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‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ (review)

It is an indelible part of the contemporary pop culture fabric that the nightmare-inducing original design for the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie caused such an epic backlash that the choice was made to delay the movie and completely re-design the titular character, and in spite of the first Sonic film not treading any new narrative waters in terms of children’s entertainment, many had to concede that it was a rather decent big screen adaptation of a gaming character after all.

As is the norm, a sequel was set up in the final moments of the first film, with Sonic’s ally Tails being promised for the follow-up. But Tails – who is voiced by veteran Tails voice talent Colleen O’Shaughnessey – is not the only addition to the roster for the sequel; Jim Carrey’s aggressively zany Eggman also returns with an ally of his own, namely Knuckles the Echidna as voiced by Idris Elba. By doubling the number of iconic characters from the gaming franchise, the concern is of course if the film manages to utilize the characters in a satisfying manner or if they are a cynically relegated to a shrinkingly small amount of screentime.

Thankfully, the gaming characters are all thrown into the mix from the get-go, which makes it clear that the sequel is something of a love letter to the franchise, serving deep cuts galore and tons of character moments from start to finish, as the race between good and evil begins.

Here, the stakes are significantly elevated compared to the first film, and the scope and frequency of the action set pieces is similarly ramped up, setting up the arcs of the gaming characters to be more engaging, just as the sense of peril is also increased as Sonic’s maturity is tested and the sincerity of Eggman’s deal with Knuckles is questioned.

With this increased emphasis on the gaming characters, the human characters being reprised are little more than moving cardboard cutouts. There is no depth and hardly any arcs for the humans this time around, except for a very rushed segment in the middle of the film where a conflict between two human characters is set up, resolved and then never spoken of again.

While this is incredibly jarring in the moment – and objectively deducts from the overall quality of the film – the human characters being inconsequential is, however, easy to disregard, as the film still manages to include some simple, yet very human themes written with the youngest viewers in mind. Banal as these moments may be, they are simple and sweet in a manner reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons, which again adds to the nostalgic charm of Sonic and the era the SEGA character originates from.

While Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is rather average as a family adventure geared towards younger viewers, it is, however, a successful film in the subgenre of gaming adaptations. Across demographics, gaming adaptations have a long history of getting things very wrong, and the second Sonic movie overwhelmingly gets things very right in a way that is certain to thrill fans of ages.

As such, while the startlingly flat human characters may as well have been removed from the movie altogether, pretending that anyone but the gaming characters are the draw here would be a severe misinterpretation of what the point of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is, and in terms of gaming franchise adaptations, Sonic once again outruns the competition and leaves them in the dust with its bubbly and easily digestible escapism.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Hitoshi Okuno, Tyson Hesse
Screenplay by Pat Casey, Josh Miller, John Whittington
Story by Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Based on Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega
Directed by Jeff Fowler
Starring James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell,
Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Lee Majdoub, Idris Elba, Jim Carrey



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