What in the Blue, Blazes – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

Good adaptations of video games are hard to pull off, even when the story is tailor-made for a big-screen narrative. I won’t name names, but one of my favorite video game franchises has served as a prime example of that struggle. Now, like many, I played a number of the Sonic games growing up and the characters have that nostalgic place in my heart. I even enjoyed the cartoon shows that aired during the early-to-mid 90s, but those didn’t exactly dig deep when it came to establishing the mythology of the Sonic universe. The games weren’t narrative-driven (from what I remember), so the idea that I am sitting here writing about the second highly-successful film in the franchise is impressive. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ratcheted up the action and laughs you would expect and still managed to find room to expand the scope of its mythology, setting up a stable launching pad for its future. 

Say hello to Blue Justice

In this sequel, Dr. Robotnik has found his way off the mushroom planet and is headed back to Earth for a rematch with Sonic, but this time he has an ally who is also looking to settle a score with the blue blur. Back on Earth, Sonic is still figuring out what it means to be a real hero while Tails is racing to find him before Robotnik does. 

Far too often, a successful intellectual property has success but the formula changes heading into the sequel. So, it was nice to see that director Jeff Fowler along with writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller all return for this sequel, and John Whittington joined the screenplay party this time. As a good action sequel should, Sonic 2 was bigger, both in terms of the scale of the action and the scope of the world(s) in which it happens. Fowler has a good understanding of who this version of Sonic is and Casey, Miller, and Whittington helped shape him into more of a conventional superhero for the sequel. That’s a tricky move in terms of guiding the character’s trajectory moving beyond just the second movie because it could get them into some rocky cliche territory in the future.

Paramount has said they will not recast Robotnik if Carrey does indeed stay retired

The future of the franchise will have to adjust to Jim Carrey who announced his retirement from acting. No disrespect to the voice actors here, but Carrey’s eccentric Dr. Robotnik is the engine that makes things work. His slapstick physical comedy is a great fit for this property and it’s the main sales pitch for adults to get on board. As a long-time fan of the comedian, it would have been nice to see him get a role that was more catered as a send-off, but there was no way I was going to miss his final performance. The film is at its best when he has the most control of the screen and there was a sneaky Evil Dead reference dropped in the early minutes of the movie that made me happy. The character has several of those jokes that are intended for the adults in the audience, but he still plays the PG villain well. If this is indeed his final film, I am appreciative of getting to see it on the big screen.

Tails and Knuckles

Two of the new characters who were introduced have extensive console legacies, with Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and Knuckles both making the leap to the big screen. The writing for Knuckles is executed with surprising deadpan humor. I didn’t know what to expect from the character exactly, but I was pleasantly surprised by that aspect and Idris Elba voiced him with the kind of gravitas to make that humor land effectively. 

Natasha Rothwell was hilarious

Despite James Marsden being a major factor in the first film, that’s not so much the case this time around and his character is mostly tied up on vacation. Even in that part of the storyline, it’s Natasha Rothwell who steals the show as Rachel after her wedding is rudely interrupted by Sonic and Tails. The other standout supporting role belongs to Lee Majoub who reprised his role as Agent Stone, Dr. Robotnik’s right-hand brown noser. The character is so strange because it’s one of the roles the writers can really get creative with and it’s easy to see how much fun Majoub has with it.

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The action elements are still plenty of fun but a lot of critics think it’s already reached derivative status as the Metacritic score is below 50 (which is abysmal). However, the audience score on Rotten tomatoes is 97%. Yes, the film revisits the stuff that worked the first time out and mostly boils down to the simple formula of zingers + action + predictability = successful sequel, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a piece of high cinematic art. However, some critics have a tendency to lean into a needless superiority complex at times, but if you approached the film that way then you were missing the point all along. It’s a kids’ movie about a super-powered hedgehog from space, who is trying to find his new home on Earth. Oh, and by the way, it made $140-million on its opening weekend despite the less-than-stellar press, making it the 6th highest-grossing film of the year already. 

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first movie, there’s no real reason you wouldn’t enjoy the sequel and see it for Jim Carrey’s farewell performance. 

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