Opinion Piece: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Movie)

Hey there, everyone! Long time no see! Way…too long, actually… Heh heh… When was my last post again? September? Yikes. Well, no need to worry, I’m not dead, and neither is the Chaos Project. I’ve just been taking it slow with the writing for life reasons. And video game reasons. Which are basically my life, so…

Anyways, who doesn’t love sequels!? Today, we’re looking at the follow-up to my previous analysis of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, published back in May. Oh, geez, have I still not published that Sonic ’06 review I talked about at the beginning? I don’t have time for that anymore!! *ahem* Anyways, after waiting many long months to see the much-anticipated character redesign that they delayed the movie half a year to do, an official trailer showcasing the new design has finally been released!

And there he is! What a difference it is! This new Sonic is—wait a minute…what do you mean, ‘I said that I liked the old design’? Preposterous! Who would say a blasphemous thing like that!? Oh, wait, I did say that, didn’t I?

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…Let’s talk design. To put it briefly…I’m very okay with this. To be fair, I did choose what is perhaps the most flattering shot in the entire trailer to put above. But I think that shot looks pretty darn good, actually. Sure, this new design doesn’t look flattering from every angle. And sure, I dislike that his stomach is a different color than his muzzle. And sure, I’d rather him have gloves to cover up those freaky hedgehog fingers. And sure, I don’t get why he isn’t wearing socks. But other than that…I don’t see much problem with this design. It looks like Sonic in live action.

Main point, the redesign is certainly shocking at first glance, but there’s nothing about it that makes it “not Sonic”.

No, I wasn’t exactly gushing over it. But given the public outrage I was seeing, I felt the need to express my “okay, whatever” opinion about it. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I would have been fine with it. But with that out of the way…oh, what a difference it is! Basically, what I had in mind with the old design was “choose either tan or white for his non-blue fur (not both), expand the shape of his chin and the whites of his eyes, slap on some gloves (and socks, still don’t understand why those were missing in the first place), and you’re golden.” They did all that and more. And that makes me think…maybe…too much more. I just can’t let up with these controversial opinions, can I?

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Hard to complain about the face. A “handsome package” it certainly is.

The trailer begins with Sonic in Green Hill Zone (a gorgeous representation of it, I might add). Instant respect right there. I will take any and all references to the Sonic canon I can possibly get, anything to make this movie less generic. But, yeah, yeah, I know, Sonic himself is the only topic of interest on the Internet right now. So what do I mean when I say ‘too much’? Well, one major difference between the two images shown thus far is that Sonic’s spines splayed out a bit more drastically in the original design. Though it’s hard to tell here, the spines themselves were also shortened for the new design. Both were done, I assume, to make the character look more “cartoonish,” which is exactly what people were asking for. But I would’ve been happier with them left exactly as they were. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in comparisons of Sonic’s Modern and Classic designs, but having longer spines allows for more interactions with wind and body movement, which conveys a better sense of speed and a more “cinematic” feel. Given that this is a movie, I’m pretty sure that “cinematic” is a good thing. I also have a bit of a problem with the new mouth. I’ve always felt that Sonic in 3D with his mouth modeled at the center of his face makes it look like he has this weird overbite going on. The old design had a center-mouth as well, but, being linked to a more humanoid jawline with actual lips mitigated that particular issue. I’ll still take what we have over what we might have gotten, but that doesn’t mean what we have is perfect. I’ll also note that Sonic’s serious-face doesn’t look nearly as serious anymore, but given that he’s not being portrayed as a very serious character, I can certainly live with that. I’ll also add that having the fur on his face more messy and unkempt as it was in the original design was one of the best parts of that design compared with the new one. Having it so smooth and shiny as it is in the new design makes it a lot less believable as a creature that could exist in our world, especially when viewed from far away or in less focus, making it look almost too much like the smooth clay-like texture seen on in-game models.

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So am I psychic or what?

So with that out of the way, we can finally talk about other parts of the trailer. And so…uh…here’s what I said about the last trailer.

Apparently, Sonic now generates electricity when he runs, which sticks to his quills even after they fall off. This is a fact that is constantly brought up throughout the trailer…If you’ve ever had experience with “The Flash,” a DC Comics character, you may recall that this speedster does the same thing…

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And look at this! We have another example of Sonic pretending to be The Flash as he goes into “Flashtime,” slowing the world around him to a pace that even “the speed of sound” wouldn’t be nearly enough to justify.

Glad to see that connection wasn’t an accident. But regardless, this scene’s showcasing of Sonic as a child roughing it on his own in some hole or basement or wherever he lives did a much better job showing him as a relatable character than the first trailer managed to do. Seeing him speeding through the comics of someone who interests and most likely inspires him, seeing him play games with himself and seek other means of amusement, all of it well demonstrated not just a concealed sense of loneliness, but also his happy-go-lucky resistance to such dark feelings. It made him feel like a relatable person, far better that the previous trailer’s brief glimpses of a pile of shoes and an old tape player did. (Not claiming that the movie has been changed in any significant way, I’m working under the assumption that it hasn’t, just trying to say that this trailer was better put-together than the last one.)  Honestly though, the baseball scene that came next was probably a bit too much, the glimpses of him in his home did the same job in less time (and with fewer fart jokes, which is always a plus). Though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I approve of references. And the use of the Green Hill Zone theme (which is rather difficult to secure the rights to, from what I understand), was, of course appreciated, even if it is rather odd that it wasn’t used when we were actually looking at Green Hill Zone earlier.

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Ahhhh!

I know I said I was done with the design stuff, but I will note that I find the gaping size of his mouth in this scene to be downright creepy. To have his teeth that far apart, he would most certainly have to dislocate his jaw. Honestly, I never understood the whole “teeth” problem people were having with the old design, but I don’t find this to be any better. But anyways, there’s that Warp Ring again, which continues to show up in several other places throughout the trailer. I hold to what I said about the last trailer, that I’m very interested to see how they go about acknowledging this piece of lore which has never before been acknowledged in the canon. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Still, it’ll be interesting. What else is of interest here is that, despite appearing to be the same  Sonic screaming scene seen in the previous trailer, the context seems to be a bit different, as Sonic was holding neither the ring nor the sack(?) he seems to have now, in the previous trailer. This is the one indication I’ve seen that would suggest that modifications may have been made to the movie beyond the aesthetic since last time. (Also, the close face shots seen above may be the same scene, despite one being on a random desert highway and the other being in Green Hill Zone. I would wager that was not a change made due to the movie’s delay, rather, they showed us an intentionally false setting the first time because they wanted to leave Green Hill as a surprise reveal for later.)

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Apparently, Sonic is now an alien fugitive.

So the whole “I’m not from your planet” thing was brought up in the last trailer, but they definitely drove the point in this time. Sonic frequently refers to the fact that he is from a planet which is not Earth (even though they very specifically call the planet Earth in the Adventure era fhnwrpslsjkjdrkgksnekngsingl*mashing head on keyboard angrily*). The use of the words “planet” and “Earth” confirms that Sonic does not come from some alternate Earth, and strongly suggests that the distance between the worlds is spacial, not dimensional. Which would mean that Sonic is literally a space alien. I mean, I suppose it’s certainly one way to interpret the whole hotly-debated “two worlds” issue of Sonic lore. It’s not like space travel is taken as a very significant event in the Sonic games, so I suppose I would probably like that explanation better than the more commonly accepted separate universes, or worse yet separate canons. But can we talk for a second about Sonic’s motivations for coming to Earth? He claims that people on his planet are after his powers. What people!? Who in a universe even remotely resembling the games (Eggman excluded) would be after Sonic’s powers!? Could it be that we’re actually dealing with potential antagonists who have absolutely nothing to do with Eggman? I do sincerely hope that this is a question that will actually be answered in the movie. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Regardless, I think I smell a potential plot for a Chaos Project crossover episode… (or maybe that’s just the smell of body spray and an old ham sandwich).

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Never thought I’d see Robotnik do the Robot.

I’ll say this again as well. I see a lot more Jim Carrey here than I see Eggman. Or should I be saying Robotnik? I was somewhat surprised to hear the Robotnik nomer used, seeing as they seem to have been doing away with it ever since its one offhanded mention in Generations. But, as I said before, the evolution of an eccentric Doctor into the mad genius Eggman is the plotline I most look forward to seeing out of this movie. So anyways, they can shape “Robotnik” however they want, as long as I’m able to recognize him as Eggman come the movie’s end. And I won’t lie, I’ve found just about every shot he’s in to be hilarious thus far. Especially when he got punched in the face. You just don’t get that kind of satisfying slapstick violence in the games. On another note, I am getting more and more curious about Robotnik’s assistant. Is he supposed to be a reference to something? He seems…almost too perfect. You know what? Calling it right now, he’s the true villain of the movie. I got the Flash thing right, so let’s see if my future-telling powers hold out.

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Seriously though, why wasn’t this a reference to the first boss of Sonic 2?

One interesting change of note seen throughout the trailer is that they seem to have drastically reduced the intensity of the lightning effect used to represent Sonic’s powers. His discarded quills now seem to only glow, rather than having electricity constantly running through them, and the picture shown above has all of the electricity used to knock it over completely dissipated, where it was still going strong at the same point in the first trailer. Not sure that it necessarily means anything in particular, but it’s a change I’m happy they made. I necessarily mind used as a representation of his power, but dialing it back as they did better shows that it’s just a representation, rather than having his powers actually revolving around lightning as the old effects seemed to suggest.

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Glad to see that some things will actually be taken seriously.

There’s not a whole lot else to talk about from this trailer. It was certainly dedicated much more Sonic’s character than it was to the plot, and rightfully so, seeing as the character is what we all tuned in to this trailer to see. I’ll still reserve judgement on whether or not like this interpretation of the character until I see the full range of his personality, but I’m not gonna lie, his excitable personally, expressive animation, and good-looking new design made me really start to think of him as adorable, which never would’ve flown with the old design…or…any interpretation of Sonic, for that matter. Sonic has never been “cute” to me, but this movie seems to be pulling it off well. That is, of course, until things get serious, which I see as a necessity. Sonic is at his best when he knowingly risks everything to perform a heroic deed, not because it’s heroic, but because it’s right. I saw a lot of people shouting “Super Sonic!” at the picture shown above, and…I seriously doubt it. More likely just him discovering the true extent of inner power or whatever. I don’t see Super Sonic fitting into this movie at all, in all honesty. Even though he’s a blue hedgehog who runs faster than the speed of sound, they wouldn’t want to break their precious live-action realism by bringing magic fur-color-changing invincibility-granting rocks into the fray. I’d love to see it—anything that makes this movie more uniquely Sonic and less generic Hollywood is a good thing in my eyes. But it’s not happening.

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My boi’s back in the best pose!

So what’s the final verdict? If the old design was a 4 out of 10, this one’s a 9. Not perfect, but pretty darned close. And as to the movie itself, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I expect it to be mediocre at best. But a mediocre movie staring a lovable character can still be pretty good in its own right, so in that sense, I’m more excited to see the movie than ever before. So…

-I have no idea how it isn’t dead, but that’s a cause for celebration!
(And somebody give Robotnik a big fat break. He’s too skinny.)

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