The original Sonic the Hedgehog holds a rather exalted place in my recent theatrical viewing history, as it was the last film I watched in theaters in the before times (pre-COVID). I was exceptionally motivated to support the film following the massive fan interest in the film project after Sonic's redesign, as I desperately wanted the film to succeed and further incentivize films studios to listen to fan input on a project. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised when Cendoo and I watched Sonic the Hedgehog.
Video game movies, by and large, tend to really suck, either failing to successfully adapt the thematic spirit of the video game in question or becoming simply a collection of vaguely associated Easter eggs held together by hopes and an annoyingly dated modern soundtrack. And while the original Sonic the Hedgehog certainly had quite a few moments that existed solely for Easter egg moments, they were also coupled with subtly established world-building, fantastic and funny characterization and a surprising amount of heart that quickly won over audiences and led to the film becoming a massive financial success.
So naturally, all of us were anticipating a sequel. Especially as the world slowly but surely went into our new COVID era. And sure enough, we weren't disappointed as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 released almost 2 years after the first film with quite a bit of hype around it.With a new release I decided that I should watch this film with Cendoo as well. So we did just that last Saturday.
Did the film live up to expectations or did it lose everything that gave the first film charm?
- Directed by Jeff Fowler
- Produced by Sega Sammy Group
- MPAA Rating: PG
- Running Time: 122 Minutes
Following the events of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic finds himself struggling to find a purpose in Green Hills. While Sonic's friend Tom and his wife leave for his sister-in-law's wedding, Sonic finds himself face-to-face with Dr. Robotnik, recently returned from the dimension he was banished to at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog. But this time he is not alone, having teamed up with the mysterious Knuckles the Echidna.
Now forced to face not only Robotnik but an echidna who can keep up with his own magical abilities, Sonic will have to team up with his new friend Tails in order to discover the mysterious Master Emerald before Knuckles and Robotnik can, as it has the power to allow Robotnik to take over the world.
But there may be other forces at play in his race for the Master Emerald, as a mysterious military organization is also interested in our blue hedgehog and his new friend.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a really fun film and a loving tribute to a legendary video game franchise. The film is in no way ground-breaking or history-defining, but it doesn't really need to be. It just needed to be a well-crafted story that advanced the world in which it inhabited, through thematically consistent story-telling and great character interactions without falling to weirdly dated references or jokes. Factors which the film achieved admirably.
If the film succeeds in nothing else, it truly understands the characters at the heart of the game franchise. Sonic is wonderfully performed by Ben Schwartz and is a perfect match for the original characters sarcastic "Devil may care" attitude mixed with a genuine heart of gold. He is still a kid in many ways and they don't shy away from the more immature moments without them becoming distracting, they just fit. Then we have Tails, voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey (the only voice actor to reprise their role from the video game), who is just so sweet and well-intentioned. We've seen several instances of the first time Sonic and Tails met in TV and video games but this moment was probably the best. Even if I do think that Tails and Sonic's friendship is a bit too quickly forged, its a minor issue really and doesn't take away from the sweetness of their interactions.
From our two leads, we then have our antagonists. Knuckles is voiced by Idris Elba and, my god, does he do just a fantastic job. In the games, Knuckles was always something of a well-intentioned dunce, filled with honor and strength and about one-and-a-half brain cells to rub together. Elba manages to really pack in a great deal of charm and passion into Knuckles that helps you completely buy that he would join up with Robotnik without falling into the full villainous archetype. Speaking of Robotnik...
Jim Carrey is back at Robotnik, this time with a much more game accurate appearance and, my god, is he just having the time of his fucking life. This man has a reputation for chewing the scenery whenever he's on screen, and Carrey isn't just chewing as Robotnik; he's full on masticating. At times, it honestly felt like I was watching Carrey's version of the Grinch, he was so hammy. But it surprisingly works for the incredibly insane Eggman. And it makes damn near every moment he is on screen an absolute joy to watch.
It's really a shame then that the rest of the human cast is rather lackluster and takes up a decent portion of the second act. It's not to say that James Marsden as Tom or Tika Sumpter as Maddie are terrible, they just don't have a lot to do and the rest of their story really seems focused on introducing us to GUN and elements which are designed to play a larger role in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 if the after-credit scene is anything to go by. Thankfully, their parts are kind of funny (Shemar Moore is surprisingly funny and charming, if predictable, in his role) and they get us back to Sonic's adventures pretty quickly. And what follows in the third act is nothing less than absolutely stunning in terms of how I would end a Sonic movie. The film's story isn't exactly complex, but its serviceable and gets the audience on the same page as our heroes and invested in the story.
The film's special effects and music might not necessarily be groundbreaking, but they do leave the audience with an indelible feeling of nostalgia for these characters and the world of Sonic the Hedgehog. As soon as I saw Sonic and Tales in the mountains, I knew we would get a fantastic snowboarding scene that would've been right out of Sonic Adventures in terms of fun and action, plus the light emotional heart that results from every interaction of Sonic and Knuckles really helps you to feel the genuine connection between the two.
And I think that is ultimately the strongest element of these films and why the Sonic the Hedgehog movies work so damn well. They feel genuine. Many video game movies feel content to include important characters or Easter eggs for no other reason than because those things are supposed to be in a video game movie. These elements are treated like items on a checklist, without inter-connectivity or reason beyond making the audience members in the know giggle at the screen. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 doesn't do that. The film actively alters basic elements of the original game story to better fit it into the world its presented, treating them as separate identities. The film then builds up a decent story and the Easter egg and references feel like natural and subtle elements that would have to be where they are in the film.
Some references were even so subtle that I missed them until it was actually told to me by Cendoo, including missing the entire Labyrinth Zone reference at the end of the second act; which just goes to show the sheer level of commitment and understanding the creators had in the source material. Or the entire Death Egg robot scene, which just made me so absolutely happy. It really leaves you with a charmed feeling that I also think remains completely accessible to people who don't know a great deal about the Sonic franchise.
The film is, from a technical standpoint, only above average when all is said and done. But sometimes that's all you really need so long as you also provide a fun and engaging story that has value on multiple viewings. I can absolutely see Sonic the Hedgehog 2
being a rewatch in the future and I have high hopes for Sonic the Hedgehog 3
whenever it finally gets released.
FINAL SCORE - 7/10
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