Movie adaptations of video games are always heavily scrutinised, but it’s a rare thing for one to be criticised so much that it gets changed before release.
That’s the fate that befell Sonic the Hedgehog when the first trailer revealed the (admittedly terrible) design for Sonic. Director Jeff Fowler understood the concerns and initiated a redesign, prompting a delay.
There’s no doubt that the new version is a considerable improvement, more faithful to the video game design. But there’s no point having a great Sonic if the movie around him isn’t great – so was it all worth it?
Sort of. Sonic the Hedgehog is a diverting and entertaining family watch, but it will likely race out of your memory as quickly as Sonic collects rings.
Without much of a backstory in the games to draw from, the movie starts with cute baby Sonic on his home planet being hunted down because of his “extraordinary power”. Sonic uses the rings to travel to another world, with instructions to stay hidden.
10 years later, Sonic has been making a home for himself on Green Hills and, to be honest, it’s all a bit depressing. Despite keeping track on local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), Sonic is all alone and playing baseball games by himself.
That is until he accidentally causes a power outage in town, putting him in the sights of the maniacal scientist Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Let’s start with the hedgehog in the room. The redesign works really well and it’s hard to see Sonic as quite so endearing if they had stuck with the original, terrifying design.
Pitching Sonic as a hyperactive teenager fits with the character and Ben Schwartz’s fun vocal performance. Compared to recent CGI misfires like Cats and Dolittle, Sonic also interacts with the real-world elements and other characters effectively.
As for the other major video game character, your liking of Dr Robotnik will depend on your tolerance level for a madcap Jim Carrey performance.
It’s a throwback to his Mask and Riddler days, resulting in a high-energy, hit-and-miss performance. When it works, it’s hilarious, such as in his interaction with his long-suffering assistant Stone (Lee Majdoub), but there are equally as many cringeworthy moments.
Plot-wise, Sonic the Hedgehog is a bit lacking. It’s Sonic and Tom on a road trip to San Francisco, getting into hijinks along the way and the odd battle with Dr Robotnik and his army of drones.
Talking of that drone army (recently used as a plot device in Spider-Man: Far from Home Venom and more), there’s a strong air of ‘seen it all before’ to the movie. This is especially the case in two notable set pieces that have a very similar hook to ones in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Justice League.
For the target audience, this likely won’t be an issue, as they might not have even seen those movies.
Looking to capitalise on the same audience that made the Sonic Boom TV series a hit, the humour in Sonic the Hedgehog skews young and broad. Dr Robotnik brings a level of weird – “Nice, rub that in my orphan face,” he retorts to a comment on breastfeeding – but on the whole, it’s a family-friendly affair.
But while the tone might be firmly aimed at children, Sonic the Hedgehog does have plenty of Easter eggs for the video game fans. At times, the fan service is a bit clunky, but mostly it doesn’t get in the way of the plot and adds an extra level of fun to the adaptation.
The unmissable credits scenes promise a sequel that’ll be even more in line with the video games, now that Sonic’s origin story has been told.
Like Detective Pikachu last year, Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t perfect, but it’s another good movie adaptation of a video game that’s a lot better than some would have feared.
And given how Sonic the Hedgehog started its marketing campaign, that’s got to be a win for fans.
Sonic the Hedgehog is out on February 14.
Director: Jeff Fowler; Starring: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter; Running time: 99 minutes; Certificate: PG
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