Note from Mrs. Moss:  Students in the Journalism & Communications class learned the basic elements of film analysis.  Students received a list of films they had never seen (hopefully!), and students could also request a film.  The resulting reviews capture the experience of watching something for the first time…for good or for bad!  We made sure to select films our entire Lancer Community can enjoy, so we hope some of these inspire some great long-weekend streaming experiences!

After seeing the atrocious, original Sonic design and the fixed design for Sonic the Hedgehog, I had to see this movie, which is available for streaming on HULU. I’ve never been the biggest Sonic fan. I’ve only played bits and pieces of the first few games, but the odd design choice sparked an interest in myself, and likely others, to watch this movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog stars Ben Schwartz as Sonic, Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik, and  James Marsden as Tom, our second protagonist. Even though he’s the star of the show, Ben Schwartz never appears on screen, but he is the voice of Sonic. You may know him as Jean-Ralphio from NBC’s Parks and Rec, but Schwartz isn’t a stranger to voice acting. He also plays Dewey Duck in the 2017 DuckTales reboot. The two characters, Dewey and Sonic, are surprisingly similar. They are pure children at heart with slightly enlarged egos, but also have their share of insecurities. 

Sonic is fairly different in this film from how he’s portrayed in the video game franchise. Sonic contains this little kid-like personality and wants to experience every activity on Earth he can. It’s a different feeling to the rebellious hero Sonic from the games. Video game Sonic breaks rules to do the right thing. Additionally, Sonic’s origin in this game is different from his other origin story. 

Unlike some villains, Robotnik is extremely over the top. He’s a narcissistic, egotistical villain and believes he’s better than everyone else out there. Jim Carrey perfectly translates this character from the games to the big screen. Similar to his earlier acting gigs, he gives a performance full of expression and wackiness. Others who don’t know Robotnik may struggle if this is the character or just Jim Carrey. However, this matches Robotnik spot on.

James Marsden’s character is used as a way for audiences to connect the material. However, his storyline feels bland and awkward, purely a tool to move the plot forwards. Marsden still puts on a believable performance, but his material didn’t have many things he could do with it.

Although the film is based on the beloved Sonic franchise, which dates back to 1991, the movie is primarily directed towards children. There are a few handfuls of jokes that clearly showcase this (ex. doing the floss dance), but they don’t sour the experience. Other jokes try to pander to internet culture, but there weren’t a whole lot of problems. Of course, the movie is also geared towards Sonic fans. Even though the movie differs from any video game plot, it’s still clear the team put in a lot of effort. There’s a multitude of references that refer back to the Sonic games.

Because it’s a kids’ movie, it also carries the message of the importance of friends and family. The film takes on the fish out of water troupe and does it fairly well. Other past movies tried and failed at doing the troupe well. It’s one of a few children’s movies that aren’t completely unbearable for older kids and adults to watch. 

If you didn’t know Sonic from the games, you may know him from his infamous original movie design.  In the graphic that accompanies this article, the original design is on the left, and the final design is on the right.  His original design fell into the concept called “uncanny valley” and looked extremely different from the classic Sonic. “Uncanny valley” happens when artists try to create something very lifelike–generally a computer-generated character or a lifelike robot–but instead of making something lifelike, they create something so weird that looking at it feels “uncanny.”  Luckily, the movie was pushed back some months to fix Sonic’s design. The new design was improved in every way possible. It keeps to the original design from the video games and just gives him a more cartoonish appearance, rather than trying to make his proportions fit a more realistic model.  In the original design, Sonic’s eyes were smaller, and his teeth were more like a human’s.  These are two examples that gives the original design the “uncanny valley” feeling. 

The detail in the CGI is pretty impressive, overall. You can see the fuzz on his gloves, the quills, and the slight movement of his spikes when Sonic moves. Even Robotnik’s drones have heat waves coming off of them when they fly. The only weird section was when Sonic was being physically picked up by a human, and you could tell it was off. Besides that, another instant when Sonic’s next to a person, he looks great.

Robotnik’s design is slightly different from the games, as well. However, this was an intentional decision. The design wasn’t bad, unlike the previously mentioned Sonic. His black and red color palette matched the white, red, and black colors of his drones. Later in the film, it’s revealed why his outfit is different, and the viewer can understand what this film is acting as. 

The film contains only a few continuity errors. Viewers may not notice them, but it does bring some questionability to some scenes. In an earlier part of the film, Sonic is throwing an object with his left hand. However, later in the movie, he throws another object but with his right hand. Additionally, one of the characters may have been a drunk driver. There is a scene where one character clearly drinks a beer but later leaves the bar in their trunk. There’s no distinct time frame from the drink to the drive, but it’s a questionable detail.

Overall, the film isn’t horrible. It’s not just another children’s film that was made for easy money. There was care put into the film, especially with the movie team listening to people’s critiques and backlash of Sonic’s original design. Even though I’ve never gotten into the Sonic series before, I could still enjoy the film. With a sequel already announced, I genuinely want to see what it has to offer.  This film made me want to pick those Sonic games back up and play through them.

Sonic the Hedgehog is like a stepping stone into creating more video game-based movies. This genre of movies is quite infamous and horribly failed in the past, except in recent years, ex. Detective Pikachu. It’s similar to the first Iron Man movie. No one remembers it for its plot, but rather the now-famous series of movies it introduced. Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t anything extraordinary, but is making room for something like that to happen.

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