When Paramount Pictures teased the first image of their upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog live-action film, the internet universally did what the internet does – they dunked on it relentlessly and epically. Now that the first official trailer has finally dropped, the internet is doing the same thing, but now in a more justified manner, as we have actual visual confirmation that Sonic looks absolutely atrocious. If the title of the movie didn’t actually say “Sonic the Hedgehog,” I’m not entirely sure I would know that’s who they were going for. Now, a perfect copy-and-paste of the iconic, Sega video game character from his cartoonish design to the big screen wouldn’t exactly work (although Detective Pikachu doesn’t seem to have a problem doing it). So the creative team needed to take a few liberties with the design to make it fit in with our world as much as a sound-barrier-breaking blue rodent can – reasonable enough. The issue here is that they took so many liberties that, were it not for the fact that he’s blue, Sonic would be entirely unrecognizable.
I can return to the problems with the titular character in a moment, but first, let me talk about what does work about this from the glimpse we’ve seen. Jim Carrey is returning to the 90s zany comedy that put him on the map and bringing that level of crazy to his role as the mad scientist Dr. Ivo Robotnik, the chief antagonist of the film and Sonic’s video game arch nemesis. It is clear that Carrey will take center stage here; if the final product has any real redeeming qualities, they’ll be from his performance. The plot seems very formulaic, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; or rather, it wouldn’t be if another (and admittedly much bigger) video game film weren’t doing the same thing in less than a month. Both Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu are pulling a Roger Rabbit with their plot of a cartoon character being in our world and having to save it via cracking some case with a normal human being as a sidekick. This plot has been done before, and, again, that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. James Marsden (of whom I am also a big fan) stars in the film as that aforementioned human sidekick in his role as Tom Wachowski, a California Highway Patrol Officer alongside Tika Sumpter. Together with Sonic, they must stop the bad guys from doing bad things and blowing up the world. Are you bored yet? The comedy between Marsden’s character and Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is lighthearted and works for what it is, and Schwartz seems to do an alright job.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but think how much better getting Jaleel White or Jason Griffith to reprise their voice work on the character would have been. Many other things work as well, such as Jim Carrey getting shocked by what one can only surmise to be static from Sonic’s fur. This concept of static from the character running around at the speed of sound is an example of the writers adding more immersion and believability to such a fantastical tale, and is surprisingly something that hasn’t been explored in other media in which the hedgehog has been. Any time you’re dealing with characters that can move at such insane velocities (such as the Flash, Quicksilver, and Sonic), you have to do things a certain way to make the action understandable to the audience. This can quickly devolve into a discussion about the use of bullet-time, but the fact remains that it’s a necessity. I’m getting heavy Quicksilver (the goofy FOX one, not the bullet-ridden, dead MCU one) vibes from Sonic in this film, and the way they’re handling his high-speed action sequences does nothing to change that sentiment. On paper, this film can work. It has a manageable plot in which they don’t appear to be trying to overextend themselves and do something any more outlandish than making a live-action Sonic film already is, and they have a strong cast (Neal McDonough is always great to see as well). The implementation of elements from the video games such as Sonic turning into a spikey, blue wrecking ball of furry fury, and adding in the magic rings (I’m curious to see how they will be used, as their Saturday morning cartoon, comic book, and video game utilities varied widely). The scene in which we see a bunch of heavily worn-out running shoes is a nice visual touch as well. Unfortunately for this film right now, and much to the dismay of this long-time Sonic fan, the one thing that does not seem to work is the central figure – Sonic himself. From the absurdly tiny eyes comparative to his iconic design to the equally ridiculous and oversized proportions on the rest of his body, I just cannot in good conscience look at that and call it Sonic. The internet is a wild and harsh environment, and the Sonic the Hedgehog fan base can be filled with… particularly rabid and odd ducks, so unless this film can earn gold in virtually every other conceivable metric, November’s Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t going to be the genesis of anything and will be a next-level, high-speed wreck.