The Media Man Reviews: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
Now I've gone through the first movie, here we are with the long awaited sequel.
After the movie was a surprise hit (mostly helped by COVID buggering all the other movies coming out) both critically and financially, Paramount wasted no time in getting a sequel off the ground. The hype was real for this movie with it not only being a sequel to the first movie, but also a movie featuring the big-screen debuts of massive fan-favourite characters such as Tails and Knuckles too.
As someone who was sceptical about seeing the first movie, I had a VERY different reaction to this one. The first movie looked like a train-wreck waiting to happen while this movie actually looked like it was going to be awesome and, most importantly, looked more like a Sonic movie thanks to the appearances of Tails and Knuckles and Jim Carrey bearing more of a resemblance to Robotnik as a result of last time. How weird is it that the first trailers for each movie gave us such wildly differing reactions? XD
So do Sonic and Tails team up to make for an awesome movie? Or will Knuckles smash it all to bits and give us nothing but ruins? Let's hop aboard the Tornado and fly into Sonic the Hedgehog 2...
Section 1: The Story
As detailed in my review of the first movie, by biggest issue is that it didn't feel like a SONIC movie, just a movie featuring him. That criticism doesn't apply here for they DEFINITELY fixed that problem!
The story sees Sonic the Hedgehog enjoying life on Earth but also getting a little reckless and carried away with his powers in trying to be a hero. Soon his powers end up being put to the test when he teams up with a tech-wiz fox cub named Tails in order to find the mysterious Master Emerald before Dr. Robotnik and his new pal, Knuckles the Echidna, do.
The story of this movie is a HUGE improvement over last time. The first movie felt like a checklist of kid's movie clichés whereas this movie feels more like a standard superhero flick with way more Sonic elements from the games incorporated here to actually make it feel like we're watching an actual Sonic movie. They keep the fun tone and the heart of the first movie, which was a smart move on the writer's parts as those aspects were the best parts of the first movie, and combine it all with more Sonic-style action to give us a picture truly worthy of the blue blur's name. Tails and Knuckles are not only worthy additions to the movie, but we also surprisingly get a lot more world-building that ties this movie to the previous one very well. We get to see that the opening prologue of the first movie was more important than we could've expected with the echidnas and owls turning out to have been warring tribes fighting over the Master Emerald and Longclaw was part of that history and even the map she gave Sonic in the previous film ends up being an important plot point for this one. This is the kind of thing a sequel story should always do: build up on what was established previously and add more to the world and characters we met last time and they really did just that with this one.
Another thing this movie managed to fix was the pacing...well for the most part that is. I complained last time that the opening felt super-rushed and didn't give us time to take a lot in as if the movie was in a hurry to get along with itself. Here we don't have any rushed scenes and the movie makes good use of the time it has in developing the friendship between Sonic and Tails and setting up the conflict that our heroes have to face. Sonic and Tails's friendship especially is well-handled and very sweet to watch. I know my heart melted at that scene where Tails falls asleep in front of the fire and Sonic puts a blanket around him while Tails uses his tails to give him a blanket of his own. As a Sonic fan myself, I wanted to see this kind of bond growing between the two and they delivered that in spades. I even thought it was lovely when Sonic extended that friendship to Knuckles despite everything the echidna warrior put him through and Knuckles ends up reciprocating in the end, which gives off the always lovely message to teach that is "an act of kindness will be rewarded back". As I said earlier, this movie kept the heart of the original movie and made it just as good here as they did before, if not more so.
Another thing the movie delivered on that they did great last time was the action. This is a very action-packed movie and it's really friggin' awesome to watch! Thanks to the inclusion of Tails and Knuckles, we get to have much larger and crazier action sequences than last time and they get explosive, quite literally at times! The highlights for me included the snowboard chase down the mountain, Sonic vs. Knuckles in the Emerald Temple and the huge climax between Team Sonic and Dr. Robotnik with his giant robot. That climax especially feels like something that came straight out of the games and it was so epic to watch! As well the action, the movie also keeps the comedy of the first movie and like everything else in this movie, the sequel improved on that aspect too. Not only is this a much funnier movie to me, but we have less of a forced attempt to be modern (minus the inclusion of Bruno Mars's Uptown Funk in one scene) and no dumb references to Sonic memes. For me, I felt Sonic and Tails's dance fight in Siberia was the funniest moment of the movie, mostly due to just how you sit there proclaiming "This is a thing that is actually happening here!" XD While not every joke lands, the humour is a solid hit for the most part and with a variety of different styles of humour on display. I know Knuckles's Comically Serious personality especially made me chuckle a lot. No wonder Maddie says that he "cracks her up" in the end because he certainly cracked me up too. XD
Also, like the first movie, I feel this movie does a good job on being accessible to both fans and non-fans of Sonic the Hedgehog. Anything from the games is given sufficient exposition so people know who Tails and Knuckles are and what the Master Emerald is but the story isn't too bogged-down to the point it feels like it's pandering too much to the fans and leaving the non-fans with nothing to grasp on to. I feel a non-fan could watch this movie as easily as a fan could and not get lost at all, which makes this movie work as an adaptation of the games as a result. Any good adaptation is accessible to fans and non-fans and this movie definitely excels at that.
So this movie sounds like a home run. What could possibly be wrong with it? Well...not much, but there are a few things that irked me about the film. First of all, is it just me or is Sonic's character arc a literal copy-paste from last time? Like in the first film, Sonic's a loner with great power who needs a friend to reign him in and teach him responsibilities in regards to his power. Here, it's the exact same thing except Tom wants Sonic to make friends with others his own kind and they amp up the lesson in responsibility! I'm not saying it's bad that they gave Sonic some character and an actual arc to go under, just that they really could've given him more than just pretty much repeating the same arc he already went under last time. The only thing that's changed is that Sonic has to learn to be more responsible than make a friend this time round.
Also, like the first movie, the story can be a little predictable at times. We go from a road-trip movie to a fetch quest movie and it pretty much goes beat-by-beat for what we get in fetch-quest movies complete with the villain obtaining the MacGuffin in the end and getting drunk on power so our heroes have to stop him. It's a well-executed story, don't get me wrong, but don't expect too many surprises in this film is all I'm saying. Hell, it annoyed me to no end that the trailers kept hyping Knuckles up as the new villain of this movie when anyone with the most basic knowledge of Sonic the Hedgehog already knows he's going to turn good in the end so why even make it seem like he's evil here? I get they're adapting elements from Sonic 3 and Knuckles but still, we all saw Knuckles's heel turn coming a mile away so it wasn't even a twist when it happened.
But by far the worst part of the movie for me was that dumb twist with Rachel's wedding. Without spoiling the movie, it comes out of nowhere, has practically zero impact on the plot, introduces an aspect of the Sonic games in a really ridiculous way and goes on for way too long. Hell, the movie pretty much forgets that it even happened once it's over and moves on so quickly that Rachel and Randall literally vanish from the plot afterwards! Every minute spent on that stupid twist could've been spent on further developing the bond with Sonic and Tails or even giving us more of Sonic vs. Robotnik. Instead, it felt like the movie wanted to make up for last time by giving Rachel a time to shine when NOBODY wants to see that. Who the hell actually wanted to see Rachel of all characters get her moment in the spotlight? I guarantee that entire scene with her and Maddie kicking ass would've been WAY more awesome to watch if it was TAILS doing all that instead of them! It just felt like the movie got its priorities all wrong and should've been focusing on what we actually came to see! What's next, the third movie's going to stop the plot for ten minutes just so Jojo can have her time to shine too?
And finally, the movie once again has a problem with handling its cast like last time. It does it better here, that's for sure, but it still feels like the film could do with a few characters less than it has. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Robotnik are all pretty much fighting for space and leaving all the other characters, including Tom and Maddie, out on the washing line to dry while they try to make use of whatever screen time they have. Basically if you're not Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Robotnik, you either have very little or no purpose whatsoever. I even feel like the third movie may as well write out the rest of the cast at this point because what else can they do with more Sonic characters entering the fray now?
The sequel may have its road bumps, but it is still a huge improvement over the first movie and actually feels like a SONIC movie. THIS is the movie we expected to see with Sonic the Hedgehog and what we got was truly way past cool to watch...
Section 2: The Characters
As mentioned earlier, only four characters really matter to the story of this movie with everyone else being a glorified extra at best.
We have the titular hedgehog himself of course (played again by Ben Schwartz) and while Sonic continues to be awesome and funny while carrying much of the movie's heart, as I stated in the previous section, it really does feel like he's repeating his character arc from the last movie. Like last time, his story revolves around making friends and learning to be more responsible with his powers, only with more emphasis on the responsibility part. I do still love his bond with Tails that grows over the course of the movie and how he even extends that friendship to Knuckles in the end despite everything they went through. It's just weird that they pretty much had him going through the exact same development he went through last time, almost like he's running in circles. If they make him go through this same arc again in the third movie, I'm gonna roll my eyes so much they'll fall out of their sockets. I do like how Longclaw's presence still hangs over Sonic and his desire to do her proud is a noble motivation that makes him a sympathetic and likeable protagonist to root for in the movie.
And we have my favourite character in all of Sonic the Hedgehog himself, Tails (played by Coleen O'Shaughnessy). Oh my lord did they do my fox boy justice! Naturally as a huge Tails fan, I was excited as all hell to see him here and they didn't disappoint with him! Not only is Tails way more competent here than he has been in any Sonic game that's come out after Sonic 06, but he also contributes to the movie's heart with his bond with Sonic and it's really sweet to watch the two grow closer together over the course of the movie. His backstory especially is ripped straight out of the games and I love it! My only gripe with him is that the movie literally has to knock him out for a while just so Maddie and Rachel can have their time to shine, thus stealing what should've been an awesome action scene involving him from right under his nose. Like imagine how much cooler it would've been seeing Tails use all those gadgets to incapacitate the G.U.N. soldiers instead of Rachel and Maddie doing it? Still, at least he gets to be awesome in this movie and even contributes well to the climax by helping Knuckles get the drop on Robotnik.
Speaking of Knuckles (played by everyone's favourite British badass himself, IDRIS ELBA!!!), he's great in this movie too! Knuckles has been done very dirty in recent years no thanks to Sonic X painting him as this poor gullible idiot who's a bit of a Butt-Monkey to the other characters in Sonic media going forward. Here, he comes off as this unstoppable juggernaut where even if Sonic is able to land some hits on him, he just shrugs it off and keeps going! He's also surprisingly funny too with his Comically Serious personality and his warrior tribe upbringing. He also serves as a perfect foil to Sonic too by being a loner who lost everything he once had but while Sonic remains optimistic and upbeat, he only grew closed-off and angry and has only his mission driving him forward at this point in his life. Knuckles is by far the best character in this movie, bar none, and I imagine many of his fans will love him here.
And of course, we have Dr. Robotnik (played marvellously again by Jim Carrey) coming back to be a pain in Sonic's butt again. While Robotnik doesn't really get anything new added to him like Sonic does, he's still massively entertaining thanks to Jim Carrey doing what he does best and he also becomes a huge threat to our heroes during the climax when he obtains the Master Emerald's power for himself. Sometimes in a movie, all you need is a straight-forward villain with a straight-forward evil plan and Robotnik delivers on all fronts here while also remaining true to the character he is from the games (and even better resembles him too).
The rest, as I say, are pretty much just glorified extras with nothing that much going for them. Tom (played again by James Marsden) and Maddie (played by Tika Sumpter) Wachowski aren't as important as they were last time, Agent Stone and Wade Whipple are just comic reliefs that have only one joke going for them and they aren't all that funny, G.U.N. have no reason to exist in this movie whatsoever and Rachel, while less annoying than in the first movie, is still as superfluous as she was last time and she and Maddie literally steal a scene that should've been given to Tails just so they have something to do instead of jack all. We even have her fiancé Randall who's equally as superfluous to the story, so much so that the movie gives him and Rachel their happy moment and then forgets all about them for the rest of the movie. It really does prove my point why this should've been an animated movie set on Sonic's world with no humans because for anyone who's not from the games, they just don't seem to know what to do with them half the time.
While the human cast leave a lot to be desired, the Sonic cast (aka the characters we're ACTUALLY here to see!) are done spectacularly and are even superior to their video-game counterparts in some ways. I'm genuinely curious to see what Sonic characters we'll get in later sequels and how they'll be handled should they appear...
Section 3: The Cinematography
The best thing about the first movie was easily the cinematography. Jeff Fowler is clearly a very talented director that knows how to make great looking movies and his incredible work continues here in the sequel.
Once again, Jeff and his team make great use of location filming for the movie to give us some great set pieces for the action scenes and for Sonic and friends to interact with from the urban areas of Green Hills to the huge city of Seattle to the snowy mountains of Siberia and more. Seattle and Siberia are especially used for some awesome looking action in the movie like the car chase through Seattle as Sonic is fighting robbers and the snowboard chase through Siberia as Sonic goes up against Robotnik's machines and Knuckles while sliding down snowy mountains. The chase in Siberia especially reminded me of an awesome downhill chase in the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in it being a cool action scene involving sliding down a snowy mountain and like in that movie, it was really awesome here too. We don't get a lot of fantastical elements in comparison to last time with only really the mushroom planet and a brief flashback showing Tails's backstory and how he learned about Sonic but we do get a couple of fantastical locations on Earth like the huge owl temple housing the compass for the Master Emerald and even the temple that's hiding the Master Emerald. These locations not only further tie the Sonic world into our world but also feel like locations that could've come out of a video-game, which is appropriate considering this IS a video-game based movie.
As for the CGI, it's as fantastic here as it was in the first movie with the CGI model for Sonic looking slightly better than before (though I can't put my finger on why I think that) and the CGI model for Tails also had an improvement too with a better proportioned head, redesigned shoes and looking a little more yellow than last time. Tails and Knuckles especially look fantastic here thanks to sharing the design aesthetic of Sonic's redesign that allows them to look true to their video-game counterparts while also looking more realistic and convincing as a result. Just thank god Sonic got redesigned otherwise these two would've looked like crap in this movie! I love how Tails looks cute and cuddly with an appropriately furry appearance to fit with him being a fox and Knuckles has a similar texture to Sonic due to being an echidna, an animal that's quite similar to a hedgehog in many ways while also looking appropriately brawny with a more top-heavy appearance that makes him appear strong and powerful. I especially approve of how they managed to do that without making him look overly beefy like in Sonic Boom so there's no need for any jokes about him "skipping leg day" this time round. XD Like with Sonic in the first movie, Tails and Knuckles's CGI models are well-animated and integrated into the live-action scenery, are very expressive while getting to show a lot of character and both look really awesome whenever they're onscreen.
Also, we have Dr. Robotnik actually looking like his video-game counterpart this time around with Jim Carrey sporting a bald scalp and a large, bushier moustache that rings true to the classic Robotnik design and he's given a black and red coat to wear. The coat doesn't match how Robotnik's looks in the games but otherwise still makes him look more like Robotnik and Jim looks great wearing it in any scene he's in. And it's not only Robotnik that looks closer to his game-counterpart too, his machines get a slight upgrade that brings them closer to the games too. We have his egg-shaped robots from last time but we also get some new insectoid-like machines that may make some think of the Buzzbombers from the classic era and during the climax, Robotnik uses the Master Emerald's power to construct a colossal mech that looks like something straight out of the games complete with a head resembling his face and large bulky proportions that make it look like a giant weapon of mass destruction that could easily level cities. It was really awesome to watch this thing in action and the animators even have time to play around with the mech by having it mimic some of Jim Carrey's actions to add some comedy to the climax. That was really fun to watch, yet also intense as just because it's a giant mech that's clowning around, it's STILL a giant mech and really wreck things up if you're in its way!
Despite all this praise for the visuals I have, my criticism from the first movie still carries over to this one. Like before, this is a movie that would've benefitted more and would've looked even better if it was animated instead of live-action. The action scenes could've been even more insane and creative as a result of being animated and the Sonic elements would've looked more at home as a result. They look incredible as they do now, but these movies still would've been so much better if they were animated. It's just my opinion, I know, and you're free to disagree on that of course. I just feel there was no real reason for both this and the pervious film to be live-action when they would've been so much better animated.
Nevertheless, Jeff Fowler and his team have made lightning strike twice by giving us two great looking Sonic movies in a row and I'm definitely eager to see how awesome the third movie will look when they comes out. With great camera work, CGI effects and designs put onscreen in front of our very eyes, Sonic 2 is a treat for the eyes and a commendable piece of cinema that deserves to be rewarded...
If the first movie is to be considered an appetizer, than the sequel is easily the main course. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a worthy sequel to its predecessor that takes the strengths of the first movie while improving on its flaws in just about everyway to give us the kind of movie we expected to see from Sonic the Hedgehog. The story is entertaining and fun, the action is excellent, the Sonic characters are well-handled, the humour is funny, the acting and voice-acting is incredible and the cinematography is top-notch. It may have its flaws, but the movie was so much fun that it's easy to overlook them. If you're a Sonic fan, you'll have a great time with this movie. If you're a non-fan, I say check it out anyway as this movie will be a good jumping on point to get into the franchise. The first movie ran, and the sequel ran even further to give us one heck of a thrilling ride...
Join me next time media fans for it's time to duel as we countdown the Top 10 Best Yu-Gi-Oh duels. Stay cool my friends and I'll see you all next time!