Tuesday Review – Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

films, reviews

sonic_the_hedgehog_poster5_star_rating_system_2_stars

You have to give the mind’s behind Sonic the Hedgehog their dues. When they heard the criticism for the first trailer, they literally went back to the drawing board and redesigned the main character. It’s more than the Cats people did. They waited until after they’d released the film to try and fix some of their mistakes. Yes, it will definitely have come down to money and want to ensure as many people bought tickets as possible. After all, the amount of free publicity they got out of it will have made sure that plenty of people who were never going to see it wanted to. But it’s also a positive thing because Sonic is such an important figure from many people’s childhoods. It was important to get this right. Especially as so many video game films are so badly received. For plenty of people, this film would have been important. I’ll be honest, I was never much of a Sonic fan. I was more of a Super Mario kind of gal. But I have had some fun playing as the blue blur in my time.

Mixing cartoon characters with live-action doesn’t always work. Not everything can be Who Framed Roger Rabbit after all. But that’s the way things are going. Hollywood thinks that we want our films to be more realistic. And I don’t necessarily get it. Why do a Sonic the Hedgehog movie and set it in the real world? At least Detective Pikachu had the good sense to keep everything in the Pokemon world. As it turns out, we only get a brief glimpse of Mobius, Sonic’s homeworld. Instead, we spend most of our time in Green Hills, Montana. Yes, it’s a cute little in-joke but is it worth it? Or am I just being super miserable? Why not both?

Sonic was born with great power and, when that power is discovered, he is forced to flee his homeworld as a child. He ends up on Earth alone and hiding in a cave. Of course, his super-speed comes in handy when it comes to furnishing his pad. The only thing that Sonic really wants is a friend. (Yep, it’s one of those films.) So, the hedgehog has been living quite peacefully on Earth for a good few years. But, conveniently for us, his powers suddenly come out and his presence is detected. The government send in their resident super-genius/moustachioed villain Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to find the source of the energy. Sonic’s only hope is his bag of magic transportation rings. Unfortunately, they’ve ended up on top of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. Sonic’s only help is local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). Can they escape from Robotnik and send Sonic to safety?

Let’s be honest, the story really isn’t much to write home about. It’s a car journey followed by an inevitable showdown. About as much thought went into the concept for this film as went into the original design for Sonic. It’s simplistic and it’s childish. The moral is all about friendship and coming together for each other. It’s so saccharine but without the added sass of a film like Detective Pikachu. This film’s biggest issue is its sincerity. It tries so hard to get the emotional message to hit home but it’s just too trite. We’ve seen it all before and we’ve seen it done better. This is a film that clearly thinks it has depth but, when you break it down, there’s very little. They had 3 months to wait while they reanimated this. Couldn’t somebody have looked at the script and also considered a rewrite?

Now it’s not as if the film doesn’t try and bring some edge to the character. I think the casting of Ben Schwartz was a genius stroke but he’s just a bit too clean-cut here. He hs a great delivery and manages to be funny. It’s just he never gets the chance to do anything too daring. It’s all really restrained. The film goes for wacky and zany instead of bringing something original and fresh. Yes, he brings energy to the role but he brings energy to everything. Ben Schwartz is energy. But there’s not really anything beyond that. The majority of actors in this film just look uncomfortable to be there. James Marsden is coasting through his role and clearly doesn’t give a shit how it turns out.

In fact, the only person who seems wholly present is Jim Carrey. Although, considering how unhinged he’s seemed lately, that’s a nice surprise. He’s back on for here. It’s like they’ve lifted him out of one of his 90s comedies, given him a moustache, and dropped him in here. Without Carrey, this film would be such a dire experience. Forget the Sonic sequel, we need a Robotnik sequel. Or a prequel. Let’s find out where the guy came from. Hell, I’d even enjoy more random and unnecessary dance breaks. It was weird but way better than anything else I’d seen on screen.

Which is why I don’t understand why people have been so kind about this film. I know it’s not been getting 5-star reviews but there is still plenty of praise surrounding it. I guess it comes out of being so utterly panned after the first trailer. People were expecting it to be such a shit show that the fact it only ended up being a smallish pile of excrement made it seem successful. But that doesn’t mean we should forget how god awful it actually is. Yes, it wasn’t as bad as we expected but it’s still fucking boring. It’s as if the makers watched the new X-Men films, realised how much everyone loves Quicksilver, and thought “let’s do a film that’s mostly that.” It’s so half-hearted yet so utterly sure of itself.

I’ll be honest, I felt a lot better about how this film had turned out until the end credits started rolling. They are an absolute triumph of animated goodness. It’s all done in the classic 8-bit style of the original games but taking key moments from the movie. It’s glorious and I wish they’d gone down that route for the entire thing. I’m sure it would have been a fucking pain in the arse but how fantastic would it have been to see the whole film play out like a classic side-scroller. Okay, so Jim Carrey wouldn’t exactly have flourished in that setting but everything else would have greatly improved.

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