Film Review – Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie
Sonic the Hedgehog. Any gamer older than 6 years old will know who Sonic the Hedgehog is, and if they don’t, then they’ve clearly been living under a rock, in a cave, on another planet far beyond our own solar system.
Sonic the Hedgehog made his gaming debut in the 1991 game of the same name for the Sega Mega Drive, putting SEGA’s name on the gaming map. The blue hedgehog became widely popular, having numerous animated TV shows, his own merchandise and two comic series; one in the UK, which has now ended, and an Archie comic adventure that has become one of the longest running comics based on a computer game and is still going today. It is strange then that there has only been one film starring the blue blur, an anime OVA show released in two parts in Japan in 1996, but released as a whole film elsewhere to coincide with the release of Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast in 1999, a film known simply as Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie.
The film takes place in an altogether, separate universe and has very little to do with the actual games. The setting is Planet Freedom, a planet which has outer, floating continents in the upper stratosphere connected to the planet’s surface via ice. The continents are known as the Land of the Sky and is where Sonic and his friends reside, while the surface of the planet is known as the Land of Darkness where Eggman resides in his own domain known as Robotropolis. Eggman is up to his usual tricks once again, claiming that a rogue robot has cast him out of his home and his robot generator is running out of control, to the point it could destroy the planet. Eggman takes the President and his daughter, Sara, hostage as a way to blackmail Sonic into helping him, but is there more to the story than Eggman claims? Sonic and Tails venture down to the Land of Darkness to destroy this rogue robot and stop the generator, an adventure that also brings the help of Knuckles the Echidna. There’s not much substance to the story, just a fun adventure that follows the trio as they attempt to save the day.
The anime is very typical and Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie boasts some eye-catching visuals, bright colours, and a funky, jazzy soundtrack, albeit with some peculiar lyrics for the main theme that was probably down to a translation error. The animation is mixed, sometimes looking fast-cut and choppy and other times boasting some very fluid and dramatic movements during more energetic scenes; you can tell the animation is heavily inspired by the animated sequences in Sonic CD. The battle sequences are handled with flair and it is during these moments where the animation really shines through.
The plot has some drama when Metal Sonic is introduced and from the beginning flows very well, taking many twists and turns and keeping you interested in what is happening from one situation to the next. Made with a Japanese audience in mind, Sonic’s first film also has some adult humour, courtesy of the main femme fatale, Sara. The English voice acting in the film, however, is atrocious and after a while it can become grating. The voice actors try to do their best, but later in the film for some strange reason Sonic suddenly adopts an English accent, despite his voice actor being American.
One of the biggest problems with the film is the characterisation, with most, if not all, of the characters, including the main trio, coming across as not particularly likeable, especially at the beginning of the film. Sonic was known for having an attitude in the 90’s, but was still willing to help anyone in need, but here he comes across as very reluctant and overly arrogant. Tails is also very obnoxious, and it is a wonder how in this universe they are even friends, even yelling at each other at times. Later in the film they gel together very well, including Knuckles, and they have good chemistry together, but at the start of the film the first impression of these characters is not very good. Knuckles is one of the more bearable characters, though it feels inconsistent when he refers to himself as Sonic’s best friend, as fans will have come to know them both as being friendly rivals and, of course, Tails being the best friend. Sara, a character who looks like a cat but is essentially a human, is equally annoying and would give feminists everywhere a headache; she can easily defend herself, so that is something, but as the brunt of a lot of the adult humour, she is seen manipulating the male characters, especially Knuckles, and comes across as spoilt, entitled, hot-headed and even getting herself kidnapped. It’s also uncomfortable watching Eggman, a grown man, trying to impress a teen, especially when he wants to marry her. At this point I am willing to forgive Elise. Mercifully Sara isn’t featured in too many scenes and the focus stays where it should, on the main trio and their adventurous antics as they try to foil Eggman’s plans.
All of the elements of the film combine to make Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie an enjoyable adventure, with a good mix of humour and light and darker moments. You can tell a lot of effort has been made to make this as entertaining as possible and even though you may guess which direction the plot is going in, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie is still fun to watch. The film definitely has an adventurous spirit to it and you do feel as though you are watching an arduous journey; at around 1 hour in length, it is a good film to watch if you are wanting to pass some spare time. Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie is definitely one for Sonic fans who enjoy the older art style and is a film that only Sonic fans will really appreciate.