Sonic the Hedgehog

Directed By Jeff Fowler

Starring – Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Ben Schwartz

The Plot – Based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise from Sega, the film tells the story of the world’s speediest hedgehog (Schwartz) as he embraces his new home on Earth. In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic and his new best friend Tom (James Marsden) team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his plans for world domination.

Rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild adult language.

POSITIVES

– Fan service. This is acceptable in this instance, because without it, it would nearly render “Sonic the Hedgehog” indistinguishable in its real world setting. It helps that none of the fan service feels tacked-on or desperate in making its point, instead incorporating it in a way that not only feels fresh for how it plays against its new setting, but also doesn’t take over the focus of the movie, and instead depositing them as Easter eggs that hardcore fans of the video game franchise will appreciate. Without spoiling anything, I will say that my personal favorite dealt with a musical composition played during the film’s closing moments, which allows us to breathe that sweet air of nostalgia in its familiar notes, all the while being remastered in a way that makes it feel like an entirely original piece of composition for the film.

– Special effects. This was my biggest worry, as the studio delayed the movie’s release after the polarizing backlash that it received for the original Sonic design for the movie. Thankfully, I am happy to report that the second design feels seamless in its illustration, marrying the sides of weight believability and familiarity within the character that allows it to succeed. Sonic’s blue feels beautifully conveyed for the mostly generic color pallet that fills the movie throughout, but beyond that it’s the way his speed interacts with everything surrounding him that absorbs him in our gravity, and makes him feel like a living, breathing thing within this live action property. Beyond that, there’s a highly detailed beautiful opening sequence taking place in the ring land, that unfortunately was done so well that I found myself longing for a movie to take place in this world. It’s colorfully vibrant and full eye-catching detail as far as the eye can see, proving that it was time and money well spent at articulating the uniqueness of this immersive world so far from our own.

– Dedication to the craft. It’s no surprise that this film isn’t going to win any awards for its acting, but with that said Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz give so much to their respective roles that we often find them fighting the constant uphill climb against material that does neither of their characters any favors in appealing to the audience. For Carrey, it’s not a physical transformation into Doctor Robotnik, but rather a mental one, emoting the evil genius with a balance of arrogance and dictatorship that cements Carrey having so much fun in the role. When he isn’t chewing up as much scenery as he can, Jim compliments Schwartz’s Sonic, who wonderfully captures an air of dreamer’s adolescence that takes the character more miles than his feet ever could. Ben’s rampant personality very much reminded me of a Spider-Man animated feature, if only for the way his calmness under pressure never subsided. For my money, it’s the energetic excitement in his delivery that audibly transforms Ben, a 38 year-old, into an ambitiously youthful hedgehog with a lifetime of possibilities ahead of him. It documents two men who understand the risks of their casting, but instead choose to give it every chance they can at showing two completely different sides of acting that succeed in this example.

– Sturdy camera work. This would be an easy thing to screw up, as the speed of its titular character combined with evolving action set pieces could make for a supplanting of shaking camera capturing that could leave audiences with a stomach ache of dizziness. Fortunately, everything here is shot wide enough to articulately depict it, and yet maintains the intensity of the power being emitted on-screen. There was only one point throughout the film where I needed a stronger focus to accurately convey what was taking place in frame, but for the most part everything flows smoothly with personality behind the lens from cinematographer Stephen Windon that spins and contorts like one of Robotnik’s own deadly drone devices. There’s also no P.O.V angle shots, which kept my lunch smoothly resting in my stomach, and free from making a cameo appearance somewhere in this auditorium. It makes for a becoming presentation for “Sonic” that halts its complete immersive capabilities in favor of visual storytelling that felt like it never had to match the adrenaline of its blue leading lad.

– Hearty material. As the second act of the movie concludes, the script gives way to some emotionally charged themes dealing with living for the moment, engaging friendship, and personal happiness, which made it a lot deeper thematically than I was ever expecting from a video game movie. This in turn allows the chemistry and the bond between Sonic and Tom to develop naturally during the middle of this long distance road trip, but also illustrates the unforeseen disposition from the former, who otherwise comes across with a life that is colorful, fast, and full of fantastical worlds that our human eyes aren’t special enough to see. It takes everything about the movie dealing with speed, and asks it to slow it down in a way that urges our protagonist to soak in as many things about the personal experience as he can before its too late, which in turn is easily intepretive from the audience watching just beyond the screen staring back at him. It implements a message for youths without it feeling heavy-handed or dominant over the conflict in the foreground, and proves there was some substantial substance to play to the film’s characteristic style.

NEGATIVES

– Bombing humor. The film gave me a couple of laughs, more so in its sight gags that further played into Sonic’s enhanced speed, but in its lines of humorous dialogue, this film often reminded me of last year’s “Playing With Fire”, for how this feels anything like real people delivering real interaction. Some deal with nauseating puns that elicited a few groans within me, sometimes its flatulence humor that most animated films simply can’t resist itself of, and some more than familiar instances of scene borrowing that it betrays. In that instance, the film practically replicates Quicksilver’s sequences from the X-Men movies, where he slows down time to change future impacts. I could forgive this if it were done once, but three different times is completely meandering, and never once offered anything that was visually or creatively as appealing as the movie it borrows from. When I did laugh, it was an adult joke that kids in my audience clearly didn’t understand, and makes this a surprisingly tough sell the younger you are.

– Setting choice. The best scene of the entire movie for me was the opening sequence that takes place in Sonic’s fantasy world. Unfortunately, the movie never returns to this setting, and instead relegates itself to become this buddy road trip movie that takes place in the real world. Where this is obvious is in its desire to save a few dollars on computer generation by basing an entire film in Sonic’s world, but beyond that it diminishes the movie’s stand-out capabilities in style that could’ve distanced it from the many visually appealing kids movies that are prominent today. Take Sonic out of this, and it’s the same as any other road trip movie, and I just felt like the complete lack of world-building that this film should have given us still isn’t the Sonic movie that fans of the franchise deserve.

– No stakes. The opening scene disposes of a pivotal character to Sonic, which caught my attention because kids movies often lack dramatic heft of consequences to rid it of predictability. Unfortunately, it starts and ends there, as not only is there no resolution at all in this film (Forgivable), but there’s one sequence where consequences is completely ignored. The amount of deaths that take place in a chase sequence throughout San Francisco is unavoidable, but the movie’s persistence to keep the scene going with these explosions happening in the background is downright irresponsible. This reminds me of “Man of Steel”, when Superman obviously kills hundreds of people, but it’s never acknowledged in the film. This element could’ve not only added to Sonic’s mainstream media polarization throughout the movie, but also made him question the gifts that he had been given. The noticeably absent dramatic heft for the film disappointed me, and underwrites much of the character arc that the movie needs to counteract Sonic’s lack of vulnerability.

– Shameless product placement. Strangely enough, this is never with Sega, sonic, or even a video game property, but rather with parts of pop culture from our own world that is shoe-horned into the narrative. These range from restaurants, like Olive Garden’s all you can eat pasta bowls, to movies from Paramount’s collection, to tech gags like Apple or Uber, which feel so outside of the box of ordinary for the character. Sonic mentioning Amazon using drones to deliver packages creates some logic issues on its own, but I will get to more of those in a second. For now, the film’s requirement to recoup expenses through the eyes of some unnecessary advertising slows the movie down in a way that feels like a violent speedbump for the title character’s most distinguishable feature, and makes much of this movie feel forced to endure the corporate creation that it so unfortunately was.

– Logical instances. There are so many of them scattered throughout, but I will name a few that I still can’t figure out. For one, how does a cowboy hat that doesn’t even cover half of his face keep Sonic from being noticed in a bar? If Sonic needs Tom’s help to get to San Francisco, can’t he just print him out directions that will get him there in no time? How about the convenience of a plot device where Sonic can transport by jumping into these magic rings that he possesses? Why doesn’t he always do this when evil strikes? One such scene involves villains closing in on him, and he’s asked by Tom why he doesn’t use them, and the best answer that pops into his ignorant blue head is “They’re right outside”. I understand that debating logic in a movie where a blue hedgehog can talk and run quicker than anything is ridiculous, but the things I’m questioning have nothing to do with the character, but rather the leaps in real world logic that any fan of the movie should be questioning. It’s a 92 minute movie that should be 20 minutes. The reason it isn’t is because of these glaring instances where the only answer is practically saying “Just because”.

My Grade: 5/10 or D+

One thought on “Sonic the Hedgehog

  1. The negatives almost seem ticky tacky, and I was surprised by some of the things you found as what appear to be strong positives. Your review actually made me interested in possibly seeing this. I’m surprised by the low overall. I’ll wait for netflix. Great review as always.

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