Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): Full of Exciting Video Game-Like Action, and Minimal Video Game-Like Story
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is directed by Jeff Fowler, who also directed the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” film. This film stars Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, BoJack Horseman), James Marsden (Westworld, Hop), Tika Sumpter (Ride Along, The Old Man and the Gun), Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus, Insecure), Adam Pally (Dirty Grandpa, Iron Man 3), Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds), Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Danny Phantom, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), Lee Majdoub (The 100, Supernatural), Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim), and Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, The Mask). This film follows Sonic, who as of the last movie has trapped Doctor Robotnik in a world filled with nothing except mushrooms. However, Robotnik escapes from “The Mushroom Planet” and attempts to possess the Master Emerald, which would allow him to control the world at his will. Now, it is up to Sonic, and his new sidekick Tails to defend civilization and stop Robotnik, who has joined forces with Knuckles the Echidna, from changing reality for the worse.
There was a saying not too long ago that “video game movies suck,” and I can attest to that. A couple of my least favorite films ever, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” and “Super Mario Bros.” are based on video games. They are poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed. But I must say that the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” maintains the throne for the best video game movie ever made, not that this is a high mountain to climb, but still, I liked the movie. When I wrote my review a couple of years ago, one of my immediate thoughts was, “I want a sequel,” because the movie ends in such a way that is satisfying, but also leaves enough open to make you want more. I frankly did not expect that with the first “Sonic,” but if that first movie were not good, I probably would not have been as excited for this movie as I was before I went in.
Part of me wonders if we would even have this movie if it were not for people on the Internet, perhaps justifiably, expressing their rage over the design of Sonic, because before the first movie came out, and before Paramount went back and spent money on redesigning the character, he did look butt ugly for an adaptation, but I also was conflicted as to whether they were going for a grittier, grounded story. Turns out they were not, the movie almost felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, but that is also why in the end, I am glad they went back to redesigning it. And as a result, I think we found a look that not just matches the first movie, but also its sequel, which also maintains this Saturday morning cartoon vibe from start to finish.
The heart of the first movie for me was the unexpected bond between Sonic and Tom Wachowski, which given cinematic history with movies like 2011’s “The Smurfs,” could have gone completely sideways. By the end of the movie, the two felt like genuine pals, and that is hard to do with a human and CGI hedgehog, so credit where it is due. In this movie, that is kind of replaced, because Tails ends up being Sonic’s sidekick for most of the picture. In fact, the formula the two seem to have together feels almost reminiscent of the first movie, even to the point where the film excuses itself to blast a once popular top 40 song that may have been slightly overplayed. Not Crush 40, no no no. Top 40. “Live and Learn” is not in the movie, sorry for spoiling in advance for those who really did not want to know.
While Tails serves his part in the movie, the movie also finds a reason to implement Tom Wachowski into the mix, but this allows for a completely separate subplot to commence… (sigh) …The goddamn wedding.
I think “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” can easily be watched at any age. I think if you are five, you’re fine. And if you’re ninety, you’re nifty. But let’s be real, some could argue that “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is made for children to enjoy. This is not a bad thing, I do not mind children’s content, but I also prefer that children receive content that does not insult their intelligence. The first movie, while not quite as mature as what we have gotten from Pixar over the years, has a certain flair to it that makes you feel like a kid again. This sequel is consistent in that way. But one consistency that does not exist from one film to the next is the pacing. The first film is extremely tight in its 99 minute story, but this film is 23 minutes longer, and therefore, it suffers from an obnoxious and almost unnecessary subplot at a wedding. Granted, one story is means to an end where it lines up with another, but the journey to get from one place to another in the wedding was probably the most boring segment of the film. And I will add, the one moment where everything lines up makes absolutely no sense. Going back to what I said, I do not mind children’s content, but I want it to treat its audience as if they were smart. This does not. You know your “moment” is bad when you have the characters spinning their heads and then one person realizes that “the Olive Garden guy” from the first movie is here to spew out another advertisement for the company.
By the way, Olive Garden kinda sucks. I said it.
The first movie, while definitely not my favorite of the year, was fairly palatable because of a narrative that is as quick as its titular hedgehog. This movie relies way too much on over the top gags that feel tired by the end. That is not to say the movie does not have its occasional laugh, but let’s just say that the writing for Dr. Robotnik, who is marvelously portrayed by Jim Carrey, is not as much of a highlight as it was in the predecessor.
Now I do want to be clear, I liked Dr. Robotnik in this film, but the first film gave us a perfect blend of Jim Carrey’s zaniness mashed together with some of the best screenwriting I have witnessed for a villain in a children’s film. Robotnik is written similarly to how he is presented in the original film, but the original film takes the cake for perhaps a larger collection of memorable lines and moments. NOTHING beats the scene where Sonic sneaks up to Tom and Robotnik, exclaims to Robotnik not to hurt Tom, and Robotnik emits the most obnoxious, cartoon-like scream I have heard in a long time. I cannot remember a single line in this sequel that was “awful,” but I also cannot recall one line in the film that was on the level of the original. Not offensive, but also not as good.
In fact, I would like to go back to the compliment I gave this film about it making you feel like a kid again. I think that is a compliment I can give to certain comic book movies that have come out in recent years. Those films, while definitely mature, make me feel young, and I always love to maintain a youthful spirit. And there were moments during my theater experience where instead of a bunch of manchildren, including myself, admired everything on screen and uttered sounds of excitement, actual children got to be similarly wowed during key moments that trigger such immediate reactions. This is why THE CINEMA is the way to watch a movie. It’s a community.
Let me just remind you, the week before I saw “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I saw “Morbius” in a theater that wasn’t quite full, but had a decent crowd. No one uttered a sound for the entire runtime. There were points during “Sonic 2” where people gasped, they cheered, they clapped. This is one reason why I love going to the movies. I stand by the rule where no one should be talking during the movie, but I also think some experiences can qualify for a rock concert vibe. If you are excited, why not embrace it? The movie is certainly one that could get you excited by the end of it.
Now much like Robotnik, I would have to say that Sonic is once again, fabulously portrayed by Ben Schwartz, but the problem I have with this film when it comes to Sonic is that despite his personality being on point, especially when lining things up with the first movie, Sonic’s jokes, kind of like in the first film, come off as fairly cheap pop cultural references or forced quips. Those jokes could work, but they kind of fall flat here. Now, I will 100% contend with Sonic’s sentiments from the first movie about Keanu Reeves being a national treasure, but I think when it comes to referencing the pop cultural mojo, I think he needs to calm down just a tad. Although Ben Schwartz is a perfect interpretation for Sonic and his over the top pitch sells the character for me. I think the lesson this character has to face in this film is one of its saving graces, because even though this movie has quite a few notable flaws from the wedding scene to the disposable humor, I think if you are going to watch this movie at a certain age, I think it would be a positive influence. In a world where we have tons of movies with violence and explosions, it is nice to see one that occasionally gives slight objections to those ideas despite them being in it.
This film introduces a couple new CGI characters into the mix, Miles “Tails” Power and Knuckles. One of my big complaints about movies that have voiceover characters nowadays like the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie for example is that they tend to rely on big names to get people in the theater. Granted, I like Chris Pratt, I dig Charlie Day, and I adore Anya Taylor-Joy, so we’ll see what happens there. But I am glad that this movie tended to give an opportunity to not just an actual pro voice actor to voice Tails, but give that opportunity to a voice actor who has literally voiced the character in other creations. Colleen O’Shaughnessy is a delight in this film. But at the same time, this film is the best of both worlds, because they also allowed Idris Elba to voice Knuckles the Echidna, which I thought was a great choice. He’s a terrific actor, his voice is iconic, and it matches the grit such a character can promise. Elba’s interpretation of Knuckles allowed him to arguably become the most hysterical character of the entire film. Basically he has the personality of a fantasy narrator and a fantasy protagonist rolled into one person. It’s perfect. Unlike Sonic, Knuckles appears to have less of a hang of things when it comes to knowing about the rituals of mankind. Each joke related to his developing knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subject matter hits hard every time. I won’t spoil anything, but the moment you hear “Dot, dot, dot…” You’re in for a treat.
But if I had to be honest, this movie is not as solid as the original. Sure, it has fan service that lovers of the games will appreciate, the effects and sound are utterly amazing, and it is definitely one of the less offensive video game movies to exist compared to some others. But the first movie had a foundation that felt properly structured and put into place. It was a building that was functional and served its purpose. This movie took that same building and added way too many more floors to it. The wedding gag was utterly atrocious and ultimately sullies what could have been a fantastic movie. And if I were a kid watching “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I probably would be saying the same thing. I liked the action, I liked the dynamic between Eggman and Knuckles, but the wedding scene made me want to break up with this film. I will also say that some of the supporting characters from the first film like Wade and Rachel make an appearance here, and they feel wasted by the end. They don’t do much to make their appearances feel worthwhile.
Also, can we talk about something? I want to remind you of the fact that Sonic, a hedgehog, not a human, but a HEDGEHOG. I know it speaks English, but still. This HEDGEHOG has technically been adopted as the Wachowski family’s son? I mean, literally, the movie makes references to Sonic calling Tom “dad.” It’s really weird! Look, I know they developed a relationship, but… That’s kinda freaky. I KNOW it’s a movie… But it is somewhat unsettling! It’s an odd taste in the mouth!
In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” was fun when I saw it, and the positives do outweigh the negatives, but the more I think about the film, the less I like it. The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” felt like that next step for video game movies, maybe we’ll be getting some great ones soon. Unfortunately, this sequel cannot acquire the same luster as that first one. The voice-work is great, the effects are top-notch, and the sound is unbelievable. But if I learned something about video games it is that not everyone cares about the story, they care more about how the game looks, how it plays. The movie looks incredible, and had they gone with that original Sonic introduced in spring 2019, I do not think that would have been the case. But the story in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” feels like it is not as important as it was in its predecessor, and that is despite having a great lesson intertwined. I feel like children can learn something from this movie. But as an adult, I don’t know when I will be watching this movie again. I’ll probably go back to the original at some point, but this will probably have to wait. I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” a 6/10.
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new DreamWorks Animation flick, “The Bad Guys!” Also coming soon, stay tuned for my review of “The Northman!” In addition, I am seeing “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” next week, so I will have a review coming for that movie too! Stay tuned! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!