In a year brimming with live-action adaptations of non-live-action ’90s and ’00s faves, Sonic the Hedgehog’s may end up the most polarizing. Because the first trailer for the upcoming feature film debut of Sega’s 27-year-old mascot paints an unfamiliar picture.
In video games, Sonic is a very fast, very blue anthropomorphic hedgehog, and the character is widely accepted as such. Humans don’t factor in, for the most part; instead, Sonic occupies a world filled with numerous friends and frenemies who boast the same “gangly limbs and an animal head” combo that he does.
Not so in Sonic the Hedgehog, which stars James Marsden as a member of the San Francisco Police Department who’s been tasked with tracking down the source of a mysterious high-speed energy surge — Sonic himself, unbeknownst to the humans — which the government worries is powerful enough to pose a major threat. But Marsden’s character ends up befriending Ben Schwartz’s quippy CGI Sonic and becomes his protector from the many folks who want to harness Sonic’s wild speed for themselves.
The thirstiest of these folks is the evil Dr. Robotnik, who plans to use Sonic’s powers to take over the world, as bad guys are wont to do. He’s culled from the video games, in which he’s better known as Dr. Eggman for his remarkably oval head and body. But that’s not the case here, where Jim Carrey inhabits the role and turns the villain into, essentially, a throwback Jim Carrey character — think very loud and very hammy.
The result is that Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t look like a Sonic movie at all; instead, the first trailer seems to promise a Jim Carrey comedy. And from the looks of things so far, not a very funny one.
It was always going to be odd to see a CG Sonic interacting with human actors; indeed, the trailer has revealed a version of the hedgehog who is strangely buff (even if, in fairness, he is constantly running all over the place; that’s gotta be a great workout). However, what’s even more strange to a lifelong Sonic fan like me is that Sonic the Hedgehog seems a lot more concerned with Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik than it does with its title character. Carrey gets closest to eliciting any laughs from the trailer, which even ends on a shot of him donning an approximation of his character’s iconic look from the video games. The reveal of Sonic himself feels far less exciting — because, it seems, Sonic the Hedgehog is Jim Carrey’s world, and we’re just living in it.
That’s no knock against the established comedian who’s also a versatile dramatic actor and a political cartoonist. But any semblance of the original video game franchise that may have once existed in this film seems to have been minimized to give the floor to the film’s best-known star.
Perhaps that will bode well for the movie at the box office. But this is not my childhood Sonic the Hedgehog, no siree.
Sonic the Hedgehog is in theaters November 8.