I have awoken from a long reviewing slumber to write this. Because this, really, is one that deserved an in-depth analysis…more or less. I’ll at least do what I can, anyway. Bear with me.
The second installment of what is now effectively becoming a Sonic Cinematic Universe (more on that later) immediately follows the events of the first film as Dr. Robotnik/Eggman (Jim Carrey), returns to Earth with an impromptu new ally in tow, Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba). The two are in pursuit of the Master Emerald, a powerful jewel with immaculate power, and the Blue Blur (voiced by Ben Schwartz) ends up teaming with a new ally of his own, the flying fox Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), to stop them before it’s too late. And as with the first film, Sonic’s plot ends up crossing paths with that of his human handlers, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), who are in Hawaii for the wedding of Maddie’s sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) to Randall (Shemar Moore, best known from the CBS police drama CRIMINAL MINDS).
If this sounds to at least some degree like a plot from one of Sonic’s video games, well, you’d be right; the parallels to Sonic’s second and third Genesis games are fairly obvious. In fact, returning director Jeff Fowler and writers Pat Casey & Josh Miller (with further polishing by John Whittington) fully take off the first film’s training wheels in terms of writing and scope, fixing many of its predecessor’s flaws while still maintaining, and near-seamlessly integrating, previously-introduced live-action characters and elements. I say “near-seamlessly,” of course, because as with the first film some of the all-human sequences seemed slightly off, but at least most such scenes didn’t seem too out of place. Also, there are many more game series references, both obvious and not, which will be especially delightful for many in the Sonic fandom to point out.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues that was rectified here is the fact that this feels more like “a Sonic film” than just “a film with Sonic in it.” Schwartz is probably even more comfortable in Sonic’s shoes, and it shows in many ways as the story unfolds. O’Shaughnessey is the current game series voice of Tails, and it was great to hear her as Sonic’s sidekick in the films as well, especially considering she also voiced the fox’s mid-credits cameo in the first film. And finally, Elba is a surprising fit for the role of The Last Echidna, managing to be serious when he needs to be but not taking himself too seriously nor too lightly (which has been a problem for Knux’s characterization as of late, particularly the “dumb jock” version of him in Sonic Boom which drew the ire of many fans).
Carrey, of course, also carries the film in his own ways, and builds upon his rather unique take on Sonic’s arch nemesis while managing to look more like the Eggman which most people are familiar with; most non-Sonic-fan reviewers seem to appreciate his performance more than anything else in this film, and I can’t say I blame them at all. Considering his recent talk of retiring, though, I’d at least like to see him go one more round as the Doctor to potentially cap off his career.
The production values have also certainly increased as well despite having largely the same $90 million budget as before, with a wide array of stunning visual effects and improved animation for the familiar anthro leads. Another returning name to the sequel, composer Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenborg, contributes another fantastic score that fits the bigger and more epic tone of the sequel. Admittedly, some of the licensed music choices tend to crash into some cues—sometimes literally—after not even half a minute of playback, but it’s not anything which would spoil most people’s enjoyment of the film.
All things considered, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 is not only a worthy follow-up, but it is actually a superior follow-up, a feat which few sequels manage to accomplish. It really takes the idea of the video game movie to even greater heights than the first film ever imagined, and does so in a way that those both inside and outside the fandom should greatly enjoy.
P.S. As with the first film, there is a mid-credits scene. And considering Paramount has already announced not only a third theatrical film, but also a spinoff Paramount+ series with Elba reprising as Knuckles, there will certainly be no shortage of adventures for this particular alternate universe of the Fastest Thing Alive.