Well, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is out. And it’s not bad. Heck, I’ll even call it good! The film is lighthearted and fast-paced, and it has some decent laughs. But to be honest, the homages to Sega’s and Sonic’s past were my favorite parts.
Which is kind of embarrassing, right? Like, yay, references! These days, it’s common to roll our eyes at overzealous fans and obvious appeals to excite them. That’s because we live in an extremely online world, where passion quickly turns into uglier things like anger and harassment.
But dang it, I just love Sonic. When I was a kid, this character meant a lot to me. I grew up playing his games, watching his cartoons, eating Sonic the Hedgehog-themed SpaghettiOs, and sleeping every night with my Sonic doll.
I don’t want to spoil the Easter eggs and references, but the movie has plenty of them. A lot of them are surprising. They all made me smile. The best ones had me pointing and squealing in astonishment with my friends.
It’s nice to see the film acknowledge the character’s gaming past, especially when the first trailer made it look like the movie was doing everything it could to distance itself from 16-bit glory days. Yes, the character redesign did a lot to save this movie. This version of Sonic is likable and emotive. The film has a simple story, so it doesn’t work if we don’t care about Sonic. Investing in the character would have been hard if he still looked like a freakish monster.
But aside from his looks, the movie is smart to make Sonic a sweet and sympathetic little guy. When we think of Sonic, we think of “attitude.” Much of that was an extension of Sega of America’s overall marketing strategy back in the ’90s. You know, the same attitude that got us campaigns like “Sega does what Nintendon’t.” In the original games, Sonic’s “attitude” never went beyond him tapping his foot impatiently during an idle animation.
Somehow, that transformed into future interpretations of the character portraying Sonic as impatient, obnoxious, and selfish. But that’s not what Sonic’s like in the movie. He’s just a lonely kid who wants people to like him. I like this take on the character much better. And it’s not like he always walking around with puppy-dog eyes. He still calls the bad guys names and is a bit of a goofball. He’s just not “too cool for school.”
Could I recommend Sonic the Hedgehog? I can for fans of the character, especially if you grew up loving him during his Genesis days. It’s also a great movie for kids and families, as the movie has few scares or threats that could frighten little ones.
But if you’re not bringing a kid and have no attachment to the character, I’m not sure. When I say it’s a kids’ movie, that comes with some negatives, including tons of blatant product placement and an unwelcome fart joke.
Here’s the other question. Is this finally the video game-based movie that is going to change the industry? Again, I’m not sure. Sonic the Hedgehog is the best video game movie I’ve seen in a long time. But is it anything special? Yes, I like it, but I don’t think it’s good enough to be an industry-shaking event. We’ll have a better idea of what kind of impact it will have on both the gaming and movie industry when we see how much it makes in the box office. My gut tells me it will have a decent run, but nothing so remarkable that we should expect to see an Ecoo the Dolphin movie get greenlit.
In the meantime, I’m just going to sit here shocked that I don’t hate this movie. I’m still a little embarrassed that simple fan service has such a big effect on me. Maybe I shouldn’t be. I love Sonic, and there’s nothing wrong about having fun seeing a film cater to that love.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.