lot of fun as well, with constant references to speed and lightning, befitting the character of Sonic. Songs like "White Lightning" by the Tennessee River Crooks and "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen add a level of fun for someone who is a classic rock fan. The best scene involving music would have to be the "Where Evil Grows" scene with Dr. Robotnik, which is tons of fun with Jim Carrey's manic energy but does seem to go one a little too long and doesn't really add anything but a minor chuckle or two.

Where the soundtrack is a little fun is in the remixes of the classic Sonic game tracks. As a fan of old Sega Genesis games, that was a pleasant trip down memory lane. But beyond that, the general audio elements of the film are fairly unremarkable.

Overall, a fairly average soundtrack.


This is the category that, in my opinion, the film really needed to capitalize on for it to be a success. The visuals are certainly important for getting across the nostalgic feel of the games, but without getting Sonic's personality correct, the visuals would be completely empty and shallow.

The overall defining feature of Sonic the Hedgehog's personality over the years has been "cringe cool". He has always had a kind of 90s aspect of being "with it" and "hip", as defined by adults trying to understand the mind of kids. To that end, this Sonic actually achieves that fairly well, coming off as earnest and genuinely nice, but clearly trying to be a modern teenager as portrayed by a 30-40-year-old's perspective of a teenager.

Image result for robotnik sonic movie
Dr. Robotnik looks great and is a lot of fun to watch.
Sonic makes weird and dated references and flosses. Not once, but twice. Which was dated by the time that Sonic was originally supposed to be released before the character redesign, which means that all the scenes in trailers where he did a reenactment of his dance from the games were only for those trailers (which sucks). But on the whole Ben Schwartz does an admirable job in bringing the speedy blue hedgehog to the silver screen.

But a hero is only as good as their villain and Jim Carrey absolutely blows it out of the park with his portrayal of Dr. Robotnik. Carrey captures the manic energy of the game character and while he never really manages to be threatening, neither did game Dr. Robotnik so it all equals out. As Jim Carrey slowly evolves throughout the course of the film into his game counterpart, it is a genuine joy to watch.

The rest of the cast is kind of bland, however. Tom is your typical nice guy and he really doesn't change throughout the course of the film. He does have a slight re-framing of his ambition, that being to become a hero, but otherwise, Tom is an already self-actualized character. His wife, Maddie, has a very minor role but is fun for her little screen time and admittedly has great chemistry. The biggest issue is that the film just moves a little too fast for you to really get a sense of the comradery between Tom and Sonic, which plays such a vital role in the overall theme of the film.

Though I will go into greater detail on that in the next section.

STORY - 5/10

I would love to say that this movie has an incredibly epic story that builds an amazing Fantasy world that the Sonic universe could build up with dozens of sequels.

I would love to say that...but I can't.

As much as I do enjoy this movie, it is fundamentally a buddy road trip movie. A very generic and low-quality one at that. The key element of these movies is the budding relationship between the two main leads. They start off as rivals and adversarial but through their interactions throughout the movie, they become the best of friends and help each other grow.

This is the plot of every single buddy road trip movie, but that kind of plot needs time to build-up and create the appropriate quantity of situations to allow a realistic evolution of a relationship to grow. And it is in this way that Sonic the Hedgehog fails.

Image result for sonic movie road trip
The most generic movie shot in history.

Sonic and Tom act like friends almost from the very first moment. Tom tries to act like he doesn't enjoy his company, but that lasts about 5 minutes. The story is just too short for a reasonable relationship to develop between the two. And because that relationship is so fundamental to the underlying theme of the film, it, unfortunately, lead to an empty and disappointing resolution during my viewing of the film.

The interactions between Sonic and Robotnik were enjoyable and fun, but Robotnik's role in the film is relatively minor from a thematic standpoint, with the crux of the conflict coming from Tom and Sonic's relationship which, as stated previously, is disappointingly shallow.

This leaves my impression of the story painfully and unfortunately average.


I do NOT hate Sonic the Hedgehog.

I came into this film with absolutely no expectations, largely as a result of the disgustingly awful first impression that those first teasers gave us. So when I watched this film in theatres, I was surprised largely by how good it actually was. I had fun and am immensely glad that I saw this in theatres.

The effects aren't all that bad (hindsight is a wonderful thing) and the soundtrack is fun; if a little generic. But the great performance of Sonic and Robotnik just isn't strong enough to escape the shallowness of the minor characters and the corresponding buddy road trip story that really needed another 20-30 minutes of screentime (in my opinion).

In summation, though the film can really only be called above average from a critical standpoint, the level of passion and commitment to deliver a good-looking product and correct production mistakes delivers a good-feeling and fun project. Sonic the Hedgehog was a fun flick, but I do feel that it could've been better and perhaps the sequels that the story builds up to might correct and improve the brand even further.

  • 7/10
  • 6/10
  • 6/10
  • 5/10


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