A Film directed by Jeff Fowler
In one of the more shocking instances of a major film studio actually listening to it’s consumers, Paramount Pictures famously delayed 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog after massive fan backlash over a trailer. If you recall, said trailer was dumped onto the internet showing a grotesque simulacrae of what fans would recignize as the Sonic character, full of human teeth and weird body proportions that made literally nobody happy. Everything was reworked, and what could have been a box-office bomb became a sleeper hit and perhaps one of the more well-regarded videogame films ever made. The studio seemed to realize that fans didn’t want what the studio thought a Sonic film should be, they wanted a TRUE Sonic movie for new and old fans alike. When it came time for a sequel, the question was – how would they handle it? Would they still make a film for the fans, or dip back into their typical studio behavior? Thankfully, this is the most fan-friendly adaptation of a videogame franchise I have ever seen, and a definite must see for any fan of the franchise.
“Eight months after defeating Doctor Robotnik and being adopted by Tom and Maddie Wachowski as their son, Sonic the Hedgehog attempts to help the public as a vigilante to little success. Tom advises Sonic to remain patient for the day his powers will be needed before he and Maddie depart for her sister Rachel’s wedding in Hawaii. Sonic plans to have fun while home alone but is attacked by Robotnik, who has returned with the help of Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles desires to honor the legacy of his extinct tribe and demands the location of the legendary Master Emerald, an ancient relic that allows its possessor to bend reality to their will.”
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has all of the little nods and references to the games that older fans will love and all pof the kid-friendly action that children will adore. I took my son with me (6), and he was glued to the screen the entire time, hooting and holloring, and absolutely lost his mind at the revelation in the after credits scene. We went to the park afterwards and he joined a group of children that started pretending to be the characters, but were actively discussing the film. “It was amazing!” and “I hope Sonic 3 comes out soon” was overheard. At least for children, it’s a massive success from my vantagepoint. Yes, the film is a kid’s movie, so don’t roll in thinking this is going to be anything more than that, but as we’ve seen with films like Shrek and Despicable Me, kids films can be enjoyed by all ages if done well, and I enjoyed it immesly.
Rounding out the cast of James Marsden, Jim Carrey, and Tika Sumpter, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 also introduces Idris Elba and Colleen O’Shaughnessey to the main cast. Elba plays the fan favorite echidna Knuckles, while O’Shaughnessey plays Sonic’s friend Tails, a role she has also voiced in several Sonic games. Both were really good and really got the heart of the characters down. I never imagined Knuckles as a “Drax” or “Worf” sort of character, a war-like no-nonsense, hyper serious character that acts as unintenional comic relief by not understanding social cues and misunderstanding things. sprinkled in with his badass fighting ability, he was awesome, and how I hope the character is portrayed in games from now on. Tails was endearing and sweet as ever, acting as a brilliant inventor that becomes an accidental hero.
I wouldn’t consider myself any sort of big fan of this franchise, but I always loved the 2D games on the Sega Genesis in my youth and this absolutely felt like an homage to those. I know that the wider Sonic universe, and especially the comics, have an absurd amount of characters and backstory, but this is subdued and deliberate as to not alienate anyone that has not been into that material for the last three decades. I personally hope they don’t go too crazy into that stuff for future films, perhaps staying in the wheelhouse of only videogame characters.
The film is paced well, and the human characters never overstay thier welcome unlike other half CGI / half-live action films of the past (Transformers comes to mind). Sonic and pals take center stage and it definitely felt like there was a 60/40 split in favor of screentime for the animated characters. This was unexpected for me. This is one of the few films like this where the third act is actually pretty well done, and it gets you hyped for the franchise like I never imagined. I went into this just to take the kid to a movie, and here I am excited for part 3 as well.
Overall, I say without any hyperbole that this is the best videogame to film adaptation ever made, aside from perhaps Netflix’s Castlevania. It gets the heart and sould of the characters right, but grounds them in our modern world to avoid the weirder aspects of some of the numerous Sonic cartoons out there. All of the actors did a great job, and even the B-Story involving Tom (Marsden) trying not to accidentally ruin a wedding in Hawaii was fun and worth a watch. I am definitely looking forward to part three, and with the reveal after credits it will be interesting to see where they go with it. It’s not a perfect film for film snobs, but for kids and longtime Sonic fans, you can’t get any better.