Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) Review

THE “BLUE BLUR” IS BACK!


 

In 2020, Paramount Pictures (with association of SEGA Entertainment) released the movie Sonic the Hedgehog, an action-adventure comedy feature that showcased (and based) upon the classic video game character icon…Sonic the Hedgehog. Directed by Jeff Fowler, the film, which featured Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, and Tika Sumpter, follows Sonic, an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog who can run supersonic speeds, who teams up with a local town sheriff, Tom Wachowski, to stop the mad schemes of brilliant scientist Dr. Robotnik. Sonic the Hedgehog faced mixed reviews from critics, with scrutiny towards the film’s screenplay, but praised the project for its action scenes and the cast involved. Looking past that, the movie set the record for the biggest opening weekend for a film adaptation based on a video game in the United States and Canada; grossing $319.7 million at the worldwide box office and became the sixth highest grossing film of 2020 and is the highest grossing video game film adaptation of all time. Now, after two years, the blue blur is back as Paramount Pictures and director Jeff Fowler return for the follow-up adventure to the 2020 movie with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Does this sequel endeavor shine above its predecessor, or does it fail to recapture the “sonic magic” that the first film was able to achieve?

THE STORY


Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is living the good, who lives with his adopted family, Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter), spending his evenings moonlighting as the superhero crime fighter superhero known as the Blue Justice, protecting the innocents from harm with his incredible speed. When Tom and Maddie are invited to Rachel’s (Natasha Rothwell) destination wedding in Hawaii, the trip gives Sonic some alone time to himself, planning frolic and lounge around the weekend with the family dog. However, the hedgehog’s plans for leisure and tomfoolery are quickly dashed by Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who’s been freed from his mushroom planetary prison by Knuckles (Idris Elba, a powerful warrior echidna following the magic of Sonic’s quill, teaming up with the evil scientist to find his way to Earth. Returning to exact his revenge on the blue hedgehog for different personal reasons, Robotnik and Knuckles are also hunting for the Master Emerald, a mystical stone of untold power, granting its possessor the ability to turn thoughts into reality. Sonic intends to defend his home once again, but Knuckles is not so easily defeated; proving that his sheer strength and steel demeanor may be a match for the hedgehog. With the appearance of a new ally in the form of Miles “Tails” Prowler (Colleen O’Shaughnessy), a young but brilliant fox with two tails, Sonic goes on the search for the Master Emerald, which proves to be his greatest challenge yet as the team up between Robotnik and Knuckles proves to be harder than what the hedgehog first thought of.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


I’ll the first admit that I really liked 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Of course, I’ve been a huge fan of Sonic since his video game SEGA Genesis inception days back during the early 90s, which was during my childhood years. I guess one could say that I’m more a fan of classic Sonic, especially with the numerical games. I’ve haven’t played much of the later / modern Sonic games, but what I can surmise (from gameplay footage, reviewers, and players) that most have been a mixed bag of sorts. The only “new” Sonic game that I have (and love) is Sonic Mania, which feels more in-line with Classic Sonic style of gameplay versus modern Sonic. Anyways…. yes, I was looking forward to seeing Sonic the Hedgehog, yet I was a little bit leery about this upcoming film project. Why? Well, for starters, movies that are based on video games usually have difficulty in finding a common cinematic ground in translating what worked in a game to what should work in a feature film. Thus, the result has always been a mixed bag and (more often than not) has been more of a disappointment / box office failure. That being said, 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog was better than what I expecting to be and proved to be a stronger contender as one of the better video game film adaptations of late. How so? Well, at least in my opinion, the movie, while structured in a bit of a formulaic method of storytelling, retains a sort of fun and entertaining way that is geared towards the franchise…. which means that it was for kids. It doesn’t really go dark and become needlessly overcomplicated / convoluted by padding out the story with superfluous details or side characters. The movie is streamlined in a way that is easily digestible and easy to follow…. regardless of fanbase or not. So, yes…. Sonic the Hedgehog was (and still is) a kid’s movie and keeps up the pretense from start to finish, with zippy dialogue lines and goofy humor that will keep the younger generation engage in the feature as well as having characters / events being “larger-than-life”. To me, I liked this approach and was actually beneficial to the movie’s undertaking and execution. Of course, some fans grumbled that not every little detail from Sonic lore was translated into the movie and that the script itself was a bit limp in a few areas, but I felt that the film had enough energy and zip to make it enjoyable to watch from onset to conclusion. Also, I forgot to mention that both Schwartz and Carrey were solid in their respective roles of Sonic and Dr. Robotnik in the film, with each one bringing their own brand of charisma and bravado to the proceeding. Plus, I haven’t mentioned that the whole “redesign” of the Sonic and delaying the movie several months after the negative backlash from fans and viewers over the horrible original design of Sonic in the film was good and actually improved upon the identity of the feature. In the end, I think that Sonic the Hedgehog is great for what it is; a fun and lighthearted action-adventure comedy endeavor that does the character well and molds SEGA’s famous blue hedgehog into something quite pleasant and entertaining in the cinematic landscape.

Naturally, this brings me back to talking about Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a 2022 action-adventure comedy film and the follow-up sequel to the 2020 movie. Of course, given the praise and box office results from the first endeavor, it was almost a quick forgone conclusion that a second installment would be greenlit, which it did several weeks after the film’s release. Plus, the film’s ending hinted at the inclusion of iconic Sonic character of Miles “Tails” Prowler in the upcoming sequel as well as news that the sequel would also introduce the character of Knuckles, another fan-favorite of the classic Sonic era. I do remember hearing a few snippets and news tidbits about this new Sonic movie coming out, but it was only in passing on the internet as other upcoming film projects took more precedent at being “noteworthy”. Still, I was excited for the film and the various movie trailers and marketing campaign did it’s job in spades, which showcased the same type of zany “in-your-face” fun that the first installment was able to capture as well as a few new additions. In addition, I was excited for the fact that most of the cast, including Schwartz, Carrey, Marsden, and Sumpter would be returning to reprise their characters roles in the sequel as well as the first film’s director (Jeff Fowler). So, I was looking forward to seeing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when it was set to be released on April 8th, 2022. I was able to catch the movie during its opening weekend, but I decided to wait a week to fully digest what I saw as well as my busy work schedule, which has been relentless these past few weeks. So, finally…. I’m able to full discuss my own personal thoughts and opinions on Sonic the Hedgehog 2. And what did think of the film? Well, I liked it. Despite still having problems areas with its script and few other minor nuances, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a solid sequel that keeps the humorous fun spirt of its predecessor alive with a joyous action-adventure second chapter for Sonic and friends explore and experience. There are some elements that hold the feature from surpassing the first feature, but I think that the sequel, for better or worse, gets a lot right….and that’s a good thing.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is directed by Jeff Fowler, who previously directed the first Sonic movie as well as acting as an animator for projects like Foofur and The Shookums & Meaty Funny Cartoon Show. Given his familiarity by directing the first Sonic, it seems like the obvious choice for Fowler to direct Sonic 2 and (for his sophomore feature film) does a great job in staging / managing everything throughout the movie. Much like the first entry, Fowler approaches Sonic 2 with the same type of frenetic energy and larger-than-life comedy / action through the story, which fuels the movie with snappy and breezy feeling. Naturally, the film feels “bigger” than the previous entry, with Fowler doubling down on the big-time adventure of introducing both Tails and Knuckles, two iconic and classic Sonic characters, as well deciding to keep the feature with the same type of tone and overall fun entertainment. In truth, so many sequels try to go darker and have more of an underlining thematic tone, which sometimes ruin what made the original feature enjoyable / memorable. Fowler seems to adhere to the problematic criticism with sequels and keeps Sonic 2 very much “in-line” with the previous installment, with retain the same type of tween-level cuteness and fun cinematics for a CGI / live-action hybrid feature endeavor. Again, the formula from the first entry worked, so Fowler doesn’t mess around with that…. which is a good thing. This makes Sonic 2 feel like a natural extension of the first movie, but allows the story to evolve slightly in a larger narrative.

This, of course, leads to the film’s action, which like the movie itself, has been amped up a bit more than the previous entry, with Fowler projecting more actions sequences into the story / plot, which definitely works. It’s frenetic, bombastic, and some great fun! As for the film’s comedy, it’s what you would expect from both a Sonic movie as well as being a kid’s movie endeavor. That’s not to say that the film’s comedic jokes and gag are bad as what’s presented is actually pretty good. I did find myself laughing out loud a lot of time throughout the movie and, while not the most innovative or original, the comedy in Sonic 2 definitely works and helps build some of the zanier moments.

In addition, Fowler does a great job in making Sonic 2 have plenty of references and nods to its video game source material. While the first movie peppered some ideas and made a few references to the lore, this sequel has plenty of fan-service that are callbacks to the original Sonic games that will surely delight fans. Not everything is a direct reference to the games as some elements are tweaked for the movie iteration of Sonic, but what’s presented is treat to watch as I, for one, loved what was shown and did put a smile on my face when such scenes and nods were displayed. I won’t spoil anything, but diehard fans of original Sonic games are definitely in for a special surprise with Sonic 2.

In terms of presentation, Sonic 2 is a solid one, with the sequel finding a nice visual aesthetics that has plenty of blockbuster nuances and energy through the usage of its background setting and effect shots. Like the film itself, Sonic 2 makes the story narrative bigger than the previous one, which makes the feature have a “larger” feeling and explores more settings and areas rather than just the surrounding areas of the sleepy town of Green Hill. Everything is what you would come to expect from this project (from a background visual layout) as Fowler and his “behind the scenes” team, including Luke Freeborn (production design), Katrin Chong, Shannon Gottlieb, and DJ Robichaud (set decorations), Debra McGuire (costume designs) and the entire art department give Sonic 2 a good balance of real-world aesthetics that mixes with the fantasy-esque adventure of a video game of which the source material for this particular movie is grounded in. Plus, I do have to mention that the character design for the CGI characters (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles) are fantastic and have upgraded style of animation compared to the first one. Again, great job overall in the computer-generated animation! Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL), is a solid one, which definitely compliments the movie, with several bombastic and adventurous sounding flourishes that help heighten the action and comedy as well as some dramatic portions throughout.

Unfortunately, much like its predecessor, Sonic 2 has a few shared problems that the movie can’t overcome, which is mostly due to its characters and overall undertaking / execution of the whole endeavor. How so? Well, for starters, the movie itself suffers from tried-and-true method of trying to be “bigger and better” than the original, which is always problematic. Yes, this particular sequel has a lot to offer in terms of visual aesthetics and fan-favorite moments, but the overall story / character development in the film doesn’t exactly mesh well together for a more cohesive plot. Basically, the first Sonic feature had a better understanding (and overall grip) on characters and story, but lacked the nuances for a spectacle adventure. Sonic 2, on the other hand, is the opposite, with a great emphasis placed upon the visuals and not as much on the narrative. Again, this is a common pitfall that most (if not all) sequel movies emulate during their production / execution, with Sonic 2 falling directly into that particular path. I’m not saying that the movie is bad or anything, for I did enjoy a lot. However, that being said, I felt that the story in first Sonic movie was better, with Sonic’s 2 story, while fun and entertaining, didn’t exactly have the same type of merit and wholesomeness that the first one had.

Of course, Fowler’s direction for the movie is slightly part to blame for this, with the director propelling (and ultimately shaping) the picture in this way. It’s not for a lack of trying that Fowler would want to do this with some good intentions behind it, but Fowler goes upon that typical “sequel path” trajectory, which makes Sonic 2 feels thin a few particular areas and not entirely as fleshed out nor well-rounded than in the previous installment. What perhaps showcases this particular moment the best (or the worst) in the movie is during the middle portion of the feature, which showcases a lot of the human characters. Given the heightened amount of characters to follow (both heroes and villains) in the narrative, most of the secondary / supporting players get sidelined and feel less important, despite the fact the story tries to shift to them. This portion of Sonic 2, while having a few humorous bits, feels a bit wonky, especially when the script seems more interested in Sonic and Tail’s adventure to stop Robotnik and Knuckles. Speaking of the script, while I do appreciate the fun adventure that the movie has to offer, I kind have to say that certain areas of the narrative could’ve been fleshed out a bit more. This is especially noticeable in Tail’s backstory, which dances around a few ideas, but is left kind of vague. There are a few other story / character bits that are like this, which are kept thinly sketched and could’ve easily been fleshed out enough to make for some more compelling elements in Sonic 2. Thus, the script could’ve been (or rather should’ve been) more refined / sharpened in the creative process stage for the feature. So, it sort of goes “hand-in-hand” as to what you are looking for within Sonic 2. It has positives and negatives that counterbalance everything out. And yet…. besides those criticisms’ remarks, I still believe that Sonic 2 is heading in a better direction (for the film franchise of Sonic I mean).

As a whole, the cast in Sonic 2 is great, with many returning acting talents returning to replay their roles from the first one as well as a few new additions that have come aboard for this sequel. In terms of voice acting for the features non-human characters, actor Ben Schwartz once again providing the voice for Sonic the Hedgehog, the film’s main protagonist. Known for his roles in Parks and Recreation, The Afterparty, and Space Force, has always played such eccentric, goofy / comedy characters and made them his own. Of course, his work on the first Sonic movie was good, with Schwartz making the blue hedgehog a great collection to his repertory body of work and providing the right amount comedic timing and hear to Sonic. As to be expected, Schwartz returns to playing the “blue blur” in the sequel as the actor easily slides right back into the role with effortless grace. As stated above, Sonic’s journey in the sequel isn’t as well-rounded nor wholesome as to what was experienced in the first movie, but Schwartz’s energetic fast-talking performance as the character definitely helps elevate those character underwhelm developments. In the end, whether you love him or find him annoying (I’m the former), Schwartz’s voice work for Sonic is solid and continues to make the character funny, endearing, and memorable in the movie.

Of the newcomers, the one who makes the best (and most memorable) appearance in the movie is the character of Knuckles, a strong, maroon-colored echidna who is looking to find the Master Emerald and teams up with Robotnik to do so. Voiced by actor Idris Elba, who is known for his roles in Beasts of No Nation, The Wire, and Pacific Rim, the character of Knuckles (in the movie) is a callback to the how the character was mostly portrayed in the original video games, which is more narrow-minded and steel demeanor persona, which is a contrast to the more meathead / dumb jock personality that he has lately being accustomed to in the modern Sonic era. Here, Knuckles is reverted back to how he was originally, but with some tweaks, especially in the comedic part. Seriously, he has some of the best lines of the cast. Plus, Elba’s voice perfectly matches Knuckles and provides some of the best comedic lines in the entire film. All in all, Elba’s Knuckles is perhaps the best CGI character in the whole movie and I, for one, can’t wait to see what the character brings in future installments. The other newcomer in the movie is Miles “Tails” Prowler, a young fox with two tails who aids Sonic on his journey throughout the movie. Voiced by talented voicework actress Colleen O’Shaughnessy, who is known for her roles in Naruto: Shippuden, Danny Phantom, and Digimon Adventure tri, Tails is a classic Sonic character, who is the first sidekick / companion character with the Blue Hedgehog, and his appearance in the movie is indeed a welcome one. The character is fun and energetic youthful and just full of surprises, with O’Shaughnessy, who has voiced Tails on several previous projects before, makes for a great foil against Schwartz’s Sonic. Perhaps the only downside to the character is (as I mentioned above) is that the character has fragmented backstory elements, which the narrative never goes into fully detailed. Still, for better or worse, I welcomed (and loved) Tails’s appearance / involvement in Sonic 2, with both characters (and voice talents) sharing great chemistry with each other and a great on-screen team.

Of the human cast for Sonic 2 none is more hilarious and has the right balance amount of “larger-than-life” presences in the movie than actor Jim Carrey, who reprises his character role from the first Sonic film as Dr. Robotnik. Known for his roles in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Bruce Almighty, Carrey has always been quite the comedic actor, with many of his roles being play up the talent’s strengths. Such was the case with his portrayal of Robotnik in the first Sonic movie; hamming it up (in a good way) with such personal quirks and over-the-top tomfoolery goofiness. Well, Carrey is back, and he definitely brings that same type of comedic energy back in his reprisal of Robotnik and he’s in rare form; dialing up the over-the-top zaniness to whole new level. Yet, that’s a good thing and keeps Robotnik (as a character) interesting and hilarious to watch, with Carrey playing to his strength in making the character hilariously “moustache-twirling” evil, which is something that is called for in this Sonic movie and I personally think that Carrey nails wholeheartedly; committed to make his interpretation of Robotnik humorous and fun at the same time. Whether or not Carrey will return for the potential next sequel (given his recent remarks of retiring after Sonic 2) remains unclear at this moment. That being said, if Carrey’s final acting performance happens to be in fact his portrayal of Dr. Robotnik from Sonic 2, it will definitely showcase that the comedic actor goes out with a celebratory (and fond) farewell to moviegoers everywhere.

Also, I do have to mention that actor Lee Majdoub (The 100 and You Me Her) returns in Sonic 2 by reprising his character role from the first film as Agent Stone, Robotnik’s main lackey henchmen. While the character was present in the first Sonic, he didn’t have much to do and had a bit of limited screen time. In Sonic 2, however, Agent Stone has more of screen presence and Majdoub is hilarious as Stone, who shows off his admiration for Robotnik as his loyal henchmen. Almost all his scenes, I chuckled and laugh at….in a good way.

Looking beyond the heroes and villains of the story, most of the supporting players are a bit underwhelming in the project. That’s not to say that acting talents involved give bad and / or terrible performances, but Sonic 2 never gives these characters much to do and almost as if they had to be in the film as ways and means of being “shoehorned” in. Perhaps the strongest one of this group would be actor James Marsden, who returns to play the character of Tom Wachowski, a local sheriff in Green Hill and Sonic’s parental fatherly figure. Known for his roles in X-Men, Enchanted, and Hairspray, Marsden is a good and capable actor in a wide variety of project he has done in the past, including his involvement in the first Sonic movie. His characters (in the first one) was a bit broad, but he definitely has that likeable quality, which made his character of Tom endearing from beginning to end. In Sonic 2, however, his character doesn’t get that much growth and is mostly there to bookend the feature; offering a few snippets of Sonic’s growth in those respective parts. Still, for better or worse, Marsden still plays a fun role in the movie. Likewise, actress Tika Sumpter (Ride Along and The Old Man & the Gun) returns in playing Maddie Wachowski, Tom’s wife. Like Marsden, Sumpter is a capable acting talent in the film, but Sonic’s story / narrative structure does allot her character of Maddie to be a major player in the movie like in the previous entry. So, Sumpter is delegated to being more in the background, except for a few scenes in the beginning and end of the narrative. Still, for her part, it was nice to see Sumpter return to the project.

The same can be said with the character of Rachel, Maddie’s older sister and who is played by actress Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus and Insecure). Of all the human characters (the supporting ones), Rothwell gets the most memorable lines, with her character of Rachel having some “bridezilla” moments as certain events unfold when her wedding is crashed by Sonic and company. It’s amusing and humorous to be sure, but (as mentioned above) it feels a bit superfluous as if the film’s runtime was just padded for this particular scene. It could’ve been easily removed and movie sort of would’ve been the same. Still, for what it’s worth, Rothwell does her part in making Rachel have some laugh-out-loud moments in her screen time in Sonic 2. Also, as a sidenote, actor Adam Pally (Band Aid and Crossing Swords) returns to play the character of Wade Whippie, a deputy sheriff in Emerald Hills. In contrast to the first film, Pally’s Wade has a bit screen-time in Sonic 2 and I do find his scenes to be hilarious.

The rest of the cast, including actor Shemar Moore (The Young and the Restless and Criminal Minds) as Rachel finance Randall, actress Melody Nosipho Niemann (Upside-Down Magic and Spontaneous) as Rachel’s daughter Jojo, and actor Tom Butler (The Killing and Snakes on a Plane) as the former Vice Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Commander Walters, are delegated to minor supporting character roles in the film. They have their one or two moments in the spotlight and fill out the rest of the human players in the feature.

Lastly, the movie does have an Easter Egg scene during the mid-credits portion and fans of Sonic will love it. I won’t spoil the scene, but it lays the groundwork for the potential adversary for the next sequel installment (if one materializes) and brings a fan-favorite character to silver screen. Be sure to stick around for the scene!

FINAL THOUGHTS


Everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog is back with new challenges, enemies, and friends for a brand-new adventure to go on in the movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Director Jeff Fowler’s latest film expands upon 2020’s Sonic film in a fun and humorous way; keeping up the appearances by channeling the same type of slapstick “in-you-face” entertainment that the first feature was able to capture as well as introducing mythos / lore from the video games. While the screenplay is a bit undercooked, a few pacing issues, and some of wonky dialogue moments, the film still finds a pleasant rhythm within this second chapter for Sonic, thanks to Fowler’s direction, some of the comedic jokes, solid fan service moments / references, a good cast reprisal from the return cast members, especially Schwartz and Carrey) as well as the newcomers like O’Shaughnessy and Elba. Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, I do agree that the film was overstuffed, and some elements didn’t exactly pan out the correct way, but I felt that this sequel was a lot of fun to watch and has mixture of both strengths and weaknesses in comparing to its predecessor. On the storytelling front, I think that the first Sonic the Hedgehog was better, but I think that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had a better visual representation and better handling of the further expanding upon its video game mythos. Plus, Elba’s Knuckles and Carrey’s Robotnik are the best part of the feature…. hands down. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a “recommended” one as I’m sure fans of the first film will enjoyable this latest installment as well as fans of the Sonic series as both longtime ones (like myself) or the relative younger generation. As mentioned, the film’s ending hints at a continuation for a Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and I certainly do hope that one does materialize in the not-too-distant future. In the end, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 does what it sets out to do by providing a fun and entertaining sequel that still proves the blue hedgehog (as well as Tails and Knuckles) antics and escapades are just as humorous and endearing to watch as well as continuing to be a good cinematic interest of the video game film adaptation variety.

4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)

 

Released On: April 8th, 2022
Reviewed On: May 10th, 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2  is 122 minutes long and is rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor, and mild language

2 comments

  • Featured Animation

    Wow the is a really long and detailed review, nice job! I wasn’t going to see this film but you’ve convinced me to watch it this weekend. Thanks.

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