Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of Games with Coffee!
First question: Did you see the Sonic the Hedgehog movie that released on Valentines Day? Second question: If you haven’t, why are you still sitting here? GO. AND. WATCH. IT. NOW. (Or not… considering the current events… but still.)
That’s it. That’s the entire post.
Oh wait, you want me to write a review of the movie? Well… I did mention in my comeback post back in January that I would do one… And I always endeavor to keep my promises…
Alright then! So, we’ll do this properly: Games with Coffee’s first ever Espresso Shot [Movie] Review! Similar format as the regular reviews, but with minus Gameplay (for obvious reasons, of course.).
Let’s get to it!
Wow. What a timeline we live in, huh folks?
When the very first teaser images for Sonic the Hedgehog were released by Paramount Pictures some time early last year, I thought it was a joke. “There’s no way that this is what it’s really gonna look like?” I thought cynically.
And then the teaser trailer dropped. Humanoid Sonic? Gangsta Paradise? Muscular calves?! No gloves?! Shoes with laces?! Cyclops!? TEETH!? Oh my goodness…
Right there and then, I was ready to throw it in and declare Sonic the Hedgehog’s media career dead and gone. I planned on reminiscing on the good times, back when the retro games were king, when the 3-D games did some experimental fun stuff – some were good, others, not so – and when Sonic used to be cool. “Now,” I thought, sadly watching my favourite character spiral into oblivion, “Now, he’s a joke…”
Thankfully, other Sonic fans like myself thought the same thing and they demanded action. You want to know who else teamed up with us fans? Kids. They, too, thought that the design looked horrible. Nightmare-fuel really. So then, Paramount did something that was completely unthinkable:
Director Jeff Fowler acknowledged in a tweet what everyone else was thinking: the design wasn’t acceptable. They’d go back to the drawing board. They’d make him better.
And then they did something even more unthinkable: They went to Tyson Hesse.
Now, who’s Tyson Hesse? Well, he’s
the god who descended down from the heavens the artist who saved the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. He’s the guy who put together the wildly popular and entertaining Sonic Mania Adventures and Team Sonic: Overdrive shorts. He’s also one of the artists working on the IDW comics run of Sonic The Hedgehog, which looks way past cool! (I still need to start reading this series…).
On November 12, 2019, Paramount proved that did the right thing in bringing him aboard when the new trailer of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie dropped, showcasing the brand new design. It was, in a word, EPIC:
To this day, this trailer has over 33 million views. I myself had it on repeat in the background at work. For two weeks. This, THIS was what I wanted to see: a proper looking Sonic the Hedgehog!
Fast forward to February, the hype was REAL. Paramount released a hilarious Super Bowl commercial, where athletes of all kinds were extolling the virtues of our blue, supersonic hedge-hero. Social media was abuzz and Sonic was EVERYWHERE. And I? I was still skeptical. “Sure, they redesigned his look, but there’s no way in hell that this movie was going to be any good. According to history, video game movies are supposed to be terrible. Yes Detective Pikachu was an exception to the norm, but that’s all it was.”
Watching this movie at an advance screening on the Thursday ahead of its Valentines Day release made me realize that I shouldn’t expect the most negative of outcomes. I’ll admit, I shed a few tears on my way home from the theater. It’s not just because I’m a hardcore Sonic fan who just saw his icon on the big screen, but because the story was so heartwarming and so familiar to me.
Isolation, loneliness and ADHD do go hand in hand in hand after all.
(HERE BE SPOILERS!)
Clocking in at 100 minutes runtime (referencing the fact that Sonic needs 100 rings for an extra life), Sonic the Hedgehog introduces how our lovable blue hedgehog ended up on Earth in the first place. The film opens in media res with Sonic and Robotnik battling it out in San Francisco. It’s here, where Sonic tells his story.
Born with speed-based super powers on an alien world resembling the one in the video games, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) lived a life of hiding with his mentor/mother figure, Longclaw, an owl. When he accidentally leads a pack of echidnas back to their safe house, Longclaw hands Sonic a bag of rings and instructs him to get to safety.
Rings play a vital part both in the video games and in the movie as well. In the latter, they’re used as a mode of transport, allowing beings to travel great distances by just thinking of their destination. In a sense, these operate with the same principles as the Giant Rings in classic Sonic games or the Warp Rings in the latter issues of Archie Comics’ run of Sonic the Hedgehog (we’re talking Pre-Super Genesis Wave here folks, keep up!). Using these rings, Sonic had been planet hopping and evading those who would want to exploit his powers for their nefarious purposes.
His travels eventually led him to live on Earth in the sleepy town of Green Hills, Montana (another reference to the games!), where he had holed up in a cave for the last ten years. With no one but himself to keep him company, Sonic argues in movie that he’s “living his best life on Earth.” In reality, his existence is a lonesome one. His interactions with the residents of Green Hills are limited to him standing on the sidelines as an observer and pretending that they are his friends. Two people he has great interest in are Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) – a local cop – and his wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter) – a veterinarian. Sonic affectionately nicknames them “The Donut Lord” and “The Pretzel Lady” respectively.
His loneliness doesn’t truly settle in until he tries to emulate a Little League game he saw one afternoon, using his super speed to play practically every position from offense to defense and even coaching! When he scored that home run, crossed home plate and raised his hand for a high five, only to find that there was no one there to give him one, I’ll admit, I lost it.
It took me back to when I was 9, when my ADHD and my self-esteem were at their worst. I was alone. I was friendless. I spent my recesses playing in one of the baseball diamonds at school, alone, with nothing but my imagination to keep me company. And instantly, I identified with the character. Well, I’ve always identified with Sonic, but the movie version more so than ever before.
His rage and frustration manifests his speed based powers and sends the entire Pacific Northwest into darkness. The military decides to send their top technology guy, Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate, which leads Sonic and Tom to cross paths. Tom, who’s recently accepted a job as a street cop in San Francisco, shoots Sonic with a tranq when he catches him in his garage. Sonic was just about to escape to the next destination of his escape map – the Mushroom Planet. This causes the hedgehog to drop his warp ring as he blearily mutters the words he sees on Tom’s shirt: San Francisco. This opens a portal on the floor to the city. His bag of rings drops into the portal and lands on top of the Transamerica Pyramid.
Robotnik tracks Sonic to Tom’s place and the two escape with the doctor on their tail. The second act of the movie becomes a buddy act between Sonic and Tom, where Tom helps the hedgehog retrieve his rings. He goes on to explain what a bucket list is and helps Sonic to live out his last day on Earth enroute to San Francisco. Sonic tries to do everything on his bucket list and acts nonchalant but he secretly wants to have true friends. Being alone with only yourself as your source of companionship really drags on your soul, y’know?
Meanwhile, Robotnik retrieves one of Sonic’s quills from Tom’s house and determines that it holds almost unlimited power – enough that he could use it to his own devious purposes. This results in a sort of victory dance, in which Jim Carrey goes full Jim Carrey and it is fantastic.
Everything comes to a head in the third act. An explosion injures Sonic and Tom takes him to his veterinarian wife, who’s apartment hunting in San Fran. After being gifted his iconic shoes, Sonic and his human companions retrieve his bag of rings, only for Robotnik to show up, his machine now powered by Sonic’s quill. Sonic eventually decides to stop running and use his powers to save his new friends, which culminates in the movie’s spectacularly visual final act. At the end, and with help from Tom and the people of Green Hills, the hedgehog defeats Robotnik with his patented Spin Attack, banishes the Doctor to the Mushroom Planet and ends up getting his high five, new friends and a home to live in.
OK, sure the acting’s a bit wooden at times, but Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey really nail their respective roles. Jim Carrey really stole the show. He brought his traditional, old school 90’s visual comedy back to the screen and it made Robotnik much more dimensional than his game counterpart. Ben Schwartz really shined as Sonic. He put in so much expression and emotion into the character that it makes the other Sonic English VA’s look like amateurs in comparison. His interpretation of Sonic makes the character so endearingly irritating and it’s great! Also, James Marsden did a great job as the straight man who befriends a talking animal. It looked as though he actually enjoyed playing this role. Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) were real stand-outs, despite the limited screen time both characters had. Bottom line is, the movie’s wholesome and full of fuzzy feels. Thankfully, there is only one fart joke to endure and a couple of Floss Dance moments, but otherwise, the rest of the jokes were funny. The story’s pretty predictable and I wished that they pulled more from the game lore, however as a starting point to the character and the series as a whole, I think Paramount did a fine job with the script.
Also, can we just take a moment to relish in the feels at the part when Jojo gave Sonic his iconic red and white shoes?
Compared to when it first was teased, Sonic the Hedgehog looks amazing. Sonic truly looks like Sonic, thanks to Tyson Hesse and the exhaustive effort of the animators who went back and revamped all the CGI. The visual effects also look pretty good. I really liked the electricity that comes out of Sonic when he goes whole hog. I do wish they incorporated more of the game world into this movie, but as it’s an introduction to what could be a franchise film series, it’s understandable why they went this route.
I greatly enjoyed the visual Easter eggs they included in the movie. From Sanic, to the rings around the Paramount logo, there was a ton of references to the games and I loved it all!
I originally had misgivings about Robotnik’s appearance, but I found those to be unjustified. As this is an origin story for both characters, it made sense for Robotnik to look anything unlike his original appearance in the games. That said, Jim Carrey really nailed the evil genius – he turned from a one-dimensional character into something that could be expanded on in future installments. His transformation at the end to his iconic look was simply marvelous.
Oh. My. God. As a Sonic fan, I LOVED the audio. I also loved the fact that it wasn’t overstated. Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) did a superb job with the soundtrack. He really showed respect for the source audio. He even snuck in some motifs from the animated series. There are certain parts of Dr. Robotnik’s theme that sounds similar to his theme in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s wild!
Whoever made the decision to use “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen deserves a freaking raise. Best decision ever made! It was like the song was made for the movie, really. I nearly jumped out of my chair and cheered when it was playing. It’s one of my favourite running songs and one of my favourite songs in general from the band.
That piano version of Green Hills Zone that plays at the final parts of the movie gave me freaking feelz. I think that’s the one covered by Jean Baptiste, the pianist featured on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Regardless, it was a perfect way to set up the end of the movie.
There are so many visual nods and Easter eggs referencing the Sonic franchise in this movie that it will take a couple of trips to catch them all. Plus, there’s that end credits scene that sets things up for a sequel.
Beyond that, there are a few good reasons to rewatch this title. Kids and adults will enjoy the fun story, wacky characters and the power of friendship. This, despite the fact the whole “Alien befriends human on planet Earth” plot has been overdone. Also, Sonic’s story of a lonely existence is a universal one that every one can relate to. And Jim Carrey’s performance is just fantastic. It’s well worth a second watch.
The Last Drop
Sonic the Hedgehog may, in fact, be the one that breaks the video game movie curse. As of writing, the movie has grossed almost $300 million overseas, despite its 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It doesn’t do anything original or groundbreaking, but it provides a great jumping on point for those who are unfamiliar with the character and the series. For fans, this is basically a love letter to them. It tells them that they are heard and that they are understood in regards to their favourite characters or series.
However, I do want to stress here that outrage culture shouldn’t be the solution to all our problems, especially when it comes to the things we love. I shall shamelessly plug the first episode of the STORY MODE Podcast – hosted by my good friends, The Well Red Mage, Blue Williams (@wrytersview) and Ryan from RetroGameBrews – in which they discuss the Sonic movie and the circumstances surrounding the fan input that resulted in the design change.
I’m of the opinion that video game adaptations should be handled by those who are intimately familiar with the source material (OK yeah, I kinda copped that from Red, sue me :P). Video game moves should not be treated as cash cows by film execs looking for a quick buck because people truly and genuinely care about these IP’s. I mean, Sonic to me… well, he means a lot to me and it’s great to see that the character his being treated with the respect he deserves, especially after years of neglect and being the butt end of a joke. I just hope that other big name film companies recognize this for other upcoming adaptations.
- Cute, charming story that will draw in kids and adults.
- Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey really nail their respective characters.
- It’s action packed and pretty well paced with lots of great visual effects.
- Solidly leverages the IP to fit the narrative.
- Sonic looks like Sonic.
- Lots of great Easter eggs for fans to pick out.
- The story could have been a bit more ambitious
- More elements from the IP could have been used, but they may be saving it for a sequel.
- Some sections felt a touch wooden with regards to their acting.
Score: (Personally, it’s a 5/5, but I gotta be objective here:) 4.5/5