In the world of video games, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is considered by many to be one of the best video games of the 90s. It served as an evolution of the original game and provided genuine refinement on established mechanics. There are still many Sonic fans that call it the best game in the series. In fact, there are many gamers who will call it one of the best games of all time. It has a serious legacy that even the franchise’s biggest detractors can’t really object to.
So seeing a movie called Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is actually a very loaded title. It implies a lot of hype and expectation for longtime fans of the series. So many elements were added in based on the trailers that it looked like it was going to lean hard into gamer nostalgia for all of the earlier entries of the franchise. To general audiences, the film comes across as just another sequel to a family-friendly adventure movie. It seems like Sonic the Hedgehog, but more. So which is it? Is it the video game adaptation that Sonic fans hoped and prayed it would be, or is it just the first movie, but more?
Of course it’s just the first movie but more. You really should have seen that coming.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Director: Jeff Fowler
Release Date: April 8, 2022 (Theatrical)
Set a little less than a year after the first film, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) has been living a good life with his adoptive family. During the day he hangs out with his friend and now father figure Tom (James Marsden) and at night he adventures out and tries to be a hero, usually causing more harm than good. When Tom and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) go on vacation, Dr. Eggman (Jim Carrey) suddenly appears back on Earth, assisted by one Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba). The two make short work of Sonic as Eggman reveals that he and Knuckles are searching for something called the Master Emerald, a sacred jewel that can grant ultimate power to its wielder. Sonic gives chase to the deadly duo, while also being assisted by Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a huge fan of Sonic who wants nothing more than to help his idol.
One of the strengths of the original film was that it leaned hard into exploring Sonic as a character. There were many references to the games, but the plot didn’t really feel “video-gamey” for lack of a better term. It was a road trip movie between two people that slowly got to know each other, with the film also not being afraid to explore Sonic’s insecurities and desires. Like I said before, it’s nothing revolutionary, but there’s a decent amount of depth and heart for a movie that’s about a super-fast rodent.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 shifts away from that emotional core and instead focuses on trying to one-up itself with more action and comedy. You’re not going to get anything quite as complex as the first movie here with most of the complexity being about Sonic defining the abstract concept of heroism and what it means to be a hero. It’s generic to be sure, something that the film struggles with quite a fair bit between its actions setpieces and comedy.
There are quite a few more action scenes here than in the first movie, with none of them being noteworthy in any meaningful way. It’s action for the sake of action. Unlike the first movie, the stuff here feels very video-gamey and only there because there needed to be something to fill a void. The fight scenes with Knuckles are the better of the bunch, if only because Knuckles is the best thing about the movie. Knuckles is a serious-minded warrior who is as dumb as a sack of bricks. Think more of a kid-friendly Drax the Destroyer from the Guardians of the Galaxy series but even stupider. Idris Elba is perfectly cast in the role and I’m excited to see what that upcoming Knuckles spin-off is like.
In fact, nearly all of the major characters here are great. Ben Schwartz continues to be great as Sonic and seeing Colleen O’Shaughnessey play Tails on the big screen is just perfect. She’s been voicing the character for years so she portrays Tails’ youthful enthusiasm better than any newcomer to the character would have. To be honest, I’m just happy seeing an animated character played by a voice actor and not some big-name actor that was cast purely for name recognition. Jim Carrey also continues to be enjoyable here, though there are moments I feel like he gets a bit too out of control. At times he comes across as a parody of himself, which is saying a lot given his over-the-top nature. It does mellow out as the movie goes on, but it can be a bit too much in the first half-hour.
But the movie is very oddly paced with nearly all of the other characters sidelined into worthless subplots. There’s a big subplot about Tom and Maddie going off to a wedding that does eventually tie in with the main plot, but it feels very contrived and nonsensical, and that’s coming from someone who just saw Sonic get into a dance battle with a Serbian muscle man to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” You get the impression that the film doesn’t really know what to do with its human characters anymore since they don’t really have a purpose now Sonic’s gang of friends are making their way into the series. The film is about Sonic and Tails stopping Eggman and Knuckles, so the pre-established characters from the first movie feel like unnecessary baggage. I don’t know what’s going to happen to them for Sonic the Hedgehog 3, but it’s gotta be better than what’s on offer here.
There are plenty of moments in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that feel very “been there, done that.” We’ve seen these moments plenty of times before, but they’re executed well. Kids in my theater were excited to see Sonic beat up some robots and Eggman make some over-the-top reaction. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it’s just a movie that most adults have seen before. However, I will say that even the adults in my theater were excited about the post-credits scene. I know I was and it made me instantly eager to watch whatever comes next.
When talking about franchises, it’s easy to just say that if you liked the first movie you’ll like this one, but that’s honestly the case here. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is just more Sonic the Hedgehog. It loses its way a bit more than the original, but it still delivers a fun time for all audiences. You can make arguments for either the original or this movie being better and I can find both of them valid. Personally, I think the focus of the first movie is a bit better than the spectacle of the sequel. Now all that needs to happen is the best of both movies need to come together to make Sonic the Hedgehog 3 the best movie it can possibly be.