The Sonic Stadium sped its way down to the premiere fan screening of Sonic the Hedgehog Movie in London late last month, for a chance to catch the film in its entirety before general release on Friday, 14th of February 2020!
Reviewer: Adam Tuff
After racing down to London to attend the premiere, I stand in disbelief as I find myself not only enjoying my first red carpet (well, blue carpet) experience, I am now inches away from the legendary Jim Carrey.
He looks towards me and I catch his gaze, his huge trademark smile beaming back at me. We shake hands, chat for a moment, and I manage to pluck up the courage to ask for a selfie.
Time in the universe seems to slow to a crawl, as I line up the face of one the stars of my generation’s childhood in my camera’s viewfinder. This crazy reality of this moment is further compounded by the now strange reality that this is also the actor portraying Doctor Robotnik, the nemesis of my favourite video game character, in the first live action Sonic the Hedgehog movie. This is the same movie that I and countless other fans have spent most of their lives waiting for – and half expected never to see.
Understandably with this level of anticipation, especially to the levels for a project that has taken decades to materialise, the expectations for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie were high from the get-go. The baseline quality of video game movies sits remarkably low following countless average or lacklustre adaptions to the big screen, with the majority lacking in quality of storyline, and more often than not deviating wildly from the source material. Then in 2019, the release of Detective Pikachu saw a video game adaption that while not ground-breaking, managed to hit a magic note that appeased both die-hard Pokémon fans and general audiences alike, and gave hope that the curse of the genre might have been lifted.
That hope was in the heart of every Sonic the Hedgehog fan when finally, the announcement of a Sonic the Hedgehog movie was made. Unfortunately, the road to the completion of the Sonic movie has not been a smooth one, and one that commenced with a particularly long and bumpy beginning.
After being batted between studios for a significant period, the rights to the Sonic the Hedgehog movie landed with Paramount Pictures. The first signs of trouble surfaced with Sonic’s initial movie design; the muscular silhouette of a Sonic far departed from the familiar having been teased on posters. The following first trailer launched the movie and the design into infamy with the design of Sonic being universally panned, leaving the studio and Director Jeff Fowler to scramble on damage control.
But sometimes out of a disaster a hero rises, and that hero was Tyson Hesse.
Having revitalised multiple facets of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise already, Hesse seemed like an obvious choice to involve, and that choice speaks for itself. Having now seen the movie, it is obvious that Hesse’s influence transcends not only a fantastic redesign to a much more recognisable and aesthetically pleasing incarnation of Sonic, but that he has had a hand in guiding hand in sculpting the big screen Sonic the Hedgehog universe.
Throughout the movie’s opening scenes, an astonishing stream of references, too many to assimilate in one sitting with some only appearing for a split second, sped past on screen, and it becomes obvious that the movies creators, writers, researchers, and contributors have had the fans firmly in mind for these crucial opening scenes – that even go as far as to reference a classic Sonic the Hedgehog meme that sidles its way perfectly into a great comic moment.
The setting of the film departs from the familiar loop-de-loop-filled landscapes early on in the story, with a location shifts to one more atypical of a Hollywood feature, with Sonic finding himself in the alien setting of a sleepy town aptly named Green Hills. A family friendly story arcs its way through the movie, interspersed with well-paced comic scenes amongst the more poignant that progress Sonic’s character development. The rather child-like character of Sonic is brought to life by Ben Schwartz, who spends the majority of his time playing off his unlikely ally in the form of James Marsden’s Police Officer Tom Wachowski.
Sonic’s wit and hyperactivity are pitted against Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik, who teeters back and forth between a cool and calculating evil mastermind, and unhinged lunatic with a penchant for Saturday night fever. While some audiences might find the Carrey’s shenanigans odd, the younger cinema viewers will find it hilarious. Carrey’s appeal however will find it’s draw the greatest amongst the older viewers who will be pleased to see a return of his unique brand of bonkers that has been absent for several years, and perfect for the role of the maniac scientist.
Pleasingly, Carrey isn’t the movie’s sole source of humour, with Schwartz drawing upon a diverse repertoire to create a fast-mouthed hedgehog with attitude. Both Natasha Rothwell and Adam Pally, while both only appearing for a handful of scenes really take the opportunity to shine, and will undoubtedly get a laugh or two from their lines.
Admittedly the story tends towards the formulaic (you can seldom avoid the scene in a government briefing room discussing a threat to the Earth in movies of this genre), and it feels perhaps Director Jeff Fowler, while going out of his way to appease a die-hard audience, did not want to stray to far from a winning recipe in the hopes of still satisfying a wider viewership.
Having said that, this is one movie Sonic the Hedgehog fans will be incredibly excited to see the inclusion of a post-credits scene, and one that induced one of the most animated reactions I have ever witnessed in a cinema setting!
While the Sonic the Hedgehog movie doesn’t redefine storytelling, it delivers on multiple fronts, and respect must be given to Fowler et al. for accomplishing the difficult task of creating an entertaining 100-minute film involving a much-loved franchise, while juggling and acknowledging the feedback from a passionate yet critical core demographic.
The Sonic the Hedgehog movie will undoubtedly delight a new generation of young Sonic fans, while simultaneously providing enough content to mildly amuse the seasoned Sonic veteran. I hope many of the latter will certainly think that this movie was worthy and worth the wait, and that it won’t be too long until the sequel speeds its way into existence.
JUDGEMENT: THUMBS UP!
By Svend Joscelyne
It’s had an absolutely chaotic production (from changes in studios to changes in hedgehogs) but finally, after nearly 29 years, Sonic the Hedgehog gets his own movie. And while I was certainly expecting the worst (despite Tyson Hesse’s amazing redesign), I’m pleased to say that I left the cinema with a massive grin on my face.
The story is a formulaic but passable ‘alien comes to Earth and has to go back home while discovering the beauty of humanity along the way’ trope, with a few twists here and there. What helps draw you into this world, however, is a combination of sharp comedy writing and the excellent performances of Dr Eggman and the blue blur himself.
Sonic is not without its faults. The plot can sometimes push the boundaries of reasonable in-world logic, performances beyond Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz’s can at times be pretty wooden, and some of the jokes (and Carrey’s trademark flamboyancy) can be just a little too corny (yes, the leaked ‘formula’ gag remains, but in context ends up being a bit less cringy). You can, at times, also see shots where Hesse’s new Sonic design is simply painted over the old nightmarish CG model, instead of outright replaced, which gives off a strange kind of ‘uncanny valley’ style ‘echo of the past’ (this is hardly anyone’s fault though, and more a product of the intense deadlines artists had to work towards in order to fully redesign the character).
But these issues do not dent the overall spirit and quality of the film. Families will love it for its light-hearted comedy and engaging action, and long-time fans like me will doubly-enjoy it because of the treasure trove of throwbacks and references throughout. More importantly, the spirit of the character has been successfully translated onto the big screen here – Sonic has attitude, can be over-confident, and likes to make gags. It’s about the best adaptation of the character we could have hoped for, and we really hope there’s more to see of this universe in the years to come.