The long and winding road for Sega’s favorite blue, spikey son has been slippery and treacherous, but finally, Sonic The Hedgehog has belatedly made it to the silver screen. For years, the zippy little bastard had been struggling to get much traction on his journey to Hollywood but finally, production started on his cinematic debut. However, a major roadblock was on the horizon when the first trailer dropped online to near universal distain with the main focus being on the truly hideous mockery of nature and all of her creation that was the CGI model for the title character. Sporting such unholy features such as human teeth, bulgy athlete’s thighs and the cold, lifeless stare of a being that desires the sweet, life-giving blood of the innocent, the appearance of Sonic 1.0 did not exactly inspire confidence.
But then a funny thing happened…
The studio actually listened to the endless tweets and merciless memes and the took the design back to formula (at great expense, it’s rumoured), bouncing back with a revised design that embraced the character video game roots and definitely felt infinitely more “Sonic”.
Can the rare event of a multi-million dollar company throwing their hands up and dutifully admitting that they fucked up mean that Sonic’s first outing have the mileage to be worth viewing?
The fittingly quick answer? Yes.
In an origin worthy of a 16-bit LSD trip, we are introduced to a young Sonic running his baby butt all around his native planet – which immediately fires off nostalgic vibes by looking exactly like the Green Hill Zone from the game complete with rope bridges and loop de loops – who learns that thanks to his super power of speed, he’ll always have to be on the run. To prove this point he’s attacked by a tribe of familiar looking enchidnas and he escapes his home with a bag full of rings which let’s him travel to anywhere in the universe Doctor Strange style. Of course he eventually visits earth (because it’s way cheaper than a CGI planet populated entirely by mushrooms) and settles down in a cave on the outskirts of a small town. Spending the better part of a couple years living as a recluse and spying on virtually the whole town to alleviate his loneliness (we’ll ignore how creepy that sounds – cause the film sure does), Sonic’s bad luck eventually catches up with him when his unique power set inadvertently sets off an EMP (don’t you hate it when that happens) and the government sends the highly volatile and technologically gifted futurist, Dr Ivo Robotnik to investigate with his army of drones. Trapped in the middle is kindly town police chief Tom Wachowski, who tries to get the rapid moving rodent back in possession with his lost escape route – those teleporting rings.
Sonic The Hedgehog could hardly be described as ground breaking family entertainment as despite being fun and colourful, most of it’s more memorable moments are cobbled outright from other movies (with a few script tweaks, this could be an X-Men Quicksilver spin off with the lion’s share of the action riffing on the best bit from Day Of Future Past) but what it DOES do well (for people above a certain age) is repeatedly rock you back on your heels with shameless waves of nostalgia.
Fittingly feeling like a product spun right out of the 90’s, nothing drives this home more than the suprising comeback of Jim Carrey who takes the role of twirly ‘tashed, robot obsessed villain. Carrey has frequently scored comedy gold playing ridiculously broad bad guys to genius, limb flailing effect with such gaudy characters like The Riddler, The Grinch and Count Olaf and while the conceited Robotnik doesn’t quite measure up to those past roles, he still commands all the best lines. “I was breast fed.” admits James Marsden’s likable Tom as a tense confrontation goes wildly off topic.
“Nice.” sneers the not-so-good Doctor, “Rub THAT in my orphaned face!”.
What decidedly locks the film firmly in the “enjoyable” category is Sonic himself. An over-confident, little blue speedster could have been overwhelming obnoxious, but despite slight levels of smug and a ton of references to modern culture (Uber, the floss dance, etc), Ben Schwartz’s vocal performance makes the title character actually a fun fish-out-of-water to be around – think E.T. if he was able to obliterate the land speed record.
Sonic The Hedgehog, while a much more polished product than you’d think, only really hits top speed when it’s antagonist is given free reign to expell his particular brand of chaotic humor (his dance sequence in the back of his mobile lab is vintage Carrey) but the whole deal is aggressively acceptable on all levels.
In fact the most impressive aspect of the film is that it either the balls or the nerve (I still haven’t decided which) to indulge in some brazenly confident sequel baiting which actually make the concept of future installments seem kind of tantalising. With all the world building out the way – and with a storyline that could take in not only a spot of dimension hopping but also the introduction of Sonic’s supporting cast – a part two could really be something special. However, what’s an even more mouth watering prospect is that with Carrey going full Robotnik by the credits (we’re talking bald head, giant moustache, the works) we could get an even crazier, unhinged and utter deranged future performance from the cinema’s guru of gurning.
So if things go Sega’s way and this is indeed the beginning of a slew of retro gaming adaptations, then Sonic 2 wouldn’t be such a bad shout (although, while you’re at it, a gritty, 90’s set Streets Of Rage movie would also be stupendous).
Just make it fast, yeah?