sonic the hedgehog movie

Sonic the Hedgehog | Jeff Fowler | February 14th, 2020

Back in 1990, Sega needed a new game to show off the strength of the Sega Genesis. Following an internal design contest, they settled on a little blue rodent. Sonic the Hedgehog became a smash hit, and helped Sega dethrone mighty rival Nintendo in market share. Since then the franchise has sold over 100 million units and become enshrined in pop culture. And now, after almost 30 years, the blue blur has sped his way to the silver screen.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) is the effort to build a new canon from elements taken from across the series. All of the classic staples are there — the rings, his trademark shoes, and a familiar ‘tude. Various plot elements can be traced from previous games and television shows, and that makes for a lot of great references that fanboys will love to spot.

Sonic fans tend to take his voice actors very seriously, and Ben Schwartz clocks in at 200 MPH with his playful and often vulnerable rendition of the character, holding a candle to the more established VAs of the games. James Marsden plays a police officer from Green Hills, Montana, who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the U.S. Government’s pursuit of the titular character. The Feds call in none other than the genius scientist Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, who covets the chance to study our speedy friend. Saying that Sonic is essentially an alien, and then a terrestrial cryptid, sounds outlandish…but in the context, it somehow makes the most logical sense. The result is one part buddy cop film, one part road trip film, one part action film, and at least a few moments of weirdly existential musing.

Unfortunately, Sonic tries to juggle too many rings at once, and the movie overall seems to have difficulty establishing a tone or any sense of cohesion. Action sequences, sort of the chili and dog of the series, are oddly placed around the conversational and characterizing sequences. The slapstick humor, akin to Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, will probably appeal mostly to kids, though there are many genuinely funny moments. At least one Fast & Furious reference. And if you are at all a fan of Jim Carrey’s acting, you’ll get your fix here. A lot of the best bits were seemingly picked for the trailers for the movie, which is unfortunate. Some of the film’s issues can likely be defined as growing pains, as Fowler and Paramount intend for this to be the first in a series. Things only really start falling into place at the very end of it all, but I truly think there’s enough to make a much better sequel. Whether we get to go that far, time and ticket sales will tell.

Obviously, I am inclined to mention the production of this film, and the now-infamous character redesign. For those who live under a rock, Paramount initially revealed the film’s original poster, which featured a mere shadow of what looked like a furry marathon runner with Sonic’s head attached. Once the trailer released, it only got worse. The human-looking teeth, the lack of gloves and overall proportions created an absolute firestorm in the Sonic fandom, and even expanded outward into the general public, with even major media outlets with no skin in the video game mocking it. In a shocking twist of fate, director Jeff Fowler announced that the film would be delayed, and the character would be completely redesigned. To someone with little knowledge of CGI, it might seem like a simple swap, but it’s much more complex than that. Things like positioning and actor reference had to be changed or adapted to, and redoing an entire lipsync alone takes a long time. It reportedly cost Paramount an additional $5 million.

The result, however, could not have been better. The new movie Sonic retains some of his more realistic style, but brings back essentials. Plainly, it looked like Sonic, and we fans could not have been happier. I think this may be one of the first or few times a major film was so drastically altered by fan demand alone. Several animation houses contributed to the production, including Sega’s brilliant in-house team Marza, and Blur Studios, who have worked on things from Halo to Avatar. The other-world sequences featuring all CGI are a pleasure to look at, and almost make you wish you could stay from the real world that follows.

Video game adaptations are incredibly hard to pull off, especially for ones whose focus has generally been more on gameplay. Sonic the Hedgehog is a surprising success, surpassing a long line of passionless attempts, and it manages to at least stand on its own as a welcome entry to the massive franchise. Again, in times like these, I have to remember that I’ve been around Sonic for almost 30 years. These things are for the new generations, and I think kids will enjoy it. That said, being a fan, I enjoyed it too.

Important Note: There is a mid-credits scene you WILL want to see, so make sure to stick around!

Rating: 6.5/10


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