Sonic the Hedgehog
The video game industry continues to be the leader in growth in the entertainment industry, far outpacing any other sector. It thus makes sense that film studios (struggling for declining movie attendance) want to adapt a video game property to the big screen. The history of video game adaptations range from the 1990s with the abysmal failure Super Mario Bros. (1993) and Mortal Kombat (1995), and has passed through the decades with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Assassin’s Creed (2016), and even the mobile game The Angry Birds Movies (2016). The films have varied in success financially and critically, but never have brought about a feeling of satisfaction in their adaptation.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) is the latest attempt at a video game movie. We follow the animated blue hedgehog Sonic (Ben Schwartz) who is on the run from people attempting to exploit his powers of superspeed. When discovered laying low at a small town in Montana, Sonic is pursued by government scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carey) and is aided as a fugitive by the town cop Tom (James Marsden).
The problem with adapting video games to film is the debate of how much to actually borrow from the original property. If one sticks to close to the video game, you lose the cinematic qualities of the filmic medium; however, if you stray too far from the source material then you lose the special aspects that made the property so attractive in the first place. Sonic seems to finally find a fine balance between these two extremes; it frames the entire story as a road movie, taking a tried and true structure, and infuses it with occasional nods to the video game world and its charismatic characters. As such, the entire film is liberated to craft its own tone and world as it pleases. It does so in a relatively unimpressive but inoffensive manner.
Sonic is not by any means a creative triumph. The plot and story borrow from many other films and don’t really bring anything original to the table. As such it was more admirable from the executive side, to see how well-patched this project came out to be. All of the cookie-cutter aspects of a studio film come out to a satisfying degree in Sonic so that it proves to be an adequate-enough flick for a pastime. The cast doesn’t infuse too much energy into the story, despite a convincing Schwartz voicing the titular character. Carey, as always, is a bit too much as the villain, but in the overarching family-friendly tone of film, it can go by harmlessly.
In the end, Sonic the Hedgehog is a film devoid of much emotion or charisma due to not having a creative drive. However, the executive level has managed to find a good balance to adapting this property and end up delivering a by-the-numbers movie that, by not disappointing, is a milestone in the video game film genre.