Video game-to-movie adaptations have a terrible track record, from Super Mario Bros. to Double Dragon to Street Fighter: The Movie to Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (the original Mortal Kombat was actually good) to Uwe Boll’s legendary flops. The problem with most of these movies is that they’ve taken too many creative liberties and making them into what they weren’t from the original source material.
But with recent movies such as Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Ready: Player One, and the last two Jumanji films (though I must note that the latter three are video game inspired), the tables have now finally turned. These movies represent that video-game-to-movie genres can do well, if done right. Does Sonic the Hedgehog continue that trend?
It does, although to a fault.
Sonic The Hedgehog stars the voice of Ben Schwartz, who does a decent job as the title character, with James Marsden as police officer Tom Wachowski, who doesn’t seem to find a lot of excitement in the small town of Green Hills… something, as long as it has a reference to the video game itself. Jim Carrey nearly steals the show as the maniacal and arrogant Dr. Robotnik.
In the blue Hedgehog’s first live-action film, Sonic seems to be lost on planet Earth, searching from planet to planet, trying to find a permanent home. But he does seem to find one, trying to “look out” for a couple (Marsden and Tika Sumpter, who plays Marsden’s wife, Maddie Wachowski) that he feels like they’re family.
However, after the military detects an energy surge from an alien origin, the Vice Chairman of the Pentagon, under a hilarious objection from his advisors, hires Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), whose egocentric personality of high intelligence would match that of the Riddler from…. uh, yeah, you get the point. Still it’s great to see Jim Carrey return as essentially Jim Carrey, while using his assistant (Lee Majdoab as Agent Stone) as a punchline, figuratively and literally.
Sonic then discovers that he’s being followed, so he goes to the Wachowskis’ home and gets tranquilized by a startled Tom. After Sonic regains consciousness, he tells Tom that he needs to go to a “mushroom planet” as a possible new home (is this a reference to that other video game?). And so the story really begins.
The best part of the story is the budding relationship between Sonic and Tom who have a few laughs at a bar while at the same time, surviving a bar fight with Sonic and his clownish yet clever hypersonic speed antics. It is a bit weird that none of the patrons freaked out when they see a blue Hedgehog, yet somehow Tom was able to convince them that he’s a kid with “a medical problem that makes him turn blue”. Huh.
Of course, Sonic wouldn’t be Sonic without any action involving machines and Dr. Robotnik. Jim Carrey really fits the role as Dr. Robotnik, though most people who aren’t familiar with this franchise may not notice the difference. Yet, this might amaze younger audiences, who may not have been exposed to Carrey’s earlier work, outside of YouTube clips if they haven’t seen it yet. He acts zany, but not overly crude, like many of his works.
The rings in this movie very much act like Dr. Strange’s interdimensional portals instead of life-protecting devices in the video game.
The biggest problem I have with this movie is that it doesn’t take sufficient risks. Yes, as mentioned, the movie industry has historically taken too many liberties with video game franchises, but there is a fine line between that and not gradually pushing the envelope. There really is no emotional conflict between Sonic and Tom, just some occasional arguments on how Sonic can get “home”. There is no sense of long-lasting danger, but we all know or feel how this movie is going to end.
Actually, there is a message in the film about friendship and gratitude, though the latter part was more explained than shown.
Sonic The Hedgehog continues the trend of finally having respectable video game-based movies, but the franchise does need to take more subtle risks and liberties, like what Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle did. Younger audiences and even long-time fans of the film will be delighted with the movie and the direction it is going, though “secular” audiences might not see what the big deal is all about.
I think we can all agree, however, that the “new design” is better than the “original” one.