The 90s were the era of company mascots. Nintendo had Mario, PlayStation had Crash Bandicoot, Xbox didn’t exist, and Sega had Sonic. While that trend has died down along with the downfall of Sega as a major force in the never-ending console wars, Sonic The Hedgehog remains iconic and prevalent even now, despite the lack of good modern games.
Surviving all these years is a testament to Sonic’s value as a pop culture icon. It wasn’t a question of if but rather, of when he would be receiving very own live-action movie adaptation. The answer is (obviously) now, and to my pleasant surprise, the final product actually isn’t half bad at all.
Gotta Go Fast
Most gamers who grew up with Sega’s classic titles are now in their 30s (and above) and have kids of their own. After watching Sonic The Hedgehog, I can definitively say that this movie is clearly targeting the latter audience (children) and not the former.
While the movie does feature several fan-service moments and easter eggs, these are few and far in between.
Sure, you’ll smile when you hear the Green Hill Zone music or the sound of Sonic’s rings dropping on the ground.
Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that there are no Chaos Emeralds or Super Sonic in this movie.
The movie is more concerned with providing a clean slate of sorts to reintroduce the once-prominent Sega mascot to an entirely new generation. As a result, what Sonic The Hedgehog offers is a predictable cookie-cutter plot and simple premise that’s easily digestible by children and adults alike, especially for newcomers who know absolutely nothing about the character.
In comparison, 2019’s Detective Pikachu might not have been great either, but it paid tribute to the source material, as well as featured an established living and breathing world as its setting. It was clearly more for fans of the Pokemon franchise, rather than just casuals who don’t know their Lugia from their Rayquaza.
The point is that the Sonic movie is like a family-friendly version of any Hollywood movie where the aliens are ‘good’.
The story beats are pretty formulaic; an alien who finds himself on Earth (in a small town in the middle of nowhere, no less) builds relationships with humans and gradually learns that Earth could be its home after all.
That’s essentially the basic premise of Sonic The Hedgehog.
Heck, there’s nothing with that; a kids movie doesn’t have to be complex. As long as you understand that Sonic The Hedgehog is ultimately not meant to cater to older long-time fans, the movie is fun and you’ll enjoy it better for what it is. Well, the bright side is that Sonic The Hedgehog doesn’t suffer from inane and ridiculous plot twists like when the bad guy took control of Mewtwo’s body in Detective Pikachu.
Since I described it as a kids movie above, you can probably guess by now the level of comedy that’s featured in Sonic The Hedgehog.
It’s not overly juvenile, nor is it hip-breakingly funny, but rather lies somewhere in between. I found myself chuckling at some of the jokes but most of them didn’t land properly.
It’s totally what you’d expect from a family-friendly movie.
Not even Jim Carrey (as antagonist Dr. Robotnik) could make the movie much funnier than it already isn’t. I grew up with his crazy antics and wild shenanigans in the Ace Ventura movies, 1994’s The Mask, and more. After many years away from the spotlight, he makes his return in Sonic The Hedgehog, and much to my delight (and horror), he acts exactly the same as he did two decades ago, like no time has passed.
That could be either a good or bad thing, depending on how much you like or dislike Jim Carrey’s style of comedy. Even though I used to be a massive fan of the comedian, his jokes here seem more grating than usual, which is probably due to the quality of the script than his comedic acting chops (or perhaps I’ve outgrown his type of jokes). He’s still funny, though some might find him chewing the scenery or overexaggerated delivery to be too over-the-top.
James Marsden does an admirable job with his role as Tom Wachowski, the police officer who befriends Sonic in the movie. There does seem to be sparks of chemistry between him and his CGI companion, but that’s likely because Marsden has gotten so used to acting alongside CGI characters in movies like 2011’s Hop and 2007’s Enchanted.
Ben Schwartz voices Sonic, and his performance induces mixed feelings. His voice and delivery of Sonic’s lines is something that kids would find funny and endearing, while adults would likely just find it annoying. I seem to remember the voices of Sonic in the games and the multiple animated series to be more heroic and less goofy.
What ultimately matters is that his new design looks authentic and awesome, especially in motion during the dazzling high-speed sequences (which unashamedly rips off Quicksilver’s time-stopping scenes in the X-Men movies). I can’t imagine how a movie with the previous horrible design would be like, now that I’ve seen the whole movie with the improved Sonic. Kudos to the VFX teams who made all this a reality, you folks are the true MVP. Too bad they couldn’t do anything about the script though.
Sega Cinematic Universe
The Sonic games have never attempted to look cinematic, updated its old-school platforming gameplay (besides the transition to 3D in the 2000s), or featured unnecessarily complex storylines.
The franchise’s brilliance lies in its simplicity. Why should you expect the movie to be any different in the end?
Last but not least, I recommend that you stay for a while after the movie ends. Fans of the Sega mascot will surely appreciate the mid-credits scene, which drove several of the viewers in my screening to clap and cheer. I won’t spoil what it is, though I can say that it’s extremely fan-pleasing and one that might mean the beginning of a new Sega Cinematic Universe.
It’s time to make a Yakuza or Total War movie, Sega. We know you want to.
FINAL SCORE: 50/100
Sonic The Hedgehog opens in Malaysian cinemas on 13 February 2020. We caught the movie via press screening, courtesy of United International Pictures Malaysia Sdn Bhd.