After a campaign to change the way the lead character looked and a short delay in its release, we're finally getting to see what the much-hyped Sonic the Hedgehog movie is like. Based on Sega's long-running series of video games which have spanned the past few decades (not to mention a wide range of gaming systems), the film stars James Marsden, Ben Schwartz and a rather frantic Jim Carrey, and is helmed by Jeff Fowler, a visual effects specialist who is making his directorial debut with this outing.
With a rumoured budget of around $95 million and the expectation of the Sonic fanbase behind it (don't annoy those guys, trust us), does Sonic break the curse of poor video game-based movies? Well, from the early reviews, it would seem the answer is a resounding 'no'.
Our friends over at Eurogamer brand the movie "a charmless cut-and-paste job" which fails to make the best use of the character:
It's not that the Sonic movie is bad, although it's certainly not good. It's that it was a terrible idea from the start. It's a formulaic cut-and-paste job from a Hollywood so starved of intellectual property that it will try making a movie about any recognisable character it can get its hands on - without asking who he is or why people liked him in the first place.
UK newspaper The Guardian awarded the film two out of five stars, stating that "like its fast-moving, attention-deficient hero, this just feels like a rush job," but adding:
...if this movie has an ace in the hole, it’s Jim Carrey, playing government-sponsored inventor Doctor Robotnik. Carrey gives his cartoon villain the full treatment: darting eyes, twirlable moustache, withering superiority complex, and movements so balletically exaggerated they verge on interpretive dance. He’s far more animated than Sonic. And far too good for this.
The Telegraph (subscription required) calls the movie "a drab, joyless crawl" and laments the fact that so much of what happens on-screen is totally divorced from the plot and settings seen in the original games:
What was your favourite level in the Sonic the Hedgehog video games? The one in which Sonic was hunted with machine guns and sniffer dogs in an alpine forest? Or perhaps the one in which Sonic visited a roadside dive bar, tried line dancing, played darts and brawled with Hell’s Angels? Even as an avowed fan of the cobalt-quilled erinaceid’s original 16-bit escapades, I have to say I’m struggling to recall these particular moments myself.
Long-running UK film magazine Empire also gave it two stars, stating that "on-form Jim Carrey can’t stop Sonic’s live-action debut from feeling like a missed opportunity":
It’s when Carrey isn’t on screen that Sonic The Hedgehog underwhelms. The bland central bromance between Sonic and Marsden’s overly trusting Sheriff is missing a few key beats, and the speed at which their relationship develops means that the more emotional moments in the movie’s latter half don’t hit as they perhaps should.
Fellow movie outlet Variety was equally unimpressed, saying:
Given the level of obsession with which Sonic’s fans regard him, the makers of “Sonic the Hedgehog” would have done well to turn the film into a slapstick theme park of video-game trickery, like the relentlessly imaginative “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” But no! Their truly epic bad decision, far worse than the original fussy humanoid design of Sonic, was to make the “Sonic” movie into one of those clunky live-action adventure comedies with a digitally animated generic weisenheimer plopped into the middle of it.
AV Club shared this feeling of disappointment:
...this creatively bankrupt project divorces its title character from both the speed and tropical eye-candy, loop-de-loop backdrops of the Sonic games, dropping him instead into drab roadhouses, suburban kitchens, and the passenger seat of a car chugging down a nondescript highway. Even the scant bursts of action are unremarkable; the best director Jeff Fowler can offer is a weak knockoff of the “Time In A Bottle” sequence from X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Only Carrey, half-committing to some recycled uptight-madman shtick, ever threatens to rocket Sonic The Hedgehog out of its pedestrian kid-flick junkyard.
Not everyone totally hated it, though! The Verge says that Sonic is "too cute not to love" and adds:
Ultimately, Sonic is a children’s movie that recognizes it may be kids’ first introduction to the hedgehog, so it makes minimal references to the video game world he comes from and spends more time alluding to things they might get. Unfortunately, the gags seem a few years too late, immediately dating themselves: there are multiple jokes about Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta. Sonic does the floss dance not once, but twice. They make jokes about Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious. (Actually, this one will probably stay relevant for as long as they keep making FF movies, which is forever.)
Games Radar was also more positive, and gave it three out of a possible five stars, saying:
Ending with a pair of mid-credits scenes that don’t so much tease a sequel as outright confirm intentions to make one, it’s a film that should have die-hard fans doing loop-the-loops. Whether Sonic has the box-office mileage to make it that far remains to be seen, but on the basis of this better-than-expected first instalment, further fast times wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
IGN delivers the most positive review of the lot, giving the film 7/10 and saying:
While this family-friendly action-comedy suffers from a simplistic story and leans too heavily on tired visual cliches, Sonic the Hedgehog is nevertheless boosted by solid performances from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. Their ongoing cat-and-mouse game is entertaining, and passionate fans of the Sega franchise should appreciate all the nods to Sonic’s history. Make no mistake, this frantically-paced film is made first and foremost for Sonic fans. If you’ve been there for the little blue fella these past 29 years, from his humble beginnings on the Sega Genesis to his current iteration, then Sonic the Hedgehog is the love letter you’re probably looking for. If not… maybe save your gold rings.
So that's what the critics are saying, but will you still be going to see this movie regardless? Let us know with a comment.