Sonic transition

BRINGING classic stories to life is always a difficult thing to do. Whether you are working with a video game franchise or a comic book series, there is an intense amount of pressure to get it right. And most times, the majority of contemporary filmmakers missed the mark with their adaptations.

The same could have almost been said about 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Even before it was released, the action-adventure flick was already heavily scrutinised; the appearance of Sonic drew much criticism in particular. But surprisingly, director Jeff Fowler managed to turn it around.

Upon its release, Sonic the Hedgehog became a massive box office success, grossing over US$319.7 million (RM1.38 billion) worldwide. It set the record for the biggest opening week for a video game film. It was the sixth-highest grossing film of 2020. The success inspired Fowler to give the franchise another go.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 picks up after the events of the previous film, which sees Sonic (voiced by Ben Scwartz) living with Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter).

Despite defeating villain Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey), Sonic very much still feels the need to prove himself to be a hero.

Tom instead asks Sonic to instead focus on staying low. However, Sonic gets a chance to play hero again when Dr Robotnik returns for a rematch.

But this time around, he has brought a new friend – Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), whom Sonic is no match for.

Together, the evil duo work to defeat Sonic and search for a mystical emerald that has the power to destroy civilisations.

Fortunately, Sonic himself gets a new sidekick from space – Tails, who is both tech-savvy and eager to help stop Dr Robotnik and Knuckles.

The more, the merrier

Like many movie sequels, the Sonic movie franchise needed to hype up its sequel for commercial success. Hence, Fowler introduced a bunch of new furry and human characters. And for the most part, it worked its magic. With the arrival of the new characters, the feature project became a lot more appealing and substantial.

For instance, I for one enjoyed the presence of Tails and Knuckles in the feature, two characters whom I enjoyed playing in video games while growing up.

Their presence enriched the film’s story line. From their fight sequences to their conversations, their addition to the film was certainly an aspect that helped the sequel outdo its original.

And the charm also extends to its human characters. In particular Maddie’s sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) was among the film’s highlights.

In fact, it was brilliant of Fowler to give her more screen time. Although she was the typical sassy sidekick, it was nice to see her express her wit on screen.

Tribute to the games

The next aspect that the sequel excelled at was incorporating little details from the video game franchise. Fowler and writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and John Whittington did an excellent job in bringing the different details from the video game franchise to life.

Whether it was recreating Sonic’s snowboarding level or Tails flying in his red plane, these little details were a clever tribute to the beloved franchise. Also, the references felt more natural compared to the film’s numerous ‘funny’ pop culture nods.

Too fast, too soon

While it was brilliant of the filmmakers to expand the cast, the ‘bias’ for Sonic was obvious. Certain characters could have used more screen time to showcase their individuality, rather than be a prop to highlight Sonic’s capabilities. Knuckles, as an example, could have been given more space to exhibit his powers.

The filmmakers hyped him so much in the beginning, only to toss him aside in the end. The creators could have utilised him a lot more given his capabilities and backstory. Even Dr Robotnik’s defeat felt a bit too rush. Whilst his character’s humorous personality got to shine, his strength as a villain was dimmed.

Better in time

Still, Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s highlights make up for its shortcomings. Yes, it certainly did not reinvent the wheel. Nonetheless, it was still a fun, heartwarming and sincere movie to catch. And maybe in time, with new characters and story lines, the Sonic movie franchise will exceed the video game franchise.

Cast: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, and Jim Carrey

Director: Jeff Fowler