When I was young, we had a Sega Master System. Those familiar with that console will know that they came encoded with a game so you could just switch it on and be playing in seconds without putting in a console. With mine, it was ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. That was the beginning of my life as a gamer. I don’t mean to brag, but I could finish the game in 30 – 40 minutes with all the crystals. The only hump I couldn’t cross was the ‘finishing it without losing a life’ thing. I did OK until the ‘Jungle’ levels and then it all fell apart.
However, I am only familiar with the first game. I haven’t played any of the billions of other games spread across all the platforms that have come out over the last 20 years and so when I found out that there was a live-action film being made involving Sonic, I was indifferent, even when I found out that Jim Carrey was involved because I love Jim Carrey.
Now that I’ve seen it, I can say that this is a good film adaptation of a video game. It’s one that takes the video game lore and ‘adapts’ it for film so that it makes sense. That wasn’t a very good explanation, but you’ll see what I mean. First, plot.
Sonic the Hedgehog lives on another world that strongly resembles the game world with lots of sprawling tracks and loop-the-loops. He can run really fast for an unknown reason and it’s because of this that other creatures are after him. Young Sonic is looked after by Longclaw the Owl. After an attack on their home, Sonic is sent to Earth by Longclaw who is left behind to face the attackers.
10 years go by and Sonic (Voiced by Ben Schwartz) has made a life for himself in Green Hills, Montana and when I say ‘made a life’, I mean ‘stayed in hiding but fantasises about being part of the community’. One family who he has become attached to is the Wachowski’s who are made up of Tom (James Marsden), local Sheriff who is underwhelmed with the inactivity in the small town, and his wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter) who is veterinarian and practises Yoga in the back garden which Sonic sometimes joins in with.
One night, Sonic plays baseball by himself and becomes upset at having to be alone and not having any friends. His frustration causes him to run in a circle eventually reaching a speed that causes an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) which knocks out the power for large portion of the Pacific Northwest. The Government call in the scarily smart and possibly mad scientist, Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to find out what happened and when he discovers Sonic, capturing him to use his power for his machines becomes his mission. Once Robotnik zeroes in on Tom, he and Sonic team up to retrieve his rings so he can escape the mad doctor.
That was a lot.
So, what’s good about this film and why do I like it?
I think I like it because I’m so far detached from the video games that I’m not so protective of it. If the film wanted to change something (which I would encourage anyway) then I don’t care so much. For example, in the games, Sonic collects rings for an unknown reason but in the film, they have a different and altogether useful purpose.
The rings are used to open portals to other worlds which was how Sonic came to Earth. Longclaw gave Sonic a bag full of rings in case he ever got into trouble.
I also like Sonic as a character. Of course, Sonic wasn’t a voiced character in the first game, but I understand that in recent games, the decision was made to give him a voice which would make sense because there were other characters added.
I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that movie Sonic is freaking adorable, in design and in personality. Because his main trait is ‘the quickness’, he’s been written to act like he’s on speed a lot of the time. However, when he calms down, we see that Sonic is quite a lonely creature. He desperately wants to interact with the happenings in the community but is bound to stay silent. The only interaction he has is with the local conspiracy theorist, ‘Crazy Carl’ (Frank C. Turner) who desperately tries to convince the town of Sonic’s existence but is quickly dismissed.
It’s clear that all he wants is to be a part of the town and so when he begins his road trip with Tom to reclaim his rings, he does all he can to interact with people such as going to a bar ‘in disguise’. I’m not all that familiar with Ben Schwartz or his work but judging by this film, he did a really good job.
Moving on to Dr Robotnik. Dr Robotnik is shown to be highly intelligent and socially non-compliant. In fact, he sees other people as lesser beings. He has created numerous robots to carry out his investigations and sophisticated software to analyse any evidence and he’s aided by his constantly underappreciated colleague, Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub). Carrey’s performance is exactly as you’d expect. Wacky. Trademarked ‘Carrey-esque’. One instance that I would have in the dictionary under ‘Carrey-esque’ (if I owned a dictionary that provided moving images) would be the sequence where Dr Robotnik dancing in his ‘Evil Tour Bus’ to ‘Where Evil Grows’ by The Poppy Family. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy Jim Carrey’s performance. He always shines bright when you give him something really great to work with and an ‘iconic’ character that has never really been massively explored before such as Dr Robotnik was a great thing to give to him.
These two characters have to be larger than life because let’s face it, they are the two that will be bringing in the audiences. Having said that, I’m glad to see that they at least tried with the other two main characters.
Tom is a small-town Sheriff who spends most of his time at his traffic spot messing around because no one commits any crimes. He wants to have a chance to prove himself and actually save lives with some real police and so applies to the San Francisco police force. He’s accepted and so plans to leave Green Hills. Once Sonic hears about this, he’s upset because it feels like he’s losing a friend even though they’d never met.
The references are also nicely implemented even though anyone who isn’t familiar with the games might think that ‘Green Hills’ is a fairly generic name for a small town that’s meant to represent ‘average America’ therefore unaware that ‘Green Hills’ is the iconic name of the first level in the first game. The rings, I’ve already touched upon, The legendary theme tune is heard at the end, Sonic is given his trademark ‘red shoes’ late in the film, Sonic calls Dr Robotnik ‘Eggman’ after his egg shaped robots and these are just the ones that don’t spoil the ending… or mid-credits sequence.
‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ had a budget of $81 – $95 Million, possibly owing to the reshoots that they had to do to redesign Sonic after that horror show of a first trailer. But nevertheless, the team led by animator, Tyson Hesse did a brilliant job and I think we can all agree that new Sonic is closer in concept to his video game counterpart and therefore more appealing to the fans than that monstrosity that was shown in the first trailer. The change seemed to have been worth it because the film has taken $306.8 Million which is fairly impressive for a first instalment.
I don’t think I’ve said anything properly spoiler worthy and I will continue to not do that considering a lot of people will still have not seen it but I will say that the ending is emotional (in a good way) and I also don’t think that it’s a spoiler that the ending leaves it open for a sequel. Did you really think this would be a stand-alone film? This is ‘Paramount’ we’re talking about.
Jim Carrey himself has said that he’s open to doing a sequel which is surprising because he’s only ever done two sequels; ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber 2’. The former was not well received, and the latter was mixed but to my mind, something like ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is made for constant sequels.
Yes. Normally, I would stamp all over this for having a generic and predictable plot and cliched characters and it’s hundreds of plot holes concerning Sonic’s whereabouts and why they speak perfect English in a different reality and punchlines that you can see a mile away but I’m honestly not all that down on it.
There were some jokes that made me laugh and I was impressed with the visuals and alright, I’ll admit it, I love Sonic. He’s so cute and I like his character. All those fans of the video games who are bashing it because it’s not what they know don’t seem to understand that the point of an adaptation is that it’s ‘adapted’ for a new audience… and I liked this adaptation of Sonic as a character. After spending ten years on his own, on a different reality and imagining himself into other people’s lives just so he wouldn’t feel so alone, and all he wanted was to be wanted. I know it’s for kids but so is Doctor Who and adults can’t help banging on about that.
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