Sonic cinema debut is a speedy success

For almost 30 years, Sonic the Hedgehog has captivated video game culture with his speedy gameplay and Bill Clinton’s “get it done” attitude that inspired his persona. The Blue Blur now takes off in the sliver screen with a movie that outran the odds that went against the his name.

The movie underwent a “night and day” transformation simply by changing the appearance of Sonic in the early marketing stage of the movie. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie’s YouTube account posted the first teaser of the film back in April 2019, and what ensued was nothing but backlash. 

Far left is Sonic’s original design, and right shows the design developed by lead character designer, Tyson Hesse.

The famed anthropomorphic character came out looking like a nightmarish creature that deviated every aspect of what people loved about Sonic. In fact, the character looked more humanoid than animalistic. With small eyes, a human mouth and a muscular frame that made Sonic look like he wasn’t skipping leg day at the gym. Fans were outraged and voiced their disgust across various platforms of social media.

Director Jeff Fowler, then went onto twitter to acknowledge the concerns of the fans and promised to fix Sonic’s design. Now the film that was initially set to be released on Nov. 25, 2019, was pushed back to Feb. 14, 2020. The redesign only cost five million dollars, and added on an extra five months of production. However, it was a decision that was worth it. 

Tweet from Director, Jeff Fowler, addressing the concerns of the fans.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sonic had a three-day domestic opening of $58 million in the United States, the redesign was a key role in making the movie more appealing. Student Success Coordinator Dane Glenn, who also is a part time instructor, gives credit to participatory culture theory as the catalyst for the redesign of the hedgehog. “Fans really dictate the way media is presented, and also how we sway the studios into basically what we want,” said Glenn. 

As for the film itself, I was tied by the new take on Sonic thanks to Ben Schwartz. He did a great job, and easily my second personal favorite voice actor for Sonic. My favorite voice actor is Ryan Drummond who was the first voice actor of Sonic the Hedgehog in the mainline video game series. The “Jean Ralphio” actor did very well sounding just like Drummond, almost. The tone of Schwartz’s voice was the one the character needed in the longest time. He finally sounds like a teenager again, and the confident comedian brought the energy that Drummond always brought. He had everything Sonic was known for, attitude, persistence, a sense of heroic selflessness. In this film, Sonic is lonely and in need of a friend and Ben brought out the sadness very well.  In interviews, Schwartz said he would prepare for the role by laying down with hedgehogs and by playing the critically acclaimed video game “Sonic Mania”. He was a huge Sonic fan growing up, and was enthusiastic to be selected for the role. Don’t be surprised if you see this actor taking over for the character in all portrayals of Sonic.

The next character that was brought to life well was Dr. Robotnik, the antagonist of the Sonic video games. Jim Carrey was casted as the mad scientist, and used his 90’s spastics to deliver the role of an evil professor hellbent on capturing Sonic. Dr. Robotnik is a spastic villain that compliments Jim Carrey to bring out the strongest aspects of the character. Those attributes were his ego, the condescending nature, his movements and appearance. The handlebar mustache was a good choice to go with instead of the bushy one we are used to seeing in the games. I remember growing up with some old time cartoons and many of the evil characters had the handlebar mustache. Not many kids in this generation will know that until they have seen Carrey’s take on the character. Everytime Robotnik is spoken to, he replies with an overzealously harsh action. You see this in his interactions with all the characters. He abuses his assistant, Agent Stone (played by Lee Madjoub), both verbally and physically. In the games, movies, shows etc. ; he always had robot assistants that he would also mistreat which is a nice treat for classic Eggman fans. You’re going to see a lot of yelling from this character as well, which are both strong suits for the role and the actor. 

The Blue Blur, is an orphan who gets lost on Earth to hide from people who are trying to take his powers. He is too scared to interact with anyone because he fears they will take advantage of his gift. Thus, the whole plot centers around a whole “Cat & Mouse” dynamic that plays out well throughout the whole film. Dr. Robotnik is assigned to look for Sonic after a huge energy burst caused by Sonic shutdown the power of a regional area. That’s when the main characters, Sheriff Tom Wachoski (played by James Mardsen) and Sonic have to run away from the government.

 This is where Mardsen shines best, his dynamic connection to Sonic was a key part of the movie. It reminded me of the connections the character, Dave Seville had with Alvin and the Chipmunks from the movie that was released in 2008. Many sentimental moments are in the movie. Mardsen did well with connecting with Sonic even though he is a computer-rendered character. 

We see friendship and a genuine respect that grows from a feeling of unfamiliarity. Tom, being his town’s most respected sheriff, has a sense of duty to help people. Despite not knowing Sonic at all, Tom is willing to help him escape from the government. At first, Mardsen’s character is skeptical about Sonic and is quick to throw him out as soon as he can. However, Sonic can’t make his goals come true without the help from the Sheriff.  Thus, the characters have no choice but to bond. They take a road trip to get away from the government, this is where we see the dynamic shine. Sonic and Tom open up about their goals in their life, and you see this friendship develop over the course of the film.

This is a movie I believe anyone can watch; whether you’re a Sonic fan or not. This movie appeals to families, kids, and people of all ages. The action, comedy, characters, and the relationships will bring you closer to Sonic.