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Sonic the Hedgehog: an icon’s big screen debut

"Sonic the Hedgehog" dashes into movie theaters. Photo courtesy of Youtube.com.

Shaun Lucas
Associate Opinion Editor

“Sonic the Hedgehog,” directed by Jeff Fowler, released on February 14, 2020. With it’s Valentine’s Day release, the film certainly acts as a love letter to the fans of the video game series; yet, while enjoyable as a standalone film, the movie lacks depth from both a narrative and presentation standpoint.

With the franchise’s debut in 1991, Sonic became beloved by many for his fast gameplay and cool attitude. While the 2020 film marks Sonic’s first theatrical appearance, Sonic has starred in numerous short films and cartoon series, with the most recent television endeavor being Cartoon Network’s “Sonic Boom.” The film attempts to combat the stigma that video game-based films are poor in quality, as in with the critically panned “Super Mario Bros.” movie in 1993.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” stars Ben Schwartz voicing the titular character. While Sonic storylines vary throughout the long-running franchise, this film focuses on the staple rivalry between Sonic and Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Alongside his rivalry, Sonic is aided by small-town cop Tom Wachowski played by James Marsden. When Sonic isn’t battling Robotnik or travelling with Wachowski, he contemplates on his overall existence and where a being like him belongs in the world.

If the concept of Sonic’s existential crisis sounds a bit odd, well, it’s because it is: throughout the film, the lighthearted pace of the film becomes noticeably halted by Fowler’s attempts to build sympathy for the protagonist. While I certainly don’t oppose more personal themes present in films for younger audiences, there’s no real development for these moments to be warranted. 

Besides these moments, the tone of the film remains consistent and enjoyable. The purposefully hokey dialogue supports the film, ensuring the simplistic humor to consistently land.

I also felt Schwartz’s voice work was pretty fitting for the character. Schwartz remains reminiscent of past Sonic voices, finding a balance between confidence and believable care for other beings. Sonic’s chemistry between his two supporting characters believable, especially with the lighthearted dialogue. Many, however, consider Carrey’s performance particularly exceptional, with his eccentric take on the evil scientist character. Personally, while Carrey’s performance certainly garnered my attention, I frankly found him obnoxious, especially in scenes featuring solely him.

The animation is a notable aspect of this movie’s development, as the initial trailers release on April, 2019 garnered criticism for Sonic’s controversial appearance. In a report from IndieWire, the redesign process cost Paramount, the production studio behind “Sonic the Hedgehog,” approximately $5 million. While Sonic himself is animated fantastically, other aspects of the CGI were rather inauthentic. The main robots Sonic needed to conquer looked like toys, likely connected to the movie’s inevitably high merchandising revenue.

Score wasn’t too notable, beyond the callbacks to classic themes from the series.

The effects and cinematography were tremendously basic. The “slowdown” scenes throughout the film also became rather stale, with the idea being Sonic’s speed means all his surroundings remain still. Editing was mixed: while the quick cuts allows for proficient moments of slapsticks, the cuts during action and dialogue sequences felt only to keep the attention of younger viewers.

Overall, I give “Sonic the Hedgehog” a 6.5 out of ten. I did enjoy the film; however, I feel as if all decisions are made to appeal to both children and hardcore Sonic fans, which I am neither. The nostalgia-ridden callbacks of “oh, I remember that thing” can’t negate the film leaving me with a discernible sense of unfulfillment. Watch if you want an minimalistic experience with a notable face.