MotherShip Review: Sonic The Hedgehog

My Quick First Impressions:
Attention to detail – Obvious respect for fandom
Fantastic game references, some were extremely subtle and fun to find
Jim Carry is amazing as Doctor Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik. It’s great to see him in his natural habitat.  
Great story with a better ending than “Hop”, so I feel like I can’t complain much.

Okay so here we go. I realize I’m going to date myself hardcore with this, but here goes…

I was introduced to Sonic as a teen when my parents *finally* bought me a Sega Genesis after it had been out for a few years. I’d never owned a game system before and no one ever really let me play because I wasn’t very good at it. I was over the moon excited, even though the primary reason for her breaking down to buy it was that I had a surgery that called for several months in bed. Although she didn’t buy me the system that included the game I’d really wanted, “Sonic The Hedgehog” was available to rent for $3.50 a week at the video rental store down the street from my house. I fell in love with the entire thing, far more than any other game I played and I rented it enough times to have bought it 5 times over. 

It was my first real experience with a video game all to myself and I loved everything about it. The colors, the lights, the sounds the rings made… that weird ring dimension you got to spin around in between the levels… It was absolutely awesome to me and while I enjoyed the other games I had which included Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Home Alone and Disney’s Aladdin. Hey now, don’t judge… I was 14.

So, the Green Hill Zone was my favorite. Perhaps reminiscent of my 80’s childhood watching shows like Rainbow Bright, there was something about the blue of the water, the sparkling light shining on distant waves, soaring with ease and freedom and the green of the hills and the music. The whole package together all just seemed kind of magical to me in my “not quite ready to let go of childhood brain. Maybe because I was taking heavy pain medication at the time and it buried itself into my subconscious, maybe because it was hypnotic and mesmerizing… Whatever the reasons, it stuck with me and remained one of my favorite games and playing it was one of my favorite memories of that time. Even though I was in tons of pain due to a surgery, what I remember is playing Sonic. Long after I stopped playing it, long after the Genesis was nothing more than a relic, it was still top on the list.

So, when I say I love the game and I am deeply invested in seeing Sonic’s world come to life in a way that does it justice, know this history is where I’m coming from. My Sonic is not the one from the tv shows my kids watch, not the following games with extra characters and deeper storylines or even two players! Back then it was just me, a little blue hedgehog and his rings looking for emeralds while rescuing animals on a grassy hillside, in caves, jumping on springs, dodging all manner of dangerous equipment while getting laughed at by a bald guy with a big mustache every time I failed. It took me to another world in a way I’d never experienced before and opened the door to my love of gaming. 

Fast forward to this week… After so many incarnations of the story, the game, expanded worlds and storylines that have created a world, I’ll be honest, I didn’t keep up with any of it. The Saturday morning cartoons of the lat 90’s and early 2000’s held no interest for me and I was already too busy to watch them anyway. My nephews discovered and loved the newer games and now my children recently discovered Sonic Underground from back in the early 2000’s and play the newer games with family at parties.

The new movie was about to come out and I was hopeful, but not expecting much. The sneak peeks of Sonic’s design was released and the whole world went nuts… but I held out hope. I mean, how often does a production team listen to their fans and take the extra time to secure a look that everyone could agree on?? I was eager to support their work, so I knew we would try to go opening weekend. The kids were excited and my husband was tolerant, so with that – we went to see it the Saturday after it opened. 

First, let’s get the big question answered – did they “fix” Sonic. Yes, they did. He looks just as he aught to; no more creepy human teeth, his poodle nose is gone and the weirdly spaced out eyes were fixed. They even smoothed out his fur and gave him a more polished look, closer to the ones we already recognize from past versions. Personally, I understood why they made him look the way they did in the beginning and wasn’t that upset about it. They were trying to go for a more realistic version, one that could pass for something “real” and less animated. To fix him, they had to make him look more cartoonish. His eyes are bigger, his nose is more rounded and much more like the version of Sonic from the cartoons and less like a real animal, but much more like we expect to see and that simple expectation being met makes all the difference. 

Less Real = More Love

“Did they do the world justice?” is the other question and yeah – I believe they did, there just wasn’t enough of it. Sonic’s world has that same sparkling ocean, the rings that make the right sounds and the hills even collapse after he’s run through them (one of my favorite touches).

The newly refurbished yet unmistakable “Green Hill Zone”

Now, the story. It’s a cute story, fully a kid’s movie in every way. But… there’s more. This isn’t just a movie about a really fast, blue hedgehog from space with a human sidekick. If it had been, I wouldn’t be so inclined to do a write up on it. This was actually a movie about fostering a friendship amidst massive differences between two um… “people”, while overcoming inner anxieties about self-worth. The real plot was buried inside a fun story with silly jokes, fast robots, explosions and a brilliantly bizarre Jim Carry doing what he does best. 

There are tons of teachable moments and conversation topics buried in this story. One thing I thought was particularly fun to see and to me, showed a tremendous amount of attention to the total package of Sonic as a character – he wasn’t just “fast”. I mean, yes, he was physically fast, but mentally he was, too. He never stopped talking, moving, jumping, or shifting and he bounced from one topic to the next while being distracted by random, shiny things throughout the entire film. It was often done as comic relief and a great way to get a laugh out of the kids in the audience, but there was more to it for those who were paying attention. 

As the parent of a child with special needs, it took me all of 10 minutes into this movie to realize – Sonic has ADHD. Now, I don’t know if they did this on purpose, and if they did – I respect them even more for not mentioning it directly, but it’s totally obvious and if you have anyone in your life who has it, you’ll see it just as quickly as I did. 

Why is this important? Well, because the movie is about a space kid who makes rash decisions based on emotional outbursts, has huge impulse control problems and can’t sit still if his life depends on it (and it does more than a few times). His sadness becomes a massive, rage-filled meltdown that causes an entire city to lose power. His lack of self-confidence and inability to think before he acts gets himself into trouble almost constantly, even though he’s been told he must do the opposite. He keeps to himself and separates himself from others even though he desperately wants to connect and make friends and participate in social activities, sports and families. While he’s going through hell, alone and kind of miserable, he’s still having a great time because he can see beyond the moment, he can see the good in people and he never stops daring to dream of a life where he feels like he can finally belong. 

Meanwhile, his human sidekick is going through his own period of self-discovery with feelings of inadequacy, disappointed in his life and wanting to make up for not being who he thinks he should be. Together, they both learn to trust themselves, each other and those who love them. They find their voices, their power and their purposes in life. 

Doughnut Lord and Sonic having a heart-to-heart while being attacked by Eggman’s drones in Sonic The Hedgehog from Paramount Pictures & SEGA

If you decide to go, make no mistake- it’s a children’s movie. While the story’s voice may have underlying maturity and depth of character, it’s very much a child’s voice doing the talking. It’s great fun with a decent soundtrack.

Kids like it, most adults I know who have seen it didn’t hate it, some even liked it, which is awesome – but the real truth is in the numbers, right? So how’s it doing so far? The film earned about $210 million in 10 days. Well, that’s great, but week two always tells the truth. Week two pulled in a little over $107 million. As we enter into the third weekend after opening and a week before the film’s release in Japan, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Either way, I’d say this is a win for fans and kids everywhere. It’s a home run in our book!