The much maligned “video game” genre of movies just received a much needed breath of fresh air. Sonic the Hedgehog is the 37th (live-action) film based off of a video game or video game character. A genre that started back in May of 1993 with the release of Super Mario Bros., but is still struggling to find its legs and connect with general audiences domestically and globally. There were a few that did…well enough…at the box office to merit a thumbs up, at least when comparing their production budget to the total box office outcome.
Warcraft (2016): The top dog of “video game movies.” Warcraft made more money than any other video game movie before it and since. It had an estimated production budget of $160 million, and was able to pull in almost $439 million world wide. However, over $391 million of that was outside of the U.S.
Rampage (2018): A close second behind Warcraft in its box office totals, pulling in approximately $428 million. On a production budget of around $130 million the studio was able to turn a profit; notwithstanding, it did have the help of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Dwayne Johson.
Pokémon, Detective Pikachu (2019): Until this movie, no other video game movie ever achieved the coveted “FRESH” score from Rotten Tomatoes, coming in at 69% (meaning, 69% of the 294 critics who reviewed the movie liked it). On a production budget of $150 million, and a box office haul of approximately $433 million, Detective Pikachu is widely considered the most successful video game movie ever made. Was it a turning point for this struggling genre? Or was the global appeal of Pokémon and that cute and cuddly Pikachu the reason for the movie’s success?
Enter Sonic the Hedgehog. One of the most iconic video game characters ever created. What Super Mario is to Nintendo, Sonic is to SEGA. If you were to make a list of the top 5 most iconic or well-known video game characters, Sonic would be on almost every list. (My list: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Super Mario, Sonic, and Master Chief). But time and time again the video game genre have proven that popularity and iconic appeal do not automatically equate to financial and critical success.
I’m very happy to report that Sonic the Hedgehog has not followed the footsteps of its video game movie siblings. In spite of its shaky marketing start (see: Sonic design change), Sonic has sped his way into the hearts of audiences across the country. In its opening weekend, Sonic the Hedgehog has made more domestically ($58 million) than Warcraft made in its entire domestic run ($47.3 million)—and for good reason. Sonic the Hedgehog knows what it is and does not try to be anything else. The movie has timely self-deprecating moments that allow the audience to suspend belief and just enjoy the story being told. Most of the screen time is given to the little blue speedster and James Marsden’s character, Tom Wachowski. So the success of the movie is heavily dependent on the interactions of these two characters and how that translates on screen. Marsden does very well interacting with a 100% CGI created Sonic, and a genuine bond between the two characters is felt throughout.
The most surprising performance of the film is given by Jim Carrey. I’ll admit I was very surprised to see Carrey take on a role that seemed more suited to the 1990’s Jim Carrey. As the villain, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, Carrey actually seems to care about his performance in this role. His lines are well delivered. His presence on screen is felt but without overshadowing the main characters, and if I’m being totally honest, I think Carrey’s talents were well utilized in this movie.
If you grew up playing the Sonic video games, or you have a family that wants to enjoy a family-friendly movie, Sonic the Hedgehog is the movie to see. I was overall pleased with the outcome, and feel that this (even more so than Detective Pikachu) is a great step in the right direction for video game movies.
Recommendation: GO SEE IT!