The evolution of Sonic the Hedgehog

Review: The animation of Sonic in the movie “Sonic the Hedgehog” started as a nightmare and didn’t end up much better in the final version either. Along with the poor animation, the storyline lacked depth

Jackson McMurray, Staff Contributor

The horror of the old Sonic animation was defeated after the first trailer for “Sonic the Hedgehog” (2019) dropped and everyone, rightly, lost their damn minds. 

Sonic was a nightmare. He was an uncanny mind-bending horror. He was not fit for public consumption.

In an unprecedented feat of giving people on the internet what they thought they wanted, Columbia Pictures announced, “okay, you’re right, we’ll change it.” The movie would be delayed by four months and they would spend the time overworking and underpaying animators to “fix Sonic.” 

Soon, with another “first trailer,” we saw that the new Sonic was to be rounder, cuter and less… anatomically correct. But was it worth it?

Teagan Kimbro

The storytellers have taken a video game/television/comic book franchise with a deep well of beloved characters, iconography and music and stripped it of everything except for the basest elements of its protagonist. 

It’s a fish-out-of-water story about a young, funny alien who has to escape government agents hoping to experiment on him and maybe make some friends along the way. Frankly, the fact  the alien is named “Sonic” and the government baddie is named “Robotnik” is mostly inconsequential. Sonic could have just as easily been a Transformer or a Smurf, and the script would require few edits to continue to function.

The movie stars Ben Schwartz, one of the funniest and most talented comedians of the moment (who you may recognize as Jean-Ralphio on “Parks and Rec”) and reduces him to delivering voice-over lines like “Didn’t see that coming!” and “Little help here?” Any interview with Schwartz on the “Sonic the Hedgehog” press tour will sadly confirm that he is a sparkling and hilarious personality, making it that much more heartbreaking that the titular hedgehog delivers painfully few genuine laugh lines.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” feels like a throwback to an earlier time, a time when studios produced star-studded live action family entertainment designed to be mindlessly watched and re-watched by children on VHS. It seems only fitting that Jim Carrey, the king of VHS himself, is making his blockbuster comeback as Dr. Robotnik, after spending some time in semi-retirement focusing on his painting. Carrey is back in his purest form in this role.

It’s hard not to compare his performance in “Sonic the Hedgehog” to his turn as the Riddler in “Batman Forever” (1995). It’s big, outrageous and frankly, sometimes embarrassing, but Carrey is so locked in and so deeply unselfconscious it’s hard not to admire who he is and what he’s doing. 

“Sonic the Hedgehog” isn’t all bad though. The movie has a handful of expressive and colorful sequences that make you sit up in your seat and pay attention. The kind of powerful visual ideas in this movie could only come from an ex-animator like director Jeff Fowler. Among these is an inexplicably surreal sequence where Dr. Robotnik dances alone in his lab and pantomimes having his head bitten off by a holographic tyrannosaurus, which seems destined to terrify kids on home video for generations to come. 

After all the trouble, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is purely functional, but you have to wonder how it would have been received had they kept fingernail Sonic as he was? In a year where the inexplicable “Cats” (2019) was immediately hailed as a cult classic how would Human-Teeth-Muscle-Calves-Sonic have fared? It’s impossible to know, but Columbia Pictures may well have cheated themselves out of a counterculture touchstone and traded it for an expensive, disposable flash that seems poised to go fast from the public consciousness.