Who ever thought we could live in an age of halfway decent video game movies?
If memory serves, the first movie based on a video game I ever watched (to completion, at least) was Super Mario Bros. If you’ve ever seen that film, then you know it’s not an especially good first impression for game-based films, which is unfortunate, since it’s pretty much the first one. Since the early 90s, Hollywood has been taking sporadic swings at game movies, and reactions typically include “oh jeez this is awful,” “wow, this is boring and unfaithful,” and “how does Uwe Bowl keep making money.” Then, last year, we got a beacon in the darkness: Detective Pikachu, the very first video game movie that, while not especially great, was at least passable. “But,” we wondered, “was it a fluke? A single ray of sunshine in an endless void of terrible films?” Well, after seeing Sonic the Hedgehog, I can resolutely state that we are entering an age of not-entirely-terrible movies based on video games.
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is a hedgehog living on a nondescript island on a nondescript planet. It’s big, it’s green, it’s full of loops; it’s great for an impulsive youth with super speed. Sonic’s guardian, a big owl named Longclaw, urges Sonic to keep his speed a secret from those who would try to weaponize it. About thirty seconds later, they’re attacked by a tribe of echidnas who want to weaponize it. Whoops. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of rings that can create portals and sends him to safety on Earth, urging him to use the rings again if he’s in danger. Sonic grows up as the local bigfoot-type legend of the town of Green Hills, Montanna, using his speed to snag interesting knick-knacks and spy on the people for entertainment. His favorite person is the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who is planning on taking a new job as an officer in San Francisco. After Sonic goes a little too crazy with his speed and causes a massive blackout, he decides he’s no longer safe, but when he tries to use his rings to go elsewhere, Tom accidentally tranquilizes him, and he drops his rings through a portal to San Francisco. Tom and Sonic need to take a road trip to Cali to get the rings back, but right behind them is Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carey), a mad inventor on contract with the US government to find the source of the blackout.
It’s your pretty standard buddy road trip flick. Sonic is lonely, Tom just wants his life back, but the two become friends after spending some time together. They have some decent chemistry together, nothing I haven’t seen in similar movies, but Sonic’s speed and impulsiveness makes for some decent visual comedy. The real star of the show, though, is Jim Carey as Robotnik. Carey’s portrayal of the classic bad guy is sort of like an evil, bizarro version of Ace Ventura; he’s eccentric, rude, has little regard for living things, and is almost constantly mugging up a storm. I often found myself looking forward to Robotnik’s scenes more than Sonic’s, though that could also be due to my childhood admiration of Jim Carey (The Mask was a good movie, I don’t care what anyone says).
The production budget was surprisingly decent, with Robotnik’s machines looking advanced enough to be sci-fi, but still somewhat believable. Sonic, as I’m sure many of you no doubt know, received an improved appearance midway through production, and I am just so thankful for it. He’s cute, cartoony, and expressive, and most importantly, he doesn’t have creepy human teeth.
So if you have a kid or a group of friends who like video games, Sonic the Hedgehog is very much worth your time. It’s not an especially amazing movie, but like with Detective Pikachu, the fact that it’s just alright is pretty amazing in itself. Also, at the start of the movie was a big Sega logo with a bunch of footage from their games, which gives me hope for more good Sega movies. I would totally watch a Yakuza or Golden Axe movie. Heck, I’d settle for a Space Channel 5 Netflix series.