Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Updated: Apr 26
There’s one cliché that I’ve come to hate in time. One cliché that can drain all excitement from me within thirty seconds of a film starting.
A movie starts. It’s midway through an action scene, when all of a sudden…
“That’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got in this situation.”
Three guesses how Sonic The Hedgehog (2020) starts...
There’s been a real annoying trend when adapting something nostalgic to the big screen. Smurfs (2011) did it. Fat Albert (2004) did it. Sonic does it. Apparently people can’t suspend their disbelief enough, so we need to establish that our characters aren’t from this world; they’re from some far off planet/alternate universe/magical fairy land/the television, and they’ve come to our world, and now we have to see them adjust to this world. It’s so easy and bland and I’m sure we could’ve figured out something more unique for a super fast hedgehog that is apparently fueled by gold rings.
But we didn’t and this is what we have.
There’s nothing interesting of note to say here, really. Did you see the trailer? Yeah, it’s that. Hell, if you remember that original terrifying trailer, then you’ll know how Sonic defeats Robotnik within the first five minutes of the movie, and spoiler alert: it’s not that he reverts to his original character design.
One of my favourite story beats is that James Marsden’s character, Thomas Michael Wachowski, has his entire character arc spelled out to us in clear and concise diction. Who needs subtext when you can have a character tell you how they are feeling?
Robotnik is sent by the US government to track down Sonic after a massive power surge wipes out the entire north-west coast. When Robotnik discovers that Sonic is the source of the power, he becomes obsessed with harnessing his power, which results in him finally powering his super powerful manned drone entirely by a single quill, which shorts out the rest of his equipment. He even frames Tom Mike Wachowski as a wanted terrorist, specifically armed and dangerous, after he helps Sonic escape.
What I’m saying is that I think it’s a criticism of the US invasion of Iraq.
It cannot be stated enough that the work that the visual effects team did, (who are now bankrupt), was amazing. I mean, sure, maybe people shouldn’t have designed Sonic that way to begin with, but they went back and redid everything. It’s not just like you can slap a new model straight into the scene and transfer all the animation data across; they would have had to design the mode, rig the model with the new skeletal structure, transfer the animation data over, refine the animation and render it all over again. It’s a lot of damn work, and they should be commended for their efforts.
Otherwise, eh. The movie looks fine.
I was honestly expecting it to be more visually interesting after the dance scene was shown in the trailer. You have this sick red backlight and cool to blue key and fill, but that’s just Robotnik’s truck, and the dance scene is as unnecessary in the film, as it is in the trailer. The cinematography is functional, the production design is totally fine. I can’t fault it, but I also can’t praise it. They do a “Quick Silver scene” from X-men: Days of Future Past (2014), and although the payoff is pretty funny, the execution is still bland as hell.
There is ONE shot that really stood out to me, which is right at the climax: Robotnik pulls his goggles down to reveal Sonic's glowing silhouette reflected and it is awesome. But then they cut away, show like seven other different shots, and display it again for a second. Honestly, you have a great shot. Just hold on to it for a little longer.
Finally, back to the redesign. I just want to point out that one of the things everybody hated from that original Sonic, was the fact that he didn’t have gloves; just white furred hands. But as it happens, this was for a reason. There is an entire scene based on the fact that they can’t stop something from being stuck on his hands; something that hurtles us into the end of the second act. That’s how you know they didn’t do reshoots for this. Just take your damn glove off, Sonic. It’s clearly a glove; take it off. OR if it’s not a glove, I’m surprised they didn’t spoon feed us that information with a simple one liner. “Take off your gloves”. “They’re not gloves, that’s just what my hands look like”. Done.
Pictured: apparently, just regular old hands, no gloves here, don't think about it.
I stand by the fact that they should have kept the original design. At least then, this movie could be elevated to “so bad, it’s good” status in some way. Without it, it’s just a totally fine and inoffensive children's movie. A confused kids' movie that is also trying really hard to reel in nostalgia, as well as be cool with the kids. Hey, you remember Speed (1994)? Keanu Reeves was in it? Good times, right? Anyway, now let’s #floss, like that cool #Fortnite you kids are always talking about. And yes…. Sonic flosses…
James Marsden, like seemingly 70 per cent of his filmography, is far too charismatic and good for this movie, and that kind of makes him more likeable. Tika Sumpter, playing Mike Wazowski’s wife, Maddie, is equally charismatic. The two have a genuinely fun relationship with great chemistry, and who the hell knew he had a wife from the trailers? Not me. But then there is her sister, who, inexplicably, hates James Marsden. Who in the hell hates James Marsden? Especially since we’ve had nothing but charming lovable handsomeness from him all movie. He’s a cop! He’s just a good guy! He helps ducks cross the road! Is it because he's white? But for the sake of adding tension and over-the-top crazy lady jokes, the sister-in-law has to hate him. I’m sorry, but I can’t suspend my disbelief that far.
Jim Carrey is easily the best thing in the film. He seems to be in this weird stage of his career where he has had his peak, then his trough: he did comedies, then dramas, then bad comedies, then bad dramas. Now he’s at his most Jim Carrey-y in a movie that doesn’t deserve it, but definitely needs him. His banter with James Marsden is genuinely clever and fun, especially when it has literally nothing to do with Sonic. The way they introduce themselves to each other is just a clever bit of dialogue that I loved and would’ve worked well with literally any two characters meeting in any movie, but instead it is in Sonic.
Sonic is annoying. He is meant to be, but it is still annoying. He has a tendency to know everything about pop culture, and nothing all at once. He calls James Marsden "Donut Guy" the whole movie because he doesn’t know his name, and apparently doesn't know he has a dog, but then he knows who Vin Diesel is and quotes The Fast and the Furious (2001) all from watching it through windows. I’m sure kids will love him, and he grows on you, but I think that’s more due to Stockholm syndrome than anything else. Ben Schwartz was the right casting for him, no doubt, and I’m sure Jean-Ralphio had something to do with that.
It’s just fine. Nothing great. Kids will probably like it. There are memes in it, and that’s fine. They show a clip from The Naked Gun (1988) for some reason. Who was that for? Who’s going to recognise that? Except me, obviously. The best part of the movie is the credits, where they rehash the entire movie in 16-bit with those classic Sonic graphics. That is awesome. It saves Mr Sunday Movies the job of doing it.
They sure are expecting a sequel though. Never before have I seen such brazen lack-of-self-awareness since Super Mario Bros. (1993) ended in a cliff hanger.