Sonic The Hedgehog 2 ***
One Liner Review:
Bigger is not always better, and in the case of this movie, it’s definitely fun, but it’s also not quite as good as the first film.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is fun. They see sequels have to go bigger and this one certainly does. It brings in more animated characters, and gives each one of them personality. Sonic basically gets a bunch of friends to play with. But he’s still got plenty of enemies as well, including Doctor Robotnik, his assistant, and a new character called Knuckles (voice by Idris Elba.) The story here is about a powerful emerald that everyone is trying to get, which is basically a huge McGuffin, but the movie wisely separates the human story from the animated characters’ story and then finds ways to join these stories together later on. The movie isn’t as entertaining as the first film, since it is more about being big and exciting than about being warm and personal, but that’s okay. It still has a lot going on, tons of ideas and lively set pieces, and Jim Carrey back in the best role he’s had in ages.
A fun kids movie that definitely ups the stakes of the first film, but at the same time reinforces the idea that bigger is not always better. This sequel really does a lot, including the introduction of two new major animated characters.. Tails and Knuckles. Along with Sonic, that makes three animated characters in the film, and these three end up being the three protagonists. Which means this movie automatically becomes more about animated characters than live action characters, (human actors,) and that’s something that makes this movie very different than the first film.
The first movie did of course feature one animated character as it’s star… Sonic. But that was the only animated character in the film. Which means every interaction he had was with humans. And so most characters in the movie were played by actors such as James Marsden, (the man who befriends Sonic,) or Marsden’s girlfriend, or the villain of the movie, Doctor Robotnick, (Jim Carrey.) The human presence was all over the film, and that made everything feel much smaller, scaled down, and more personal. In the sequel, on the other hand, the humans are here, but they go away for long periods of time where we concentrate only on the animated characters, who are the real stars of this film.
The movie opens with Doctor Robotnick on the mushroom planet, where we left him. Now we only saw him there in a post-credit scene from the first film, which means this movie kicks off right where the post credits scene ended and immediately validated the post credits scene as an important part of the first movie. Robotnick has constructed all sorts of things on this planet including a coffee maker that is the series of a bunch of elaborate mouse-trap like devices working together. And eventually Robotnick opens a portal to another world, where three goon alien guards come out. Robotnick uses traps to take them all out, but when Knuckles (a giant red dog-like creature,) pops out of the portal, it’s a little different. This guy won’t be taken down so easily. And so Robotnick befriends Knuckles, offering to help him find Sonic.
The Knuckles character is an interesting one. The movie tries to give us beck story on him, but ends up creating more questions then it gives us answers. For example, who were those alien guards that were accompanying Knuckles, and where was Knuckles coming from? We never see any other characters like these or hear about them. Were they Knuckles’ friends? His soldiers? Apparently it’s not too important here, to the point where once they are taken out by Robotnick’s traps, we never see or hear about them again. But we do hear Knuckles’ story about a tribe he was in, called the Incidna.
Apparently Knuckles was part of this tribe that was hunting down the owl who Sonic considered like his mother. There was the owl clan and the Incidna clan, and both were mortal enemies. Sonic’s “mother” was the last of the owl clan. In the opening of the first movie, a tribe attacked her, and she was killed. Apparently that tribe was the Incidnas. And somehow the members of this tribe were never seen or heard from again. What happened to them exactly? We have no idea, other than that they didn’t return, and poor Knuckles was left all alone. If the goal of all this back story is to open up holes and raise questions that need to be answered at some point, in order to leave things for the next sequel to uncover, it does a pretty good job.
And there’s a reason why Sonic’s story here now has room for so many new characters. All of his regular human counterparts from the first movie are away. Tom and Maddy (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter,) the two people who Sonic lives with and who have gone from being friends with him to more like parents,) are attending the wedding of Maddie’s sister, Laura. And it’s out of town, in Hawaii. Lots of sequels would suddenly feature a new character here with the Laura storyline, like bring in a character who we didn’t know existed in the first film. Not this one. Laura happened to be a prominent character in the guest movie (even if she was used entirely for comic relief there.) And even the Hawaii storyline doesn’t seem like it’s just a throw away excuse to get our characters out of town. That’s because this movie actually used the Hawaii story a little bit, to combine with it’s Sonic story.
First off, the characters use Sonic’s rings to get to Hawaii. And there’s some fun to be had just in those moments, as Sonic pretends to be a TSA agent, sending them on their way, (“terrible shirt detected.”) But then once in Hawaii, there’s a wedding ring mixup (can you guess which ring Tom accidentally hands them?) which leads to Sonic and Tails (we’ll get to that character in a moment,) and a whole avalanche of snow literally crashing Laura’s wedding. And then there’s the story of the undercover agents at her wedding, and what it all means. So the Hawaii wedding is actually used for a lot.
Regarding Tails, he’s a small orange fox character with two tails that he can spin around at rapid speed to create a propeller-like effect, and to fly. He shows up because apparently he saw everything from the first movie while he was on another planet and felt like Sonic might need help. And he arrives just in time to save Sonic from a Knuckles attack. But Knuckles isn’t the only villain here. There’s also Doctor Robotnick, played by Jim Carey, back again, reprising the role. He’s the main villain here, and once again, Carrey is a lot of fun. He’s got his lead henchman working for him again (this time from a secret coffee shop location,) and Robotnick is all about crossing whoever he needs to to get what he wants. There’s even a jealousy dynamic between Knuckles and the henchman about who is Robotnick’s better number two man.
The plot here is about a special Emerald that both Knuckles’ clan and Long Claw (the mother owl to Sonic,) were after. It’s called the Master Emerald, and it basically makes whoever holds it all powerful. Consider it like the infinity stones from the Marvel movies. It’s a McGuffin if ever there was one, and something to drive the story by giving the characters a quest. Sonic and Tails use clues on a map to discover a secret cave in the snowy mountains which leads them closer to the Emerald. This leads to a snowboarding action scene and the use of Sonics rings which transport our characters and bring them into the Hawaiian wedding.
And then there’s the final segments of the film, or final act which seems to keep unfolding from one climactic set piece to the next. First there’s the secret island cave filled with traps. Then there’s the giant enemy at the end, who attacks the city. It’s two climaxes for the price of one, when one would have actually been sufficient. The endings could have been better, especially in a movie that is already stuffed to the brim with characters and ideas, but other then that this movie is pretty good. It’s definitely fun to have so many animated characters sharing screen time, and also the movie does a smart thing in giving Marsden and the humans their own stories, away from the animated characters. Jim Carrey is a huge part of these movies and his contribution can not be understated. There will be more Sonic films, and let’s hope Carrey is in turn. For now, this second movie is a solid entry. Not quite as fresh as the first film, but still a good deal of fun.