Review: Sonic Movie Special

(This is the review for the tie-in special published on the same day the movie came out. For the review of the movie itself, please see the previous post.)

I actually won a pair of early screening tickets to see the Sonic movie in San Francisco two weeks before it came out. Unfortunately…San Francisco is a bit too far of a drive for me to make right now. So I had to pass up that opportunity. (Believe me, I was jealous of Sonic that entire movie for that exact reason.) But for one fleeting moment, I was indescribably excited, not just for the novelty of seeing a movie before anybody else can, but because I could’ve used that information to write an absolutely perfect tie-in episode with zero dodging of unknown plot points and zero contradictions. That’s always the hardest part about making these specials. The more closely I can tie the episode into its source, the more relevant and interesting the episode can be—but the less I know about the source, the less accurately I’m able to do that. In my original Sonic Forces special, I had to dodge the question of whether or not Sonic even knows who Infinite is, because we knew that little about the game’s plot. Technically speaking, that was much less of an issue here. With dozens upon dozens of trailers and preview clips available, and a much more straightforward, predictable plot to begin with, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I could’ve predicted the entire movie on a moment-to-moment basis with roughly 90% accuracy. But that last 10% was still bothering me immensely. If I just had that last 10%, I could’ve written a completely different episode, one that dives deep into the lore and events the movie may have glossed over, without any worry of contradiction. But unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the early screening, and so I had to play it safe.

Was that really Teen Sonic’s home Green Hill Zone that the episode took place in? Dodged that question, because I figured the odds were high that that place was somehow destroyed or taken over, that being the reason why Teen Sonic had to leave in the first place. Does Teen Sonic know what a Chaos Emerald is? Dodged that question, because I figured the odds were high that they would be teased in the movie in some way, which would most likely preclude Sonic from knowing about them beforehand. (Technically, I’m still in a bit of a pickle there, since we have no clue what any potential sequels might bring.) Did our Sonic even end up remembering the events of this episode? Dodged that question too, even though it seems pretty irrelevant to the movie, because if our Sonic remembers, then Teen Sonic would remember as well, and there was no telling how many countless tiny contradictions that might’ve caused. (In fact, there’s a chance it did—he never says it directly, but Teen Sonic certainly implies in the movie that he hasn’t had a friend since Longclaw—and I giving him a new best friend in our Sonic flies pretty harshly in the face of that.) Does Sonic know who wants his powers, or why? Dodged that. Do those individuals belong specifically to this world, or is he being chased across worlds? Dodged that. Who the heck is Longclaw? Dodged that, too. (Admittedly, I mistakenly had our Sonic call her a “guy,” but Sonic knew little enough at that point in time that it was probably justified.)

Despite my fear of getting contradicted, there were plenty of risks that I chose to gamble on. I chose to establish concrete proof that Sonic spent some amount of time, however little, as a world-traveller, visiting many different worlds before finally ending up on movie-Earth. The trailers gave us no such evidence, instead suggesting on quite the contrary that Sonic went straight from Green Hill to Earth, and stayed there. If it weren’t for Baby Sonic, I probably wouldn’t have taken that risk. But getting that major piece of evidence that Sonic left his world at a very young age leaves lots and lots of time for him to do things offscreen in between. For all we knew prior to that, there might not have been any time at all—we might have seen, moment-for-moment, Sonic, as a teenager, leaving Green Hill, getting to Earth, and either getting stuck there or choosing to stay there right up until the inciting incident of the movie’s main plot. But—lucky me!—Sonic not only was given plenty of time where he could have been off Earth, but it was downright shown that he had a map of worlds to travel to, with multiple of them crossed off, all but confirming that he has been to them. (Interestingly enough, one of those worlds was denoted by a stylized Sun—could that have been representing the Sol Dimension, or “Sun World” as he called it…just like he called the other one “Mushroom World”? Then again, Sun World wasn’t crossed out, which would be an odd error for him to make if he had already decided against staying there—but then, if he had only decided that because there was too much water, and not because someone saw him using his powers, that might mean he decided to potentially try it again later—and yes, Eggman Nega saw his powers, but as I mentioned earlier, he may not necessarily remember that part. What was I talking about again? Oh, right gambles.)

Another gamble I took involved how Sonic uses those Rings. For one thing, I just assumed that’s what his little brown sack was for—got that one right. But then, I also had him put duct tape in there, which…now that I know where the sack came from, might seem a little bit disrespectful. Oh well, he needed to tape up that shoe somehow—another accurate prediction on my part, as a majority of pre-release clips showed him with his “canon” shoes, even though he didn’t actually have them yet (lucky me). But yeah, Rings. I made a pretty big stretch of the imagination by suggesting that he has no problem at all with just using as many rings as it takes to help his friend out. In fact, you might even call that a contradiction—in the movie, there’s a “for emergencies only” sign taped to the sack, not to mention the fact that I presented him as having very few of them, despite having very many in the movie. But then, right there at the beginning of the movie, Sonic uses up a Ring just for the heck of it, because he feels like getting a look at the Mushroom World. But anyways, I think I covered my bases there. Even though there was absolutely zero mention in the trailers or the movie of where the Rings actually come from, I went ahead and presented a means of having Sonic able to collect more of them. So, after the episode, he would’ve had plenty of time to tour around, find as many as he needs, and head back to Earth with more than he even knows what to do with—so in that way, I even provided an explanation for why Sonic was able to waste one so nonchalantly at the beginning. Lucky me! I just have to hope that future sequels don’t imply that…I don’t know, Sonic produces them from his body or something crazy like that. As long as the possibility is left open that Rings can somehow be found somewhere in the nature of some world, I think I’ll be fine. I figured that applying the rules of Special Stage Rings to them wouldn’t be too much of  a risk, anyways.

I did gamble a little bit with how Sonic’s powers work—I clearly didn’t catch on to the fact that they are so directly linked to his emotions, but I wouldn’t call that outright contradiction. But here’s something that was absolutely not intended to be a gamble—at the end of the episode I had Sonic absorb his powers directly back from Fang. I made that up, I swear! And yet, at the climax of the movie, an absolutely identical scene happened, where Sonic absorbed his powers back from Eggman. (Yes, I’m calling him Eggman, because that’s what Sonic ends up calling him. Same rules as the games.) So…lucky me, I guess!

So, what contradictions did I fail to avoid? I already mentioned calling Longclaw a guy, missing the mark on where Sonic’s powers come from, and…that might be it. Oh, right, I also said that Sonic isn’t prone to motion sickness, which was definitely contradicted in the movie. That’s definitely not one I was expecting, given that Sonic is, you know…fast? And the loop-de-loops? But you know, it was a funny joke, and…you could argue that Sonic was intentionally exaggerating when he said that, and the fact that he did get motion sickness might even be enough to say that I’m supporting the movie, rather than contradicting it.

I know I haven’t really said much about the episode itself yet, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say. It was a comedy—much more successful, I think, than my previous attempt with the Heavy Magician episode. I put a lot of effort into building up punchlines, and just having an actual comedic chemistry between these two characters. I’m a little bit disappointed in myself for trivializing Fang literally immediately after his dramatic character conclusion, but…I actually love Fang and Eggman Nega as a ridiculous comedic villain duo, and I hope to use them in that role again at some point in the future. Fang certainly wouldn’t have much else to do in this series otherwise. As for Eggman Nega…the thought actually occurred to me after I had already started writing this episode, and I was desperately trying to figure out a halfway decent conclusion to this otherwise relatively boring story about trying to clear the Special Stage. I realized that, now that I had a Riders special under my belt, Eggman Nega was literally the only Modern Sonic character that I had yet to reference in any way, shape, or form. (Unless you count the non-Zavok members of the Deadly Six, but I certainly don’t.) Anyways, given Nega’s role of travelling between dimensions, and his hatred of Sonic, he certainly seemed like the right fit for this episode. I was a little bit dubious about using Nega as a character before even properly using Blaze, but I didn’t want to let that get in the way of a good story. But still, him alone just didn’t quite feel right. I wanted to use the Special Stage story first and foremost, but Eggman Nega has zero association with that concept, so using him as the villain in that context would’ve been very strange. But then, who does have an association with the Special Stages? The answer was staring me in the face. Supposedly, it is canon in Sonic Triple Trouble that Fang actually lives in the Special Zone. I intentionally tried to avoid that weirdness, given that the canonicity of Special Stages is dubious to begin with, by simply offhandedly mentioning once or twice that Fang had to take “a long trip” to get to Eggman from where ever it is he came from. Throughout this series, I had definitely considered exploring the concept of Special Stages more than once—including an early prototype plot for the Dawn of Chaos arc, and again as a potential way to flesh out Fang’s character—but it always just felt too weird. Teen Sonic and his use of Warp Rings worked as a phenomenal bridge into that weirdness, finally allowing me to delve into it—and so, to include Fang as well. The rest practically wrote itself. And that’s the basic story of how this episode came to be.

-Too bad I wasn’t able to do any rock-connaissance on the movie.
(Okay, that was terrible, I’m sorry.)

A Quick Review of Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Movie)

(Yes, this is the actual movie, not the recently-released movie tie-in special. Review for that comes later.)

Well, I was planning a nice, long, in-depth opinionated review of the Sonic Movie like I’ve done for a few games, where I would staunchly defend the purity of this thoroughly fun experience against the evil critics, professional and amateur alike, who seek to make it a failure. But…apparently the movie is a runaway success? The best-performing videogame movie of all time? So there goes that motivation. Without it, making an in-depth analysis without being able to reference the source material second-for-second as needed…sounds too hard.

So, I’ll keep this extremely brief. This movie was fun. A lot of family movies try to be fun. But in my opinion, this is one of the few that have wildly succeeded. The critics will tell you that it’s a movie for kids, and enjoying it as an adult would be invalid. Well, either they watched the wrong movie, or they just watched it wrong. The entire film is designed to draw you in to Sonic as a character. Is Sonic a child? In this instance, yes. But last I checked, a person being young doesn’t automatically preclude them from being relatable. Quite the opposite, in fact. A child relates to such a character for being like them, and to the success of that, I can’t necessarily speak. But an adult relates to a child character not for being like themselves, but for being what they remember being. Sonic doesn’t just appeal to kids. He makes you feel like a kid. He makes you wonder when you attained the emotional maturity to make decisions like that—or if you have at all. He makes you ask yourself, “Why can’t I have fun like that?” There’s an inevitable conclusion to that question. And if you reach it, you’re going to have fun right along with him—only to realize that you genuinely care for him as a character when things go wrong.

But maybe, that’s just me, speaking as a Sonic fan. Maybe my brain defaults to caring for Sonic as a character because I’m already programmed to do so. But that wouldn’t quite line up. In my conscious mind, at least, this iteration of Sonic had to be built up from scratch. If you go into the movie expecting this to be the same Sonic that you know and love, that’s going to be your most likely source of disappointment. No, this is a completely new character, and preconceived notions don’t go nearly far enough to justify how much I loved him by the end.

Is the movie perfect? Far from it. Are there plot holes? Oh yeah. Was I way more interested during the first 5 minutes of the movie than I was at any point afterwards? Absolutely. I don’t think anyone’s calling this movie a masterpiece, and I have to agree on that front. But I can’t say it enough. This movie was fun. Getting caught up in its own minutiae probably would’ve interfered with that. It may not be the perfect, flawless Sonic experience, but hey, it got us here, right?

-And please, five stars.

Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Special Episode: Fast Friends

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here, and with it, a hilarious new episode of The Chaos Project! Read it right here!

From this world…Sonic! And from another world…also Sonic! Can Sonic help Sonic get back to Sonic’s world? Or will Sonic be trapped in Sonic’s world forever? And who the heck are these losers trying to stop them?

-Ugh, I can’t with that guy.

Review: Season 1, Episode 18 (Finale)

Another kicker, this one was. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, the most important episodes are always the hardest to write, because everything needs to be absolutely perfect. As an episode…I’m a little bit hesitant to pass judgement on this one. I felt hyperaware during the writing process of how awkwardly paced this whole thing was, with lots of standing around and talking during what should have been intense and dramatic moments—it’s just hard to do otherwise when there are so many important things that need to be said—in addition to lots of sudden breaks between action sequences that were necessary in order to keep a wider view of events that doesn’t leave any one topic forgotten for too long. But as a conclusion to the season…I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I was worried about the daunting task of topping part 1 in terms of drama, and while it did take some doing, I think that I at least accomplished that much.

Not everything turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I originally imagined that the raid on the Death Egg would take up a more solid chunk of the episode, as Shadow grudgingly worked together with Sonic to overcome the station swarming with traps and guards and lots of thing to blow up. In general, the big question mark surrounding whether or not Shadow is able to trust Sonic was intended to play a much larger role in the episode. But then I threw Knuckles into the mix. Right up until the day I wrote the conclusion of Part 1, my intention was for that to be the last that was seen of Fang—he shoots Knuckles, takes the Emeralds, turns them over off-screen, and that’s the end of it. I soon decided that it would be too unceremonious of an end for a character who is effectively the main villain of the Season, so I decided the easiest way to get him to a more proper conclusion without changing plans too much would be to throw him on the Death Egg. At the time that I made that decision, it was actually supposed to be Tails who went up along with Sonic and Shadow—Knuckles was intended to be put out of commission for this episode when he was shot. So I figured that Sonic would be the most reasonable candidate of the three to have one final fight with Fang, and then Tails could even have a nice little growth story where he shows that fighting Eggman on his own is no longer proof of anything, but instead is now simply what he expects of himself as a hero. There were a few obvious logical issues that came out of all that. While Fang has certainly mentioned his hatred for Sonic quite frequently, Sonic as a rival for him hasn’t really been built up at all—they only met face-to-face once this Season before these episodes, and they only exchanged a few words. Knuckles, meanwhile, was specifically being built up as a rival (pretty much just for the purpose of taking his hat in the end), so having that final confrontation not include Knuckles would just be strange. Meanwhile, Tails, the medical expert of the Rebellion, abandoning Rouge when it’s being clearly established that she’s dying wouldn’t make any sense at all. And even then, Tails’ growth isn’t really something that’s been focused on this Season, it’s been deferred to next, so having him on the Death Egg wouldn’t really accomplish much. And so, even though it required a lot of rearranging and rethinking of this episode, I chose to swap Tails out for Knuckles. I’m definitely happy with that decision. Though I do wonder if that’s part of the reason writing this episode ended up taking so much longer.

Oh! Right, I was in the middle of something. Adding Knuckles (and Fang, counting those as one complicated decision) meant significantly increasing the amount of time that would be spent on these big boss confrontations, and so the idea of a Death Egg filled with traps and guards became not only unnecessary in terms of balancing the amount of action, but would’ve basically just wasted time. And I figured a completely empty, abandoned Death Egg would’ve added a layer of mystery to hint at Eggman’s true intentions…although I see now that may not have been clear enough, besides the part where Sonic and Shadow overtly discussed it.

There is one thing that did turn out exactly as I’d envisioned it. The simple ending scene, where Shadow learns of Rouge’s condition, and lets out all of his emotions at once on Sonic…that was a scene planned nearly word for word since before I even knew what this season was going to be about. I believe I’ve mentioned previously that the idea of Rouge turning spy for the Rebellion was one of a huge slew of ideas that were all bouncing around before the seasonal structure of this series was solidified, back in the very early phases of Season 0. Analyzing the emotional consequences of various dramatic scenarios was how I first populated this hypothetical series with episode ideas—so naturally, the scenario of Rouge seemingly turning traitor had to come with the weight of how Shadow would respond. That series of ideas eventually led me here.

And did I mention that hat? Why, yes, it was meant to be a reference to the Sonic OVA, thank you for asking. With another Sonic movie coming up, I suppose that’s pretty good timing. In fact, there may have been a couple of new Sonic Movie references thrown into this episode, if you were paying attention. But, anyways, the hat. I admit it. The idea of bringing Fang into the series wasn’t particularly appealing to me…until I realized that I could have Knuckles steal his hat. Yes. That was what sold me on the idea. That was what drove me to write basically this entire season. I regret nothing, and also everything. Usually, I pride myself on remaining vehemently game-canon, and I often have to go out of my way in order to not reference something like the Archie Comics. But if you ask me, Knuckles with a treasure hunter’s hat is the single most memorable thing to come out of that entire movie, and I just couldn’t resist the reference once I’d thought of it.

I suppose I can get into more random stuff now. The “Death Egg Emperor” was a rather last-minute addition. In the early planning phases (back when Tails was still going to be the one to fight it) a simple, perhaps slightly upgraded Death Egg Robot was what I assumed would fill this role. When you bring back the Death Egg, putting a Death Egg Robot on it seems like the next logical step. It only occurred to me as I began writing this episode that Sonic Generations, Mania, and Forces had really gone to great lengths to…I guess, normalize the Death Egg Robot. I realized that it wouldn’t make much of an impact if it were just another one of those things. The plan wasn’t necessarily to “merge” the DER with the final boss of Sonic Heroes, the whole Egg Emperor thing was just…an unfortunate(?) result of the fact that this completely new step up from the DER needed to reflect Eggman’s status as Emperor.

There were plans to have an extended ending scene where everyone meets back up, celebrate their victory, ponder the nature of Eggman’s pre-planning, and so on, but I ended up merging that all into the Daily Log addendum, mostly just for time. The episode was very ready to end, and I didn’t see much reason to drag it on longer than it had to go. I also skipped out on a scene where Eggman would be seen in his base, complaining about how much he hates that hedgehog, but it was cut for similar reasons.

Probably the most last-minute thing of all was Knuckles’ role specifically in the climax. Obviously everything about his role in the episode was last-minute, put this part was actually something that didn’t even occur to me until I wrote the words “What can I do to help?” When Tails was the plan, Sonic’s response was still going to be the same “Wait in the safety bunker” answer, and it was supposed to be a bit more touching with Sonic trying to protect his little bro. But Tails, instead of doing as he was told, would’ve instead gone out searching for a shuttle (planned before I I decided to mention that there were no shuttles) and, when Sonic realized that he was marooned and requested help, Tails would’ve swooped in at the perfect time to pick him up. That whole “I think I might need a little help here” joke was honestly just a hold-out from that otherwise-scrapped plan. The Death Egg room built over the Master Emerald Altar, then, was entirely unplanned until I realized in that moment that I needed something for Knuckles to do that didn’t involve flying. But I figured it would make sense that Eggman would “preserve” that particular location when building over Angel Island, given that Prof. Gerald proved with his replica on the ARK that the structure has a functional significance. Knuckles bringing the Master Emerald back to the closest thing left to “home” worked wonderfully to connect back to a comment he made in part 1 (not intended to be related at the time), as did his conjoined role with the Controller as mentioned by Tikal. Eggman putting a throne for himself on top of the monument that symbolically represents the people he’s conquered was a nice little cherry on top. I’ll admit that part of the inspiration behind that room, and even the throne on top, hearkens back to an issue of the new IDW Sonic Comics, in which, on a mechanized Angel Island (I had that idea first, I swear), Neo Metal Sonic awaited Sonic and friends in a throne room built out of the very same altar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a reference, just inspiration.

A question I was sort of asking myself by the end was…”Why did I split the Death Egg in half?” Something I originally had in mind was that the Death Egg would naturally start falling apart in that way as it fell through the atmosphere, forcing Sonic and Shadow to each take a separate half. But…for some reason, that just didn’t make sense to me. But the image of the two halves falling one after the other into the ocean, like a literal egg cracked open, was one that stuck with me even as my other plans changed.

Well, I think this has gone on just about long enough. So what’s next? Well, I’ll properly announce here and now that there will be a Sonic Movie Tie-In Special published on February 14th, the day of the movie’s release. After that, we move into Season 2. Season 1 was nice and all, but…for me, it was really just a proving grounds. From here, I start telling the stories that I’ve been anticipating since I first envisioned this series, stories that could only be told on top of the strong foundations that I’ve spent all this time building. Even though you’re probably not, I hope that you’re as excited as I am.

-So until next time, remember to live and learn every day!