In 2018, filming would begin on what we would come to known as Sonic the Hedgehog – a beloved videogame character and series created by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshim and owned by game developer Sega. To this day an argument can be made how underrated the Dreamcast is during its time, but that’s neither here nor there. The furry speedster has been one of the more popular characters getting updated as the new generation consoles came out, but the core of the character has since remained the same. Push forward on the controller to watch him run at lightning supersonic speed to collect golden rings and beat the level with the highest score. With the flood of videogame adaptations being made in recent years it was only a matter of time – active development for a movie version of the hedgehog has been happening since 1993.
Fast forward 1 year to 2019 after the first trailer premiered and the design of Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) was released. What followed next was unprecedented in terms of the fan outcry. So much so that the more human like design of Sonic (with separated eyes) was petitioned, forcing the visual effects to be changed to accurately represent what the character would look like. Director Jeff Fowler would then announce on social media of the change.
Who would ever imagine the fans petitioning the creative team of a multi-million-dollar film to do something because they were upset? You can’t even bring up #releasethesnydercut without the cult jumping down your throat on twitter. Granted, the realistic design of Sonic is disturbing and the haunting result of nightmares to say the least, but the fans and studios set a dangerous precedent. Luckily, the film made its release date still.
For a directorial debut Fowler delivered a charming adaptation. It’s wildly known as common knowledge these days, but videogame adaptations have never lived up to their full potential. Especially the more cinematic ones like Tomb Raider and dare I utter the words Assassins Creed. Why watch a movie when the game is easily available. But then came along Detective Pikachu which would go on and change people’s perspectives on a videogame adapted film. For what it is, Its delightful, charming, and fun for the whole family. Those exact words can just as easily describe Sonic the Hedgehog. Not adding anything new to the genre that would break ground, but the film lives up to what it set out to accomplish.
Set in the remote and small town of Green Hills, Montana, Sonic has been living in the shadows for 10 years since arriving on Earth. Leave it to conspiracy theorists to believe his existence is real as a blue devil. Schwartz narrates Sonic’s escapades as he watches the humans of this small town from a distance. Living in a cave, Sonic reads The Flash comics, uses a burrowed out washing machine to go on jogs to stay in shape and gives nicknames to the town people – Donut Lord aka Tom (James Marsden) and Pretzel Lady aka Maddie (Tika Sumpter). When he’s alone, Sonic enjoys the American pastime of baseball, playing all 9 defensive positions and the batter simultaneously. He’s truly assimilated into our culture.
One of us, one of us, one of us.
It isn’t until Sonic channels his super speed thus destroying the power grid and a satellite causing an investigation from the government to invade this small town. Wouldn’t this trigger a greater response from our government? In normal cases yes, and it does until the top military leaders decide to bring in a mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate the disturbance.
Carrey is no stranger to over-the-top, ridiculous, borderline insane villain roles, or any role for that matter. Eerily channeling his Riddler from Batman Forever, Carrey perfectly embodies and embraces the relentless self-indulgent villain known for always going after the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog. Even with Ben Schwartz and James Marsden’s buddy cop chemistry, Carrey steals the spotlight. Starting off with a hipster haircut and mustache that one would see all over Williamsburg Brooklyn, he transforms into the character’s familiar form mixed with his Grinch sense of humor and twisted Liar Liar narcissistic personality.
If there was ever a perfect casting actor was born to play this type of role it’s Carrey as Robotnik. And while the script may not be the strength of the film, Carrey gives the character a tragic backstory that fuels his evil genius learned behavior. Deep down, whether we can admit it or not, we as the audience can sympathize with him for a split second but then quickly remember he’s hunting a furry animal.
What’s a speedster movie without a slow-motion sequence? Fear not, Sonic has two of them that has the appearance of a kid copying another kids schoolwork but changing an answer or two. Director Jeff Fowler does however put the sequences during the perfect moments of the narrative that does showcase Sonic’s speed. But we’ve seen it already in Days of Future Past with Evan Peters Quicksilver. Sonic does admire his comic book speedsters so maybe writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller are implying that Sonic has seen the movie.
For Sonic’s sake, the good does edge out the bad but only by the length of a single charged blue hair. For the good, for his directorial debut, Fowler plays it safe especially with the human element involved. Tika Sumpter as Marsden’s wife isn’t given enough purpose in this story with James and Jim given the attention.
Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t work as well as it does without the performances of Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, and James Marsden. With plenty of juvenile jokes to go around, face it, if it didn’t get old in Detective Pikachu it won’t get old here, Jeff Fowler delivers one of the better videogame adapted movies to hit the big screen. And really, that’s not saying much but it’s still worth a visit if you’re a fan of the game or not.
Written By: Pat Casey & Josh Miller
Directed By: Jeff Fowler
Music By: Tom Holkenborg
Cinematography: Stephen F. Windon
Starring: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Jim Carrey, Natasha Rothwell, Lee Majdoub
Release Date: February 14, 2020
Running Time: 1 Hour 39 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
My Score: 3 out of 5
Based On: Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega