Video games have been better at adapting what works in movies better than movies have been at adapting what works in video games. Roger Ebert famously got a lot of criticism for saying he did not believe any video game could ever be art. Whether he was right or not, when it comes to telling a story video game companies are still turning to the movies, which is why the vastly successful Sonic the Hedgehog video game series from Sega has now produced its second film about the super-speedy alien. Sonic is so popular he has starred in 31 games and various spin-offs, appears on t-shirts and birthday party decorations and in LEGO and plush form, and was the first video game character to be a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
What game Sonic doesn’t have is characteristics beyond speed and determination or a plot beyond the basic quest. In the games, he overcomes various obstacles to beat evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik to the special power emeralds with the assistance of his best pal Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a two-tailed fox who is a gadget whiz. Sonic also has some portal-opening rings given to him by his late guardian and teacher, the owl-like Longclaw.
But movies need more character, dialogue, and plot than video games. So a bunch of human characters and storylines have been added and Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) has been given more of a personality. Following the events of the first film, he now lives with a human couple, Tom the “Donut Lord” (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), whose relationship with him is about one-quarter friendship, three-quarters parental. Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, behind a mustache broader than a pair of football shoulder pads) was exiled to a mushroom planet at the end of the first film for trying to use Sonic as a power source, but he is brought back to earth by someone else looking for Sonic, a space echidna named Knuckles (Idris Elba), who packs a punch.