Review: Sonic the Hedgehog


(Photo: Paramount)

Sim Saini

On February 14, the action-adventure comedy Sonic the Hedgehog, was released.

The redesigned Sonic may have just saved the movie from its generic plot. The movie utilizes an animated hedgehog and a human cast. In order to escape from the antagonists, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) leaves his planet into another dimension using magic golden rings. Sonic finds himself isolated in the small town of Green Hills  for ten years, which ultimately leads to his fast-talking personality. During the time, he kept himself entertained by observing humans and talking to himself. However, after causing an energy surge that shut down the town’s power, the government sends Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate what was happening. Sonic ends up partnering with the sheriff of the town, Tom (James Marsden), and they end up creating a brotherly bond through a road trip and a bar fight while trying to stop the villain. 

When the trailer for the live-action adaptation for the video game “Sonic the Hedgehog” was dropped in April 2019, fans of the franchise were not pleased with the design of Sonic. Some of the most predominant critiques included the movie character not resembling the character in the video game, as well as his teeth being creepily human-like. The director of the film, Jeff Fowler, acknowledged the criticism and vowed to change the design of Sonic which caused the initial release date to be postponed by three months. Since the first Sonic trailer didn’t do so well with the audience, Fowler was worried that the second trailer, with the redesign, wouldn’t be well-liked either. Fowler said: “I think it had been about five months that had passed since the first trailer. We had worked very hard on our updates to the character. It was definitely a little bit like, ‘Oh man, what happens if they don’t like this?’”. However, when the new trailer was released in November 2019 it was much well-received by viewers. 

Sonic’s target audience is children, and they know that this movie may be their first introduction to the blue hedgehog. This explains why there are minimal references to the video game and where Sonic is from. They spend more time on jokes  and references that they may be able to get such as the multiple jokes about Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta, Sonic doing the floss dance not once but twice, and the reference to Vin Diesel from the Fast and Furious movies. 

The movie was at its best when it showed off Sonic’s video game powers, like when he used them to fight against Dr. Robotnik or when he created the power surge. They also included a fun montage of Dr. Robotnik doing a dance sequence while in his “evil-plotting” zone. Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik’s character brought the aspects of the actual video game into the movie, making it more likable. Also – Spoilers ahead – during the end credits they hinted at a sequel by introducing Tails and an even more deranged Robotnik going full-on Eggman. 

However, they ignored one crucial element from the game which is the video game’s theme: the impact humanity has on nature and its animals. This is shown in the video game when Eggman’s vehicles are destroyed by Sonic, and a forest animal always comes out of them. This implies that the ugly vehicles were powered by those cute animals, causing a clear indication that the villain in the video game does not care about jeopardizing life, nature, and the environment. Yuji Naka, one of the primary creators of “Sonic the Hedgehog” talked about how this was, “one of first ecological messages in a video game”. He also said in a 2010 interview:  “Dr Robotnik is a slightly radical representation of all humanity and the impact humanity is having on nature. In 1991, it was a very sensitive subject to talk about the environment and while I had my viewpoint, I did not speak of it. With ‘Sonic,’ I was given an opportunity to express my views in a different way and did so, showing Robotnik using pollution and creating machinery which desecrates the environment and it is down to Sonic to change his ways.” However, the movie played it safe and rather than showing the theme of humanity’s impact on nature, and displayed the theme of selfless friendship. This theme still has much value, however, it isn’t the theme that was displayed in the original video game. 

Sonic the Hedgehog took place in a small unknown town, instead of Emerald Hill Zone. This was unusual because the Emerald Hill Zone is where Sonic’s video games are set. The viewer only sees glimpses of the city, making it hard not to think back to the first 30 seconds of the movie when Sonic was in his natural habitat. Sonic the Hedgehog could have gone from a good to a great movie if they brought us to Sonic’s world rather than bringing him into ours. 

The budget for the movie was $85 million. On opening weekend, Sonic the Hedgehog raked in a little over $58 million domestically. After being in the theaters for twelve days, the movie had a domestic gross of about $110 million and an international gross of over $106 million, totaling $216 million worldwide. It is currently at rank 2 for worldwide releases, with Bad Boys for Life at number 1. 

In the end, the makers of this movie listened to the franchise’s fan base and were able to turn an impending disaster around. This is not only visible from how well the movie is doing in the box office, but also from audience ratings. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience has given the movie an average of 4.5 stars out of 5. However, movie critics were a little less generous, giving the movie a score of 64%.

I look forward to seeing a sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog, but I don’t think they will include Sonic’s world or background. I’m worried it won’t be able to meet the expectations of true Sonic lovers who have played the video game and expect references to the original. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what the writers decide to do with the plot for the sequel and hopefully include Tails.