It’s been a very long time since I played the Sonic the Hedgehog video games on my brothers SEGA Megadrive. I was, and always have been, a Nintendo guy, so since then my only experience of Sonic has been when he joins forces with Mario and Co for Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. I do have good memories of his solo outings though, and he is clearly an enduring and popular character, ideally suited for a CGI/live action movie.
When we first meet Sonic, he’s a young hedgehog on his home world, zipping about the place without a care in the world and being mentored by an owl called Longclaw. Before we get a chance to learn anything about Longclaw and the world that he and Sonic inhabit, some bad guy echidnas show up, looking to get their hands on Sonic and his speedy powers. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of rings that can be used to open a portal to another world, and after opening one for him to escape through, tells him to use one whenever he is in danger of being captured.
Cut to Green Hills, Montana where we meet local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Tom has been accepted, pending background checks, into the San Francisco police department, and he and Maddie are currently in the process of looking at houses there. We also learn that a now grown up Sonic has found his way into our world and has been living in hiding in Green Hills for some time now. The local crazy old man, Crazy Carl, claims to have seen a ‘blue devil’ on a number of occasions, but otherwise Sonic has managed to stay hidden. He’s even got himself a little underground man cave, and has become quite attached to Tom and Maddie, observing and following their every day lives from afar.
When Sonic manages to cause a city-wide power outage one evening, he draws the attention of the government, who bring in mad scientist Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate. When the gold rings that Sonic needs to transport to another world are mislaid, and as Robotnik and his team close in on him, Sonic makes himself known to an unsuspecting Tom and asks for his help. The movie then becomes a road trip, with them both on the run, evading Dr Robotnik and searching for the gold rings.
The CGI representation of Sonic had been something of a hot talking point, ever since the release of the first trailer sparked a huge online backlash. Looking more human, with smaller eyes, and longer limbs, the reaction of horror by anyone vaguely familiar with the character was enough to make director Jeff Fowler stand up and take notice, and the release date of the movie was pushed back to allow for some serious rework by the VFX team. Thankfully, when the new trailer was released, it was to a much more positive reaction, and rightfully so – Sonic was now much more aligned to his video game persona and on the receiving end of some pretty decent marketing material and promotion to back it all up. Ben Schwartz provides the voice for Sonic, giving him a wonderful childlike quality – in awe of the world around him, funny and confident in his abilities, but never really coming across as an annoying brat.
Jim Carrey brings to Robotnik the kind of madcap comedy that he we haven’t seen from him in a long time and is a delight in every scene he features. James Marsden is no stranger to appearing alongside CGI characters in children’s movies, and does his part well once again. Outside of that, the rest of the cast don’t get much to work with and kind of just fade into the background.
Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog is a fairly enjoyable movie, but it’s also instantly forgettable. It’s been a couple of days since I saw it and, apart from a couple of fun action scenes along the way, and the climactic showdown, I really don’t remember very much about it. If you’ve seen the wonderful scenes in the X-Men movies where QuickSilver zips around, interacting with characters and scenery as though time has stood still, then there are a few scenes just like that for you to enjoy. It’s a much better movie than I was expecting to see, but ultimately I think it could have been a hello a lot worse if they’d stuck to their guns with the original character design.