It appears as though the release of Detective Pikachu has brought about something of a sea change. We are bearing witness to a truth once thought impossible to achieve – the creation of adaptations of video games that are faithful to the source material, treat said material with respect, and which do not insult stalwart supporters of the games that are being transferred to the silver screen. Blazing into cinemas, Sonic the Hedgehog looks to defy the controversy that surrounded it in its earliest days, and in that endeavour, at least, it has undeniably succeeded.
Special mention must be made for this film's history, as this is a triumphant case of a project overcoming hurdles that would have otherwise capsized it. When first unveiled, Jeff Fowler's directorial debut appeared to be nothing less than completely disastrous. Featuring bland dialogue, questionable CGI and an unspeakably horrific rendition of the Blue Blur, viewers immediately labelled the project as a lost cause, looking to Jim Carrey's Dr Robotnik to provide them with at least a small modicum of entertainment amidst the chaos. But while the film could have been left as is, serving only to haunt the minds of sleeping children with Sonic's grotesque, childlike visage, Paramount and the designers at Moving Pictures Company took heed of fan feedback – and responded, willingly delaying the film by several months to correct their mistakes. Fans were delighted by their willingness to listen, and this film sets an example made all the stronger by the actions of certain franchises as of late.
Off the back of considerable and strident fan outcry regarding the titular character's appearance following the initial reveal, Sonic swiftly entered a period of hibernation for the sole purpose of reforging the design of the eponymous critter, and to say the craftsmen at Moving Pictures Company spared no expense in ensuring that the final product was faithful is a ringing understatement. While his new design still features a few logical compromises, it mirrors his image as close as possible, and the similarities do not simply stop with visuals. For fans of the character, Sonic's essence has been captured almost flawlessly – confident, swaggering, carefree yet compassionate, rounded off with a look that is far from the ghoulish nightmare that was initially trotted out to universal derision, his first appearance in cinemas captures the core of what makes Sonic memorable with flying colors. Even those new to the series, or those clueless about it, will find themselves enamoured.
But while Sonic has been rescued from ridicule, what of the film he inhabits? In relation to Sonic's narrative, the series' games themselves have occasionally been fairly sparse on plotting – the few that attempt to break that mould are often overwrought and exceedingly ambitious – and that trend is reflected here. Sonic finds his way from his world to Earth, on the run from forces intent on harnessing his powers for their own nefarious ends, and after grabbing the attention of the US government through shorting out the entire eastern seaboard and running into straight-man sheriff Tom Wachowski (Marsden), our tale ensues.
The plot is hardly a complex matter – a simple 'save the world' story, interspersed with comedic interactions, moments of emotion and introspection, and utterly glorious scenery-chewing courtesy of Jim Carrey, showing spirit and bombast that haven't been seen from him since the distant days of Liar Liar – but the performances offered by the main trio of Carrey, Marsden and Schwartz are solid, the chemistry between the cast is strong and the comedy, thankfully, does not succumb to the curse of having every remotely humorous joke shown in the trailers. For series aficionados, there are references to spy, and even cameos from creators once associated with Sonic at large. With that said, however, there are speed bumps – not all of the humour is impactful, the narrative suffers from predictability and the core cast outside of Sonic and Robotnik do not possess much in the way of attributes and, while Sonic himself has been refined, the visual effects elsewhere are still rather suspect and patchy in places that are noticeable and ultimately detract from what are otherwise gripping sequences.
All in all, Sonic the Hedgehog is a solid if somewhat shallow adaptation and a wholly serviceable family outing and a feast for the senses for casual viewers and series fans alike. It may not linger long in the mind, and some scars of its turbulent past still remain, but if you're feeling a need for speed, this will fix you up in no time flat.