Sonic 2 review: a speedrun through the franchise’s awkward phase
Wanting merely by no means even attempting to make sequels, studios don’t have any assured approach of preserving their cinematic franchises from sinking into sophomore slumps like director Jeff Fowler’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Taking bold probabilities on recent concepts the way in which Sonic 2 does is a vital a part of how these sorts of ongoing narratives are capable of evolve, although. And whereas the brand new film is way from good, its flaws all play just like the rising pains of a venture that’s effectively on its method to changing into genuinely attention-grabbing.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 presumes that you simply keep in mind many of the beats of its 2020 predecessor. However the film roughly works as a standalone because it reintroduces a now-bald and markedly extra chaotic Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who’s grow to be obsessive about destroying Sonic (Ben Schwartz) after their final battle. Not like Sonic — an alien who ended up discovering his chosen household in Inexperienced Hills sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his veterinarian spouse Maddie (Tika Sumpter) — Robotnik was ripped away from his solely actual pal, Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub). He was then marooned on a distant planet inhabited by nothing but mushrooms. Although Robotnik tells himself that his need for revenge is what pushes him to outlive and hold constructing issues in his solitary kingdom of mushrooms, Sonic 2 makes clear that his loneliness can be a key issue — not simply on this state of affairs but additionally as a part of who the mad scientist is.
Sonic 2 does make a go at peppering its plot and characterizations with a bit extra substance than the primary movie. As a result of it’s squarely aimed toward a a lot youthful viewers than the diehard grownup Sonic followers who’re additionally going to see it, its consideration to tremendous particulars is shortly put apart to make room for an extra of referential humor. It’s legitimately astounding simply what number of nods to different films and real-world occasions Sonic 2 manages to make. Because it does so, it additionally firmly establishes Carrey’s unhinged Robotnik extra as comedic reduction than a correct villain. Carrey’s nonetheless exceedingly succesful at vacillating between the shades of Pee-wee Herman and Watchmen’s Ozymandias that Sonic 2 paints Robotnik with. However as a result of Sonic 2 fires off its jokes at such a frantic clip, it doesn’t actually depart you a lot time to understand the trouble it places into infusing Robotnik and different characters with the essence of their online game counterparts.
That is much less true of newcomer Knuckles (Idris Elba), a single-minded warrior and final of the echidna tribe, who as soon as warred with a rival tribe of anthropomorphic owls for management of the legendary Grasp Emerald. Although Knuckles and Robotnik are each framed as considerably comedic villains early on, Sonic 2’s strategy to the echidna finally ends up working much better, primarily as a result of he’s solely acquired one bit. Knuckles isn’t dumb, per se, however Elba performs the character very very like Guardians of the Galaxy’s Drax the Destroyer: he’s huge (for an echidna), he’s robust, and he has little understanding of human jokes or the idea of sarcasm. What Knuckles does perceive, nevertheless, is that Robotnik can lead him to Sonic and that each of the begloved aliens have an essential connection to the Grasp Emerald.
Sonic 2 begins to lose a few of its steam the second it shifts its focus to its central hero again on Earth: Sonic has taken to a lifetime of well-meaning however finally harmful vigilantism vaguely impressed by all the superhero comics and flicks Tom retains him stocked with. Having embraced his superspeed powers within the earlier movie, Sonic 2 finds Sonic wanting to place them to good use, which Tom understands — however solely up to some extent. As a result of Tom sees himself as Sonic’s adoptive father determine, although, he can’t assist however be involved for the hedgehog’s security, in no small half as a result of the federal government remains to be actively seeking to seize him. Whereas Sonic 2, fortunately, strikes previous its “Blue Justice” Batman jokes slightly shortly, it does get considerably caught going by the motions. (Very like many films about younger vigilantes butting heads with their older mentors who need nothing greater than to maintain their younger prices protected.) However a lot in the identical approach that the film type of rushes off after briefly pertaining to Robotnik’s loneliness, it places a pin in Sonic and Tom’s father / son dynamic nearly instantly after bringing it up with the intention to hold issues gentle and roll into its subsequent batch of jokes.
Much like Godzilla films, Sonic’s cinematic adventures nearly all the time really feel hamstrung by the presence of his human pals who, because of their lack of powers, seldom have all that a lot to do when issues begin going sideways. This, one imagines, is why Sonic neatly chooses to separate Sonic and his household up for many of the movie; Maddie and Tom enterprise off to Hawaii for a marriage, releasing Sonic to reside out his Ferris Bueller fantasies and make first contact with Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey).
On the massive display screen, what’s notable about Marsden’s return as Tom and O’Shaughnessey’s debut as Tails is how each performances communicate to Paramount’s rising sense of what its cinematic Sonic franchise ought to be. Tails, a soft-spoken inventor who can fly, doesn’t have all that a lot of a character exterior of his obsession with Sonic. However the film is clearly serious about solidifying the idea of them working as pals and companions because the franchise strikes ahead — maybe pointing to Tom enjoying a smaller function in Sonic’s future adventures. Sonic 2 doesn’t sideline Tom as a lot because it reminds you that the film’s not about him. (The movie doubles down on the concept Tom and Maddie see themselves as Sonic’s dad and mom who want to offer him house.)
That house is what frees Sonic and Tails to embark on an journey that takes them internationally and feels vaguely impressed by Sonic Journey. Curiously, Sonic 2 all the time appears as if it’s holding again from getting too deep into the bits and items of deeper Sonic lore it touches upon right here and there — regardless of these moments all the time feeling like when the film’s about to pop off. At occasions, this has the impact of constructing Sonic 2 play like a second outing Paramount’s not solely certain may be profitable, even regardless of the primary film having been a field workplace hit.
Sonic 2’s air of uncertainty about which components of Sonic it ought to lean into finally ends up working in opposition to the film because it progresses and tries to weave its disparate storylines collectively into a giant, bombastic last act. Knuckles and Sonic’s flashiest battle sequence is legitimately cool to observe, as is the way in which Sonic 2 introduces much more of the basic Eggman facets of Robotnik’s villain. However each of these issues are launched so late that it’s laborious to not think about how the movie may need been higher served by working them in earlier and extra organically.
These avoidable drawbacks are what hold Sonic the Hedgehog 2 from sticking its touchdown if you have a look at it by itself. However they don’t really feel like such a foul omen if you keep in mind that Paramount’s already greenlit a third movie installment in addition to a Knuckles spinoff. Once more, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 isn’t an ideal film. However it’s one which’s clearly switching up the panorama of this world forward of it changing into much more fantastical and filled with speaking animals sporting footwear.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hits theaters on April 8.