IMAGE: Paramount Pictures, Wikipedia
The savior of video game movies makes its debut.
Like Sonic from the games, the plot moves faster as it goes along, having some slow expository scenes at the beginning, but giving way to more action and intrigue. This time around, it’s your standard adventure plot to collect the important thing, and I’m fully okay with that. It’s also a buddy road trip with a little romance and that’s when it feels stuffed for some. As for me, I loved every second. Not just as a Sonic fan, but a fan of how much the plot has improved from the original. It’s now interesting, varied, and complex without being overly complicated.
Two points of contention by fans are the dance and wedding scenes, and I say they’re needed for world-building and character, if a bit stretched out with jokes. The wedding establishes Rachel as the best human character, and reveals a twist to later come into play, while the dance scene dips Tails into the deep end of field work and strengthens his bond with Sonic (that fireside scene is adorable).
Around the halfway point to the end of the film is the best time you’ll ever see in a “kids’ movie” (this really is for the adult gamers though) as it’s just action and Sonic game references till the end. It all narratively works well and has the characters come together in the end organically, even if some scenes before this are stretched out with time-wasting humor.
The lessons in the film also have a great through-line within Knuckles as he learns to forget and forgive, that everyone can be a friend instead of an enemy, and how trust can be a double-edged sword. Also, most importantly, how life’s experiences can shape you, but you’re not set in stone. It’s a fantastic lesson that most kids should learn early on in life and I’m glad to see it here.
My PLOT RATING is 9/10.
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is scaled back this time around. He has a lot more melancholy scenes regarding his mother figure, Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks), and less scenes of being cocky and quippy. His character is all about the path to maturity, and making sacrifices based on those around you, not personal gain. He plays the hero well, and looks great at it, better than the last film.
Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) is mostly here for exposition and his technologic wizardry. He’s a huge Sonic Fanboy, and becomes fast friends with the blue blur. He learns how to be braver like Sonic, and his character is very faithful to the games. Unfortunately, for a large stretch of the film, he doesn’t interact with the rest of the characters, and it’s a shame. I would have loved to see more Tails, but at least what we got was very good.
Knuckles (Idris Elba) was my favorite character here. He played the ‘stoic warrior’ archetype perfectly, balanced with some fish-out-of-water humor that weaved well with his dramatic lines (way better than the jock meathead he’s been recently). He’s the most complex character here, with a depressing backstory and life, a single goal he’s been fighting to attain, and a lack of social norms that either make everyone the enemy or the wrong person a friend. His character represents the positive changes in life that come once you stop fighting and just forgive. He’s fascinating to reflect on, and very deep at a lot of points.
Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is a step down from the previous film. For every good, serious line he had, there was some kind of weird sound, or pop-culture reference, added in that just took me out of the movie. There are very few times where I take him seriously as a threat (similar to his Count Olaf portrayal from 2004), and even then it’s wiped away with a joke. His mustache is on point though, and his character is a cautionary tale how isolation can damage your psyche, especially without a good friend base.
Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) is now really focused on the coffee this time around. He has a minor role, but is determined in his devotion to the doctor (now as a love interest, which is humorously glossed over) and mans the new base of operations.
Tom (James Marsden) get a subplot at the Hawaiian wedding. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and instead, he’s better suited for some ‘father’/’son’ talk scenes with Sonic that are pretty heartwarming. He does have some great physical and facial comedy though. His deputy, Wade (Adam Pally), gets a little bit less screen-time compared to the last film, and is more annoying than funny.
Maddie (Tika Sumpter), gets the more active role of being a mother figure to Sonic and gets some pretty good lines and comedy with her sister. Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), who is now the best human in the film. She goes all bride-zilla and it’s hysterical. She saves what would be an otherwise-boring wedding scene. Her daughter Jojo (Melody Nosipho Niemann), gets a funny line, but that’s about it. Her fiancé, Randall (Shemar Moore) is great casting, he plays ‘the perfect guy’ with a little bit of comedy, and it all works really well.
While I can’t mention any surprise appearance characters, every cameo or seemingly important one is great. The characters shown in the bar scene stand out, as well as important characters in the wedding scene.
My CHARACTERS RATING is a 8/10.
The dialogue here is more of a miss than a hit. For every good line, there is a slew of pop-culture jokes and references that mostly aren’t needed at all. Knuckles has a perfect script, as do Tails and Sonic, mostly. The human characters do the best with what they’re given, and while a lot of it is good material, Robotnik is given some strange material to work with. He does it well, but it makes me think of Jim Carrey rather than Eggman. This script could have used a rewrite on his dialogue at points. The dramatic and sad dialogue is very good though, especially after the temple scene on the beach.
My DIALOGUE RATING is 8/10.
Looking now at the main three Sonic characters, it’s safe to say they’re perfect. I’m glad we didn’t have to go through another bad redesign hash-out. Sonic, Tails, and especially Knuckles look fantastic in their new forms with snow and water affecting their hair beautifully. The robots look great here, ranging from the sleek and shiny Badnik drones to the grungy and rusted Death Egg Robot (it looks fantastic). Explosions and lasers look great as well, even if some other Robotnik-related effects don’t look as great (green lightning around him in the third act, and compositing him in the mountains in particular).
My EFFECTS RATING is 9/10.
While this is still a generic orchestral score, they really pumped it up for this outing. Lots of brass and strings, with scattered other instruments filling in the gaps (there’s even some choir, there too!). The music really helps heighten the mood here. There aren’t really that many Sonic tunes here, there’s a hidden one near the end of the temple scene, and a few sound effects scattered for the eagle-eared. Well done.
Speed Life (Stephane Legar) [for the French release] – A riff on the Rockwell / Michael Jackson (who allegedly worked on Sonic 3 & Knuckles’s soundtrack) song “Somebody’s Watching Me”. A very relaxed song about trying to find the time to relax while life runs at mach speed. Catchy and good, even if it’s in French!
Stars in the Sky (Kid Cudi) [for the international release] – Slightly higher tempo than previous, but with dreamier vocals and lyrics about finding adventure in life on a whim with the people you love. Very nostalgic, but don’t watch the music video if you don’t want to be spoiled, even if there’s some good graphics there.
My MUSIC RATING is 9/10.
The high hopes I had for this film were met. I can’t believe this is happening, an actually great video game adaptation, and it’s all because of the fans. We pushed for Paramount to do better and I think here, they soared past expectations. The plot is way better, faster, and varied. It has a through-line narrative with themes and lessons kids should learn at an early age. The characters are a blast, and it’s great to finally see them on the silver screen. Most of the characters are excellent, with a few being underwritten or underutilized. Knuckles is a standout, and I can’t wait for his TV series debut. The dialogue is riddled with pop-culture references, and there’s a few good comedic lines otherwise, but the dramatic readings are great here. The effects are excellent minus one or two moments, and the compositing of the CGI characters into the real world is seamless. The music, while still standard orchestra, flows well with the film, heightening dramatic and triumphant moments, and the two regional pop songs are well done and work with the chill roll of the credits.
WRITER’S NOTE: I’m really happy this film exists. I’ve been a Sonic fan since my first game, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and have spent the past month playing all of the Sonic console games in preparation for this film, and all that work did not disappoint. The first film was technically one of the first I reviewed in this new format before my Disney reviews so it’s nice to come full circle for this one. Here’s to the third film’s review a few years from now. I’ll be eagerly waiting.
So hold onto your Tails, you’ll be white-Knuckled at this film’s Sonic speed.
IMAGE: Paramount Pictures, Justjared.com
My OVERALL RATING for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is 86/100.
Let me tell you…
About a story of toys…