Claude’s Column: Sonic Races Through Theaters, Towards Mediocrity

(Source: Youtube/Paramount Pictures)

Following months in meme purgatory, everyone’s favorite blue dude with attitude arrived in theaters on February 6 with a new look but the same old charm. I’m of course referring to 2020s first big hit and Mario’s mortal enemy, Sonic the Hedgehog.  

Back when the trailer was released in April of 2019, the internet, as always,  just about ate itself alive with rage. While many were excited to see Ace Ventura’s actor, Jim Carrey, cast as Dr. Robotnick, the reveal of Sonic himself sent the fans into a foaming frenzy. 

The original design was heavily criticized for looking less like the character fans grew up with and more like a nightmare straight out of the darkest depths of Deviantart.

(Source: KinoCheck International / Youtube)

The backlash from fans following the trailer was so immense, Paramount Studios postponed the released date of the movie to 2020 in order to redesign Sonic entirely. The studio tasked with redesigning Sonic, Motion Picture Company, actually shut down permanently shortly after the film’s production, which is a shame. 

A second trailer was soon unveiled in November of 2019 with Sonic sporting a design more faithful to the classic Sega icon. Fans were pleased with Sonic’s more cartoonish facial features and the addition of his signature use of gloves. The backlash seemed to end. 

People flocked like sheep into theaters to see if the film itself would deliver the speedy fun and adventure of the original Genesis games. Did Sonic pull through despite the controversy and hype? Financially yes, as it is currently the second highest grossing video game film of all time behind Detective Pikachu. Storywise, however, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is far from spectacular.

(Source: Youtube/Paramount Pictures)

The story focuses on the title character, (voiced by Ben Schwartz) who is stranded on earth in a town called Green Hills (get it?) where he has lived for years under the radar of humans. He is rather lonely being the only cartoon hedgehog around, after all, it’s not like there were any other characters in the Sonic games that could’ve made this film more interesting. One human, he seems to be interested in and enjoys messing with is Green Hills cop, Tom Wochowski (James ‘should fire his agent’ Marston). 

One night, Sonic’s speedy antics cause a massive power outage, catching the attention of the U.S Military. This unknown incident persuades the military to call in the nefarious madman/Eggman Dr. Robotnick (Jim Carrey) to find and capture this mysterious creature. 

Now on the run, Sonic reveals himself to Tom and asks for assistance in retrieving his golden rings, which can transport him back to his homeworld. Upon being interrogated by Robotnick, Tom agrees to help the blue blur find his way home and the two venture on a road trip to San Francisco to retrieve Sonic’s lost rings.

They initially don’t get along as Tom’s dreams of joining the San Francisco Police force are ruined due to Sonic’s sudden emergence. But of course, they soon learn to see eye to eye as they try to outrun the mechanical storm of Robotnick.

If you’ve ever watched a 90s road trip or buddy cop movie, you’ve already seen “Sonic the Hedgehog.” The story of a normal everyman, who’s life is thrown into chaos by a talking animal who soon becomes his best friend. This is a story straight out of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” or “Hop” – even down to including James Marston. 

How does James Marsden keep finding himself in these situations? (Source: Youtube/YouTube Movies)

Not only is the story recycled with nothing new added but “Sonic the Hedgehog” is, well, surprisingly dull for a movie about a hedgehog who can move at the speed of light! The pacing of this story drags more than you’d expect from a franchise that’s all about going fast. Scenes between Sonic and Tom, while acted well, drag on and on and I already know where it’s going. There’s little action in this video game movie, which completely contradicts the high-octane nature of the original Genesis trilogy.

On that note, however, I must give the film credit for following many of the tropes of the original Sonic game fairly well. Sonic’s attitude is quite accurate to the source material, even if he’s a touch more juvenile and not above a fart joke (just like the games right?). 

There’s some cheeky nods and references to the games, tv shows and even memes that gave me a slight chuckle. Not to give away too much, but the ending does hint at a sequel that could follow the story of the genesis classic Sonic 2, which I’d be 100% on board for. 

Unlike so many failed video game films of the past (cough, cough, “Mario Bros.”) its clear the team tasked with helming this project genuinely cares about the character and desired to create something that somewhat resembled the original source material. 

However, these references don’t stand out enough for casual audiences and fail to create a unique or exciting atmosphere. So the film still feels like every other dull live-action kids movie you were dragged to see in the early 2000s. 

However, let’s not overlook one major positive this movie possesses. Because we all know the main reason everyone, myself included, paid money to see this was to see the villain. Jim Carrey’s performance as Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnick, was everything I hoped it would be.

The movie’s highlight, Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnick (Source: Youtube/Paramount Pictures)

 His manic performance is a perfect throwback to classics like “Ace Ventura” or “The Mask.” Even his motivation is pretty cool, he views himself as superior to the rest of humanity and values his machine who always do what they’re told over the rest of mankind. 

His obsession with control and outsmarting brawn with brain perfectly matches that of the original villain and he is actually given more depth than I initially expected from such a silly performance. Not much depth, but he is considerably more interesting than Tom or even Sonic.

Aside from Jim Carrey essentially playing himself, all the other actors, while flat at times, were harmless enough and did a good job with the rather forgettable material given. And that pretty much sums up this movie, flat and forgettable but harmless. 

It’s not the abomination I was expecting like  “Super Mario Bros.”, which you could argue makes it worse seeing how the Mario movie is still talked about today on account of how unbelievably heinous it was. Yet at the same time, nothing about his movie stands out as spectacular. Just because the critics thought it was ok, doesn’t make it a masterpiece worth rewatching. It’s a forgettable popcorn family flick that won’t challenge younger viewers but won’t annoy adults. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you may find yourself enjoying this flick. As for me, I expected more from the fastest thing alive.

Not even this improved face could truly enhance the film. (Source: Youtube/Paramount Pictures)

Rating: 6/10

Samuel J. Claude
Managing Editor

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