There is a scene in "Sonic the Hedgehog", in which the blue hero runs to the Pacific Ocean and returns in an instant, bringing pollutants and a fallen fish with him. The fish is left on the beach by Sonic, probably to die, although the hyper-fast creature has the ability to return it to the water in the blink of an eye.
The moment makes it clear that "Sonic the Hedgehog" the film is not particularly interested in the themes of "Sonic the Hedgehog" in the game.
Adapting “Sonic the Hedgehog”, of course, was no easy task. The character, like Mario from Nintendo or Mickey Mouse from Disney, exists today mainly as a malleable brand icon, a blue-skinned creature that serves the necessary product. Furthermore, even the main "Sonic" games lacked linear narratives in the traditional sense, thriving mainly as colorful views and environments for exploration and challenges.
And yet, there was a clear hunger for the movie "Sonic the Hedgehog" – it ended the holiday weekend with a box office total of about $ 70 million. While there is a trail of video game adaptations that failed to track "Sonic", despite last year's "Pokémon Detective Pikachu", "Sonic" has so far proved to be the rare exception when it comes to combining games with cinema; here's a character we apparently want to watch and interact with.
But the success of the film "Sonic the Hedgehog" with the audience – the critical consensus is lukewarm at best – came at a cost: The film revolves around some of the fundamental principles of the "Sonic" brand, at least as they were originally envisioned. . The film "Sonic", directed by Jeff Fowler, has more in common with familiar cinema narratives – those in which a friendly creature from another world is misunderstood and hunted – than the 2D platform games that made the character famous today in day. as one of the first major video games to emphasize a pro-environment narrative.
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in "Sonic the Hedgehog".
(Paramount Pictures / Sega of America)
Sonic is basically fighting deforestation.
If there is a mistake made by the film "Sonic the Hedgehog", it is this: the original games are smarter than the film seems to think they are.
In the film, Sonic is portrayed as an alien (voiced by Ben Schwartz) who befriends a small-town cop (James Marsden) and must escape the mad genius Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, who turns on mustaches. Only in the opening scene of the film do we see the world in which Sonic was born, a bright and inviting universe that boasts an abundance of wildlife and vegetation. Occasionally, we glimpse a humid and beige mushroom kingdom – a not-so-subtle spectacle in the main world, at the heart of Nintendo's "Super Mario Bros". franchise – but most of the film replaces the “Sonic” forestry in the small town of Americana.
Sonic's house here is a cave that looks like the dream of any kid's club, full of comic books and equipped with a beanbag chair. While Sonic is in possession of a superhero speed that is essentially capable of stopping time, the frantic action of the games is replaced by the speed limits of American highways, while a significant piece of "Sonic the Hedgehog" settles into a travel film. Fortunately, those were the days when video game cinema meant nonstop cuts and obscene angles. The charms present in Fowler's film focus on meeting Sonic.
But this is a Sonic different from what was introduced in a 1991 video game for Sega's Genesis console.
Hollywood Sonic is adrift and lonely, its power fueled by bonds of friendship. The game's Sonic is on a mission to reclaim the world of Dr. Robotnik, who is stripping the earth of its resources and causing the extinction of animals through the replacement of life, involving it in machines. It may not have been video game activism, but at a time when parents feared their children would become zombies sitting in front of a video game box, "Sonic the Hedgehog" portrayed the outside world as a wonder and increasingly unrecognizable. urban and suburban development.
There may be more complications in the “Sonic” folklore that have been explored over the decades in various forms of media, but none are really present when revisiting the game that started it all. Sonic runs, rolls and jumps, freeing animals along the way and freeing his home world from an overabundance of human-made items. While some of these themes may be in the head of a younger self, it is a clear environmental statement, a celebration of nature and the animal kingdom. Sonic, with each jump on an animal that became a robot and attack the evil scientist antagonist, is essentially fighting deforestation.
The original game "Sonic the Hedgehog" placed players at their initial levels in a colorful forest.
Every time Sonic encounters a crude and intrusive metal contraption and destroys it, an adorable rabbit or other forest animal is released. Dr. Robotnik's ugly vehicles even seem to be powered by cute animals, a clear indication that the search for the antagonist's power comes at the expense of life, nature and the environment. Power-ups are hidden inside TV monitors, which Sonic happily destroys, and the game's waterways are filled with obscene machines. Sonic in the movie is upset, no one is going to play baseball with him; Sonic is in the game to restore a planet's natural harmony.
The first Genesis games were adept at pursuing more ambitious ideas than they expected. "Ecco the Dolphin", for example, championed marine life and ocean preservation, and "ToeJam & Earl" brought hip-hop and cultural diversity to the home video game space. Although the narratives as a whole, including the environmental themes of "Sonic the Hedgehog", are relatively abstract and there are more for those willing to work to discover them, they show that the so-called toys have long been texts.
Yuji Naka, one of the main architects of "Sonic the Hedgehog" in a 2010 interview describes the title as having "one of the first ecological messages in a video game". It is more hidden than brusque, and, like the best of interactive media, its themes are visible when you take the time to explore the environment, to realize that a robotic crab is wandering where the chicks were already nested and almost everything that is on Sonic's path is. made by man.
Jim Carrey as the villain of "Sonic the Hedgehog", seen here in a mushroom kingdom.
(Paramount Pictures / Sega of America.)
As Naka said: “Dr. Robotnik is a slightly radical representation of all of humanity and the impact that humanity is having on nature. In 1991, it was a very sensitive subject to talk about the environment and, although I had my point of view, I didn't talk about it. With & # 39; Sonic & # 39 ;, I had the opportunity to express my views in a different way and I did it, showing Robotnik using pollution and creating machines that desecrate the environment, and it is up to Sonic to change his ways. "
Unfortunately, the film lacks those ambitions. Her only pro-nature stance comes from the fact that Maddie, a Tika Sumpter character, works as a veterinarian. It is a human world, and animals simply exist in it, albeit with our help.
In crafting a Sonic vs. Robotnik story, the film's underlying messages move away from anything that might be considered topical and, in turn, perhaps from anything that might be considered controversial. Of course, there is value in the film's disinterested friendship topics, but if "Sonic the Hedgehog" the game was a love letter to nature, "Sonic the Hedgehog" the film is safe.
Sonic, of course, is still incredibly fast and looks really cool for school. But the moment Sonic drops a fish to death, what the film took further was the game's original message.
More video game coverage and engaging entertainment from critic Todd Martens