This sequel may not be as funny as the original, and Jim Carrey sort of goes off the rails with his performance, but both Tails and Knuckles are fantastic additions and iterations of the characters we love, while having so many more nods and inspirations from the actual games, and still maintaining the same charm and fun the first one established.
There was once a time where one had to keep expectations in check regarding video game film adaptations. The genre, as a whole, still has plenty of room for improvement, but there’s no denying how much better they’ve gotten over the last couple of years, and not just in films either. There are some great series adaptations as well. I believe things really started getting better with Sonic the Hedgehog, which, in my opinion, is one of the best video game film adaptations to date. It isn’t perfect, but I feel it hits plenty of notes both the casual audience and long time fans of the video games can enjoy. The sequel builds on what it already establishes by focusing on the returning characters we love, while introducing new ones. There are still things I think the first one did better, specifically the comedy and the handling of the human characters, but there are aspects in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I absolutely loved, especially having played the games (the good ones, and some of the bad ones) throughout the years.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 once again follows Sonic, who’s now living with the Wachowski’s in Green Hills. Longing to use his abilities for good, but still having some growing up to do, he gets what he wants when Dr. Robotnik returns with a new force, Knuckles the Echidna, as they look to take out Sonic once and for all and get their hands on the Master Emerald to unleash true power.
Right off the bat, Jim Carrey returns as the silly, often over-exaggerated, but always funny mad scientist, Dr. Robotnik. I loved what he was able to do with the character in the first film and he brings the same intensity and quirkiness to the role in this installment. Unfortunately, his portrayal becomes increasingly more ridiculous as the film goes on, and towards the end of it, I was just about done with his performance and grew a bit tired of this character. In the games, you didn’t always take Robotnik seriously. In reality, it’s a bit hard to do so when he’s literally also referred to as Eggman. However, I don’t remember any iteration of him being so over-the-top and cringe-worthy, at times, in the games. In fact, and I could be wrong since it has been awhile, but there was sort of a sinister characteristic to Eggman. At times while you were playing, you felt the seriousness and danger of dealing with him in the midst of all the light-heartedness. This isn’t to say there aren’t dangerous things happening in this movie, but they’re a bit diminished when he’s on the screen being all wacky and weird. I think the first movie did a much better job balancing Robotnik with his antics. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to love about Carrey and his portrayal, and I’m sure many viewers won’t find an issue with it. For me though, it was a bit too much at times, and I think the film, as a whole, could’ve benefitted from a more toned down version in certain scenes rather than dealing with his annoying nature from time to time.
As for most of the other characters, I have little to no complaints. Let me start with the familiar/returning ones. Of course, there’s Sonic, which I feel is mostly an improved version from the first movie. He’s still bringing the humor, even though I don’t think all the jokes landed. So, even if it isn’t as funny as the first film, it doesn’t mean it isn’t funny at all. You’ll still get a kick out of it and find yourself laughing in plenty of scenes. In terms of growth, Sonic also seems very ambitious in this movie. He’s constantly striving to be a better version of himself and realizes, because of his abilities, he has a responsibility to take care of the innocent and fight crime whenever he can. But, at the same time, you can see the immaturity in some of these decisions and how he chooses to carry out some of these heroic acts. As brave and naturally gifted as he may seem, he still has plenty of work to do, and as the film’s plot progresses, you see how much he grows and becomes a better version of himself. Credit has to be given to Ben Schwartz, who continues to improve as this character and I can imagine will only continue to do so in future installments.
I was a bit worrisome about seeing James Marsden and Tika Sumpter return since I wasn’t sure what role they would play in the sequel. Although their presence isn’t as frequent in this one, their importance is definitely noticed, especially since they play the role of parents to Sonic. Specifically speaking, Tom’s relationship with Sonic grows even deeper here, and it’s awesome to see the bond they share. Maddie’s sister, Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), who isn’t very fond of Tom, is given a bit more to do, and she definitely delivers some humorous moments. As for Lee Majdoub’s Stone, I remember him being quite memorable in the first film because of some comedic scenes, but I don’t recall any scenes in the sequel where he shines, sadly. I didn’t really care about any of the other human characters, if I’m being honest. I hope future installments can improve on that in order to make the overall film a bit more well-rounded. The first film definitely handled the human characters better than this sequel.
The new characters are simply fantastic, and this is mostly because this is where the inspiration from the games begin to come in. Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) was revealed in a post-credits scene at the end of the first film, so the prospect of him being in the film excited me. Not only does he admire Sonic, but he becomes an extremely loyal friend to him. There’s different layers to this character I wasn’t expecting either. For example, his strong-suit has always been technology and aiding with his smarts and inventions. However, although his bravery is never in question, you notice how he isn’t always confident about himself and secure in who he is. I loved seeing Sonic give him pep talks and, most importantly, accept him for who he is, which does wonders for Tails and how he sees himself. They really were the dynamic duo I wanted to see, and their chemistry together really surpassed my expectations. He’s probably, and surprisingly, my favorite character in the entire movie and I think the creators really captured the essence of Tails perfectly.
Then there’s Knuckles (Idris Elba), who I mostly loved seeing as well. I loved his appearance and how accurately the film captures how he fights. In the games, it was always evident how different using Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles felt in terms of how they play and what abilities they have. The movie has the same feeling. Knuckles is obviously bigger, stronger, and packs a heavy punch. Elba’s intense and deep voice makes him feel intimidating as well, and the film makes sure his presence is felt in every scene. One aspect I wasn’t too fond of was his personality. In the games, Knuckles was the confident high school jock, in a sense. He was slick and stylish with his words, always knew the right and cool things to say, and he oozed self belief from the very start. This portrayal contains some of these characteristics, but I feel he’s modeled a bit aftrrrDrax from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Things definitely go over his head and most of the time, he speaks like an ancient warrior who doesn’t have time for games. Apparently, this iteration is based on the character’s early appearances, so this version is all about honor, integrity, and sometimes, revenge. In some ways, it sucks the fun out of the character, but I still loved what Elba was able to do. I can’t wait to see more of him in the Knuckles spinoff series, as well as the third movie.
The story was more interesting mostly because of the video game tie-ins. The first movie established Sonic, Dr. Robotnik, and the Wachowski’s as characters in this universe, and because of the success, the writers were able to grab more from the games and make it part of the plot. You see the inspiration from the games in a variety of sequences, such as Tails flying the plane, Sonic snowboarding snowy mountains, the Master Emerald, some of the set pieces such as the Mushroom planet at the beginning, as well as a temple with hidden traps and secret pathways. There’s a fantastic reveal in the third act, which I obviously won’t spoil, but I really wasn’t expecting to see it even though, in hindsight, it was bound to happen given the nature of the story. The writers and filmmakers were definitely triggering the nostalgia and fan service, but it never felt forced, useless, or without reason. Speaking more on the set pieces, most of them looked great and some of them had fantastic special effects. The film, as a whole, has pretty solid editing and animation. The action scenes, the running sequences, etc., are mostly well-done and seeing all the vibrant colors coming from Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles as they’re using their abilities is an often pretty sight seeing it all come together. There are some scenes where the CGI was a bit laughable, though. There’s one scene in particular where Eggman comes out of nowhere on a snowy mountain and it just looks really, really bad.
Despite Carrey’s overly exaggerated performance, some humor that doesn’t land, some characters I didn’t care about, as well as some character decisions about others I did love, and questionable CGI moments, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is another entertaining entry in this ever expanding universe. Like the first, in many ways, it has an important message to tell and many aspects of it is a love letter to the fandom. It goes to show that video game film adaptations can be worthwhile with the right team behind them; a team who cares about the source material and wants to make the fans proud of a video game series they’ve been passionate about for many years. I’m ready for more and after that post-credits scene, which you should definitely stick around for, I’m excited for what’s to come. I think it, just barely, tops the original and is an overall better representation of the actual game series.