Sonic the Hedgehog is exactly what you expect
Debuting on Friday, Feb. 14, Sonic the Hedgehog surpassed Detective Pikachu in the box office, making it the most successful opening of a video-game adaptation.
The film opens at a climactic explosion, only to be then paused and rewound by Sonic, who proceeds to narrate his story from the beginning. Already, this is exactly how one might expect the movie like this would start.
Sonic takes us all the way back to his idyllic childhood on an alien planet, in which he lived his dream of running around his personal island. When he is discovered by others who wish to use his power for their own purpose, he must escape to Earth using a gold ring, a popular mechanic in the video game that is barely mentioned in the movie.
This opening allows the audience to essentially predict the entire movie onwards. His power is discovered on Earth, making it unsafe, and he must now escape to another (far less appealing) planet, lest he be captured and experimented upon. This narrative takes Sonic’s lonely longing for a home and makes it his central character arc. However, since Sonic is already an established pop culture icon, it felt more hamfisted than natural.
Due to this defining aspect of Sonic’s character, he clashes with Tom, his human companion, over news that Tom plans on leaving his small town. This is where Sonic’s fear of abandonment reaches a boiling point. I felt that this scene was somewhat forced, not to mention that interpersonal conflict during a battle with the antagonist is far too overdone in movies.
The moment that made me actually feel sympathetic for Sonic is when his shoes are taken off, and we see how worn down and damaged they are from a lifetime of running. This gives his character a more natural substance than anything the backstory was meant to deliver.
What Sonic lacks in narrative quality, it makes up for in its lighthearted, self-aware tone. The story was slow and predictable, essentially a road trip movie in which Jim Carrey chases around a blue CGI hedgehog.
As Robotnik, Carrey delivers his usual brand of comedy, which suits the mad genius well. However, for how little he contributed to the story, he was on screen quite a bit. This is understandable when a studio pays for an actor like Carrey to be the main villain.
Given the nature of the film, I came in with a clear expectation of what it would be, which was really no expectations at all. I walked in ready to see Sonic the Hedgehog, a well-known character from my childhood, run around, and that’s what he did. If this is the only precursor to viewing this film, it will be a fun experience regardless of actual quality.
One particularly enjoyable scene was the bar fight in which Sonic singlehandedly knocks everyone out as time appears to be frozen in the midst of his supersonic speed.
This movie had a surprising amount of genuinely good moments. I am not ashamed to admit that I laughed out loud at how quickly baby Sonic’s life unraveled. I even appreciated the use of the Sanic meme, an image featuring a cartoonishly poor rendering of Sonic, pulled from the unholy arsenal that is the internet.
Self-aware as it was, there were a few too many moments in which the attempts at relevancy only served to age it. This was particularly notable and cringe-worthy in the fact that Sonic flossed twice, over-utilizing the fading popularity of a Fortnite dance with no indication of irony.
Despite its forgettable story, this film will not be forgotten. Sonic the Hedgehog not only delivered the film that everyone hoped it would, but it also listened to its fans and went as far as to completely redesign their main character in response to fan backlash. While the final design is quite clearly more animated amongst the rest of the movie environment, it is far more natural to the atmosphere of the film and pays a better tribute to the original character design.
As for the teased sequel at the end, I am interested to see what teased narrative threads they choose to follow in the future, if at all. Considering its success, it seems only a matter of time before we see more from Sonic, Robotnik and, new to the list, Tails. All in all, Sonic the Hedgehog was a surface level film that is worthy of checking off your bucket list.