Too many articles have been written about the design of Sonic changing after the reveal of the first trailer. So I'm not going to rehash that back and forth. There are a few minor spoilers herein, so take that for what its worth. If you wanted to go in COMPLETELY fresh about Sonic, then don't read this. Although almost everything I mention is already in the trailer.
What I WILL say though is that the redesign absolutely improved the movie exponentially. Any time Sonic was on screen, he was a joy to behold. The CG wasn't perfect, but it was definitely solid enough to make you feel like this video game character has come to life.
Beyond Sonic's design, the movie was enjoyable. There's nothing particularly revolutionary and it doesn't always make sense, but it was rarely dull and I was glad that I had seen it.
So what's it about? Well, here's where the nonsense comes in. Sonic lives on a planet where he has special abilities. He's being trained by a giant owl named Longclaw who is a real stick in the mud mentor who gives the classic "Hide your powers from everyone!" mantra which always works out well. But clearly, they don't have the same entertainment choices on Sonic's planet so nobody knows that.
When a group of what might be Echidna's show up (they are all wearing masks, but they reminded me of Knuckles), Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of teleportation rings and tells him to go to Earth and isolate himself and if he's discovered there, use another ring to hide out on a different planet. Cut to ten years later and Sonic is hanging out in Green Hills, Montana, watching the inhabitants of the city, but never letting himself be known. His favorite people being Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter).
Through a series of unfortunate events, Sonic's presence is detected by Dr. Robotnik and Tom decides to assist Sonic in his quest to retrieve his rings that were accidentally dropped in San Francisco.
Why can't Sonic read a map when he seems like a perfectly proficient hedgehog in many other matters? Shhh...don't think about it. Just go with it. Because they won't explain it. Simply put, the plot needs Tom and Sonic to get to know each other and this is the best way to do it.
Hot on their trail is Jim Carry as government scientist Dr. Robotnik and he is in full-on 90's Jim Carrey mode. As a child I was OBSESSED with Jim Carrey, reading unauthorized novels, writing the names of his movies on my school folders, so there was definitely a level of nostalgia watching zany Carrey come back to the theater. And he TOTALLY commits. Robotnik is a super weirdo, but he's also the smartest guy in the room who never lets you forget it. He's a competent bad guy who is prepared for almost anything but he's also insane in the silliest ways. Every part of this performance was fantastic. If there's a Sonic the Hedgehog 2, I sincerely hope he's able to take it to the next level.
But he's not the only insane thing in this movie, there are also some truly crazy plot and character choices. While Sonic and Tom are on the run, a news report shows up on the TV announcing Tom as a DOMESTIC TERRORIST and Tom is totally chill about it. He's chill about this blue alien, he's chill about being falsely accused of being a domestic terrorist, and he seems to have no concern that he won't be able to clear his name. But I guess that's the naivety of being a small-town cop.
I just know that if I were the one escorting a super speeding blue alien from Montana to San Francisco, and then I was accused of a terrorist attack, I'd probably stop helping the alien and try to clear my name. But that's just me. Nope. Not Tom though.
However, everyone in this movie seems to have that same sort of attitude. "Holy crap, WHAT IS THAT THING?! Oh, it's a blue alien hedgehog? That's cool. Let's go." It's so bizarre. But I loved it.
What also really works about the movie is the way they truly seemed to have a reverence for the game. Beyond the Green Hill reference, there are SO many other references that are worked into the movie that honestly seem entirely natural. Sonic's speed, the way he destroys enemies, visual references, name checks, and even some music and sound effects that all feel like they belong instead of saying "Hey, remember THIS from the game?" The piano composition of the Green Hill Zone theme is one of my personal favorites because you'd never even think that it's from a game if you didn't already know.
The biggest negative however was that the movie doesn't feel particularly fresh in any way. It follows the exact same beats of so many other stories and there are way too many plot contrivances to take it to the next level. A lot of the jokes fall flat as well, but they really seemed like they were trying so I give them points for the effort. Ben Schwartz in particular seems to be relishing his role as Sonic and he honestly seems to deeply care about this role. Hopefully, he gets more opportunities to play Sonic in the future.
And for the credit-fiends among you, there is a scene that pops up right after the movie ends, and then a mid-credits scene which put a big goofy smile on my face teasing the second movie. A movie I honestly do hope we get.
Ultimately, the movie was fine, despite my appreciation for a lot of the details. I'm glad I saw it and there are worse ways of spending 98 minutes. And honestly? Thank the fans for forcing the filmmakers into changing the design from a nightmare inducing monstrosity to the character we know, love, and have grown up with. What an improvement.
I give it 3 out of 5 teleportation rings.