A definition that “bad press is better than no press”.
An alien creature is transported to our world and finds himself hunted by a secret Government organisation. All he has is his wits, speed, and his human friends.
It is disappointing that Sonic the Hedgehog beat Detective Pikachu in opening weekend box office, as it is safe to say that Pikachu is the superior film. Why this comparison? Well, besides them both being video game franchise movies, they are tentpole franchises for two video game companies that were once “at war”; Pikachu representing Nintendo, and Sonic representing SEGA.
Unlike Nintendo and its associated franchise Pokemon, SEGA stopped making games consoles after the Dreamcast in 2001, and have been a software developer ever since. Sonic, similarly, has had a rough history beyond his original 2D games of the 1990s. He has had a dozen colourful allies, a few cartoon series, he has been a werewolf (read: werehog) and he has been King Arthur. Despite most of his 3D games having appalling reception, Sonic’s fans have been incredibly resilient to the criticism that has bombarded them for at least two decades.
Enter 2019’s Sonic the Hedgehog live action movie trailer, for a film originally set to release that year. To say it didn’t upset the Internet would be an understatement. Sonic’s design was globally panned as nightmare fuel, bringing overwhelming social media attention to the movie. Especially with the film being delayed until February 2020, several months later.
Now, looking back at it… the original 2019 trailer is so awful, so misguided, that it is hard to believe it even happened. Without wanting to insulting dozens of overworked and stressed out animators… it is in the realms of possibility that this was a publicity stunt.
And it worked. Potentially.
Even going into this film with the most critical eye, with the ethos: “It could have been worse!”, and pretending that original trailer never happened, the final product still proves itself to be… alright.
Which is a blessing, for all future movie adaptations of video games. But it is hard to ignore the possibilities of what could have been. A Sonic film with the original design and poor music choices would have been so gloriously terrible, it would have been far more memorable than what we got!
Sonic the Hedgehog is an okay movie. It is not as offensive as one might have predicted, nor is it a surprising and joyful gem. The film never quite elevates itself into a compelling, emotional or relevant state. This is mostly due to a simply storyline that we have seen dozens of times before, unconvincing CGI elements (see Detective Pikachu for beautiful CGI elements and lighting) and a half-baked chemistry between Sonic voiced by Ben Schwartz and Sheriff Tom, played by James Marsden (yes, Cyclops from the original X-Men film trilogy). It is probably of similar style and grace to The Smurfs movies.
The writing is also an unimaginative dirge, feeling a lot like a checklist of “moments”. It is laughable when, towards the end of the film, after Tom has helped Sonic throughout the entire film the blue blur says, “Thank you”, and Tom replies, warmly, “What for?” … ISN’T IT OBVIOUS?
Admittedly, the film’s strengths lie not only with its villain, Sonic’s original nemesis, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, played effectively by Jim Carrey. The only man who could make a human character match a larger-than-life video game character. He, and the final showdown of the film, are probably the standout experiences. Remember, finish a film well and audiences will forget how the other 80% of the film was underachieving.
However, these things are not enough to elevate it above the rather bland film-making on display. It is a safe experience; kids (and diehard Sonic fans) will enjoy it, parents will probably retreat into their phones. There are one too many Olive Garden references, as well as too many references that instantly date the film.
Oh, and some writing oversights. How exactly does Sonic learn everything from secretly watching American action movies (to the point in which he can quote them) yet he doesn’t know what San Francisco is?
Also, why have Sonic drive and the human fight the robots, when you already established in the same scene that the reversed roles worked perfectly well??
So yes, this film does not require a cinema visit; it really is an inoffensive but also uninteresting piece of storytelling. It feels like a Netflix movie that luckily managed a cinema release.
Additional Marshmallows: All this said. Hopefully a sequel happens, and feels more like the Sonic we know, and less like The Smurfs movie.