Just over a year ago (May 2019 to be more specific), Paramount Pictures released a trailer for a Sonic the Hedgehog movie – a big screen take on the popular gaming character. The studio hoped for a positive response, yet when the trailer hit the internet it was promptly savaged by most people who saw it.
The problem? Sonic himself. The beloved blue hedgehog, who is arguably one of the most iconic characters in gaming history, looked bloody awful.
The character had been brought to life using CGI, and the team involved had really dropped the ball. Instead of looking like the cute, fun-loving Sega mascot that fans fell in love with during the 1990s, he was now being represented by some truly ugly visual effects that no one seemed to like.
In an age where fandom gets divided and argues over the simplest detail, on this occasion there was a collective voice, and that voice was saying “damn!” And “damn” is a clean version of what was really being said.
Paramount and director Jeff Fowler heard the feedback, and realising they had a potential bomb on their hands promptly took action. Paramount pulled Sonic the Hedgehog from its scheduled release date (November 2019), Fowler reassured fans the issue would be addressed, and Sonic was sent back to the drawing board to get a complete overhaul.
Fast forward to November 2019 (when Sonic the Hedgehog was originally due in cinemas) and Paramount issued a new trailer. This trailer featured a revised Sonic, that not only looked like his video game counterpart, but didn’t creep anyone out.
For reference, here are the two different versions of Sonic so you can see what I mean. On the left is Sonic from the original trailer, and on the right is the revised Sonic from the second trailer.
Looks better, right?
When the new trailer dropped it was a instant hit with fans. Sonic looked good, and the movie as a whole looked fun.
By addressing the problem with the visual effects, both Paramount and Fowler averted a potential box office disaster. More importantly, the studio and the director gained a great deal of respect from fans, who had pretty much written this project off.
And this is where I hold up my hand and say I was one of those people. Nothing about that first trailer worked – not the tone and certainly not the nightmarish version of Sonic – and I had zero desire to watch the film.
I will watch more or less anything (heck, I watched Cats), and I grew up playing the Sonic the Hedgehog games, but based on that first trailer I was done. It was easily one of the worst movie trailers I had ever seen, and I was not paying to see the film.
But the studio and the director taking ownership of the aesthetic mistakes suggested that maybe (just maybe), the project could be salvaged. And then the second trailer arrived and things looked very positive.
This new trailer didn’t suddenly turn Sonic the Hedgehog into the Citizen Kane of video game adaptations, but it did suggest this movie could be an enjoyable experience. It still looked like a film aimed at a young demographic, but I was fine with that, as I no longer wanted to rip out my own eyes to avoid seeing the horror show of before.
So, I made the decision that I was now on board. My expectations were still a little low, but I would pay my money, give it a chance and see what was on offer.
Jump forward to today and I can say I have now seen Sonic the Hedgehog. I can also tell you it’s not bad. In fact, if you have kids, this is the movie to take them to this weekend/half-term, because they will enjoy it, and you might enjoy it too.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an action comedy, which sees the eponymous mammal transported from his home world to a small town on Earth. Here he lies low for a decade, trying to blend in while getting increasingly lonely due to a distinct lack of friends.
But after Sonic accidentally reveals his presence on the planet, he gets investigated and pursued by Dr. Robotnik – a deadly scientific genius working for the Department of Defence. With the help of a local sheriff, Sonic has to evade capture from Robotnik and find a new home – and maybe find a friend too.
There’s a little more to it than that, but in a nutshell, that’s the general premise of Sonic the Hedgehog. For the most part, the film is a breezy tale about friendship and finding a place to call home.
There’s not much else going on, but that’s OK. From start to finish, Sonic the Hedgehog is a likeable picture. It takes the essence of the games and translates everything into a serviceable story that is perfect popcorn fodder.
Does Sonic work as a lead character? Yes. Surprisingly so.
Sure, I knew I was watching a computer generated character throughout the entire movie, but it was one that worked well. Sonic was cool – just like he was back in ’91 when kids were first introduced to him, and this meant I cared about what happened to him.
I was invested in his plight, I felt bad for him when things didn’t go quite to plan, and I championed his triumphs. I also came out of the cinema feeling like I had reconnected with a character I loved when I was a kid.
And that’s what this whole film is all about – being a kid! Which is something I had to remind myself of a couple of times, when I came close to a criticism. That potential criticism was being directed at Jim Carrey, who plays the role of Sonic’s nemesis, Dr. Robotnik.
Carrey’s Robotnik is a menacing figure and for most of the movie his performance works very well. However, there are a few moments when he slips into Carrey-isms – i.e cartoonish behaviour, which bordered on annoying.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Carrey and when I was a teenager, I found his schtick hilarious. But I’m not sure that’s what I wanted in this film.
But then as I started to consider the choices he was making, I came to the realisation that if I was the target audience this film is going for, then I would be lapping this up. Carrey was playing to the younger crowd, and judging from the laughs in the audience, he was hitting his mark perfectly.
As soon as I accepted this, I was fine with what he brought to the table and by movie’s end, I could see what he was doing to the character to allow for future performances, should this movie get a sequel. Which I think it will – and I’m fine with that.
Sonic the Hedgehog won’t win any awards for originality and it won’t change the face of cinema, but let’s be honest, it was never going to. Instead, the film offers 99 minutes of action, laughs, and escapism, and it does it quite well.
This movie could have been a huge disappointment, and it could have been the butt of many jokes for years to come, but it’s neither of these things. Sonic the Hedgehog is a competently made adventure film, which doesn’t wear out its welcome and leaves the audience satisfied.
Sonic might not be as popular with gamers as he was 30 years ago (jeez, has it really been that long?), but if you’re a fan, you’re not going to hate what’s on offer. And if you’re not a fan, but you’re being dragged along to see the movie anyway, then buy the biggest tub of popcorn, switch off, and just enjoy the ride.