Sonic the Hedgehog 2- A Worthy (But Flawed) Follow-up to a Strong Foundation

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It may be hard to believe, but it’s been over two years since the original Sonic The Hedgehog arrived in theaters. I was there on day one and felt it was a significant step in reshaping the narrative around video games to film adaptations. Sonic crushed it at the weekend box office at $58 million, beating out even Detective Pikachu in terms of performance, $54.3 million. A sequel was inevitable, especially with the cliffhanger ending and post-credit reveal of the blue blur’s two-tailed friend. The official release of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is just around the corner, and there’s no denying that it has some mighty red shoes to fill. Just how well does it stack up? We will do our best to tell you without spoiling a thing. 

The plot picks up where Sonic the Hedgehog left off, with an exiled Dr. Eggman (once again played by Jim Carrey) scheming his way off the mushroom-infested planet. It isn’t long before a greeting by our very first silver screen appearance of Sonic’s frenemy Knuckles (played by Idris Elba), and much like the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it doesn’t take much for Eggman to get this heavy hitter on his side. While James Mardsen and his wife Maddie are out on vacation, Eggman and his new ally come knocking on Sonic’s door to pursue the Master Emerald. Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) manages to locate Sonic after watching (and admiring) from afar, warning him of the duo’s plans to find the Master Emerald and use its power to do (you guessed it) awful things. Although Sonic and Tails have a well-worn map of the location, they have to contend with Eggman’s mechanical monstrosities, and Knuckles’ brawn in a race to (once again) save Green Hills and the universe at large.

Although the blue blur and his twin-tailed sidekick are undoubtedly a massive focus in this film, I have to hand it to Elba here. His performance as Knuckles hits home and captures the 90’s character’s personality perfectly. He has no problem throwing his weight around and seems simple-minded and gullible. It becomes immediately evident to the viewer that Knuckles has but one goal in mind- preserve the Master Emerald and wreck anything and everything in the way of that goal. Heck, they even managed to include his love for grapes that the manual mentioned from the Sonic The Hedgehog 3 video game. Although I was a bit skeptical of seeing a new individual take the reigns of one of the franchise’s most important characters, Elba proved that he was a good match for the Echidna’s silver screen debut.

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© Sonic the Hedgehog 2 paramount

One other aspect of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 that I believe deserves praise is its focus on the anthropomorphic trio. Thanks to the vacation subplot, the humans of this evolving cinematic universe do get some screen time. There is a rather cheesy “coming of age” narrative mixed in with the antics and explosions, but considering the mold Sonic the Hedgehog had to fit to rake in non-fans, I can’t say I wasn’t expecting this. Most of the screen time is shared by Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Eggman- and that’s a step in the right direction.

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© Sonic the Hedgehog 2 paramount

With the screen time scale tipped in favor of the characters canonical to the video games, it’s also a given that Sonic 2 has shifted its focus to the pre-existing fandom. Beyond the rock-solid adaptation of Knuckles to the big screen, there are again many small nods and references that long-time fans will appreciate. Sonic does the beloved Adventure pose (when and where? Not telling), Tails’ trusty Tornado makes a strong showing, and a setting later on in the film wears its Labyrinth Zone influences on its sleeve. Nothing less than a big thumbs up in my book.

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All things said I do think Sonic 2‘s pacing falls a bit behind that of its predecessor. It takes this follow-up just a bit longer than I would have liked to get to what most of us will be here for due to the vacation subplot. In addition, I do think some of the jokes and gags are already painfully dated. Eggman flossing and a dance-off set to “Uptown Funk” really weren’t necessary, even as apparent attempts to get a few laughs from a general audience.

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Despite some bloat and jokes that don’t land, Sonic 2 is still a good time. Idris Elba nailed his performance, the special effects are serviceable, and Paramount threw enough fan service and easter eggs in to please a diehard hedgehog lover. I can’t wait to see what comes of the Knuckles-centered spinoff coming to Paramount Plus after seeing what Elba did here- it seems as if the Sega cinematic universe is coming full circle. We’re on the cusp of something great, and the studio can undoubtedly alleviate the pacing issues with the already announced Sonic The Hedgehog 3 on its way.

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(Before you ask, there are post credits scenes. I have no doubt they’re going to cause a bit of a divide in the fandom. Either way, you should definitely stick around!)

Overall: 4/5 golden rings

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