Exactly one day after watching Parasite I was in the cinema again, only this time to see Sonic the Hedgehog, and boy, what a contrast that was. Going from the Oscar-winning South Korean dramatic thriller that was Parasite to, well… Sonic the Hedgehog, was perhaps the wrong way around to see those films but it was how my schedule worked out.
Sonic the Hedgehog is based on the video game character of the same name who first appeared in a game of the same title in 1991. The Blue Blur has appeared in at least 30 video games since and is still being released in video games today. The film, whilst clearly pandering to the video game enthusiasts, still tries to be accessible to newcomers by not assuming any prior knowledge. Whilst the film quickly breezes through an origin story, and claims he just “has powers”, it still gives you a run-down of pretty much everything you need to know. Sonic is a blue talking hedgehog, not from this world, who can run really fast.
The events of the film really kick-off when Sonic discovers the meaning of loneliness and proceeds to cause some sort of electrical wave (which is never fully explained other than being “too powerful to be an EMP”) which causes a large power outage and causes the US governments to get involved. Or rather, we get a brief scene where a handful of government officials (who are for some reason deeply invested in the power outage of a small town) list various options into investigating what exactly caused the outage before stating “we have no choice!” and call in the “crazy” Dr. Robotnik. The most baffling part of these scenes to me is the choice to play the US government as the comic relief for the opening act. Nonetheless, this gives Jim Carey (as Dr. Robotnik) a reason to do whatever the hell he wants, apparently.
The acting in this film is fine. It’s nothing outstanding, sometimes it’s a bit much, sometimes it’s not enough; overall, it’s fine. Jim Carey goes absolutely wild in a couple of scenes, which I believe are supposed to be funny, but mostly come across as awkward and crass – as if there was meant to be subtitles on the screen stating “LAUGH NOW”. The humour in this film is kind of backwards, the big “funny” moments are blunt and unnecessary (probably aimed at children to be fair) and the small subtle jokes are, to be honest, quite well written. This is probably the schism that comes with writing family-friendly films, you need jokes for all ages; so I’m not going to devalue the film too much for this, it was just an observation I had in the way the humour was delivered.
One of the other bizarre choices I noticed was the amount of times Sonic had a “sad-eyes close-up”. Though most writers know you can’t expect an audience to like the protagonist just because they’re the protagonist, a couple of nicely contained scenes had drastic tone shifts as sad music kicked in with a close up of Sonic’s eyes as he said something along the lines of “I’ve never had a real friend”. Which makes the possibility of a Sonic Cinematic Universe (SCU) confusing, as I don’t know why any of his typical companions in the games (Tails, Knuckles, etc.) would come to Earth to find him if he’s never had any friends before James Marsden. I’ve also just found out James Marsden is 46 years old, making him a bit of a weird choice for the “young and relatable” counterpart to Sonic. Jim Carey’s only 58, and what a different film that would’ve been! (Are Warner Bros hearing pitches for Ace Ventura 3?)
The plot of Sonic the Hedgehog is far from airtight, a lot of strange decisions are made on pretty much every character’s part, though I do understand the need to justify the end result of “man chooses to help giant blue hedgehog over other humans”, so I can mostly forgive this. Though there were approximately 3 times in the film they played the “Oh no! Sonic is dead!” card, and *sarcastic spoilers* he never was. By the third time it does leave you thinking “this again? Really?” which is also how I felt about the several “sad-eyes close-ups” I mentioned earlier.
Despite these criticisms, the film is still quite fun, and being relatively short by modern standards (1 hour 40 mins) it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The film isn’t rushed, but it also feels like it ends at the right time. I left the cinema feeling like I’d seen what I wanted, a blue spikey boy to go fast and beat the bad guy, and I hadn’t been in there so long as to start questioning my life choices.
Oh, the film also has this hilarious moment where Dr. Robotnik finds out one of Sonic’s quills has “Unlimited” energy. Which suggests Sonic as a creature has “Unlimited” x [a lot of quills] energy; and I’m no physics expert, but I think that means he has infinite mass.
Realistically, I’d only recommend this film to people who are a fan of the Sonic franchise and looking for a light-hearted, low-stakes time where they aren’t expecting a masterpiece of cinema. There are a few references to various Sonic games and lore, (I probably missed quite a few too) which was a nice touch once I’d tempered my expectations appropriately.
- Cinematography – 6/10
- Plot – 6/10
- Acting – 6/10
- Script – 4/10
- Enjoyment* – 7/10
OVERALL – 5.8/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the film, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.
I totally forgot about the redesign fiasco! For those who aren’t aware, in the original trailer released for this film Sonic looked horrible (see right). It created such a backlash from the community that Paramount released a statement that they were redesigning Sonic and reanimating a lot of scenes. The film’s release date was pushed back 3 months due to this. This original trailer came out in late April 2019 for a November release date, and following backlash the announcement came in early May that the redesign was taking place and pushing the film back to a February 2020 release date.
The incredibly fast response time to the backlash and length of time in advance the trailer was released makes me wonder if the entire redesign fiasco was entirely fabricated to generate more interest in the film. The redesign was so well received and the old design clearly so far from anything Sonic had been previously, both of which add credence to this theory. I also thought that animation was one of the longer parts of a films production time, perhaps it was mostly art asset swapping at that point and an additional 3 months was enough to achieve this, but it does seem like a relatively short time if a lot of animation had to be redone.
I’m sure I’m being too cynical, but I’m fairly certain the film only came to a lot of people’s attention once the awful original design was released.
Redesign tweet: https://twitter.com/fowltown/status/1124056098925944832