Smarter reviewers and culture commentators than this one will give you a fuller, more knowledgeable analysis on the nature of the internet as a force of good-slash-evil. But has anything had the impact of the reaction of Sonic The Hedgehog’s first trailer? The first reveal of the main character looked like a badly designed human experiment gone wrong, which led director Jeff Fowler to state that they were redesigning the character. This led to a delay in the film’s release, and a second trailer with a much nicer design.
There are also arguments to be made that the way the second trailer was edited meant that it felt cooler, and more like a Sonic movie rather than a movie with Sonic in it. The difference between the two is that the first is a movie about Sonic, that incorporates a lot of lore and background but where he’s the central character. The other is a movie in which Sonic drifts into it after building up side-characters as an entry into the world. Think the first Transformers film, where it takes over sixty minutes to introduce the titular aliens.
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With Sonic the Hedgehog, it takes less than sixty seconds before Sonic turns up in the story in media res, and then tells us via voiceover a lot of rushed backstory and new lore that really isn’t explained or followed up on. Then the real crux of the movie kicks in: the quest for friendship.
To the movie’s credit, the thin plot (Sonic and Sheriff Tom travel to San Francisco to collect a bag of rings) feels secondary to building up the relationship between James Marsden’s Sheriff and the Ben Schwartz-voiced animated hedgehog. It’s this that doesn’t make it feel dragged or over-stuffed, even if the plot is really, really thin.
The added conflict of Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik (more on him later) gives them a bit of pressure to get things done, but everything more-or-less appears to be too easy. In order to get to the roof of a tall building where Sonic’s macguffins are, Tom flashes a Sheriff’s badge and is easily able to get to the roof. That’s it – no real escalation of obstacles. It’s the heroes followed by the villain going from A-to-B.
Whilst there’s a focus on character, there’s not too much in terms of depth, as it very much hits similar beats to other kids’ movies. E.T. is a good reference point, if Elliot was an adult and a Sheriff. Yet Marsden manages to carry interacting with someone who isn’t there very well, and you do feel charmed, and buy into the friendship that develops.
A lot of that is due to the vocal performance of Ben Schwartz, who imbues Sonic with a youthful naivety that is likeable yet slightly cocky. The arrogance found in other iterations of the character isn’t there, and instead it’s replaced by excitement, and in the context of this movie it hits the mark very well.
Sonic also gives movie-goers the opportunity to see Jim Carrey back to his 90s manic zaniness levels of energy, as he plays Ace Ventura with a 300+ IQ and a desire to be evil. It’s like seeing an old friend from school grow up to become extremely right wing and boasting about it on Facebook. The performance isn’t something that will challenge classic villains, but it’s extremely inspired casting that works for the film.
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It’s not going to please everyone – non-Sonic fans of a certain age may not click with it – but Sonic fans of all ages will definitely find something to enjoy here. There were a few claps from some of the under-8s in the audience of this screening when the credits rolled. Speaking of credits – the actual credits are brilliant, and there are two mid-credits sequences that need to be watched. They help set up things for a potential sequel and will make long-term Sonic fans very happy.
This is a hard one to rate. For a subjective Sonic fan, it has a lot going for it; whilst some elements of Sonic’s origin are extremely rushed and really could’ve done with being expanded, it was also a rush and a thrill. But many of the aforementioned issues would be much bigger sticking points for the general movie-going public.
It’s still worth a watch, and in the canon of movies based on video games, this could be one of the best.
Sonic Fan-Boy Score:
Reluctant Objective Reviewer Rating: