Sonic 2 is a Great Adaptation

by David Gomez

Warning: Spoiler Alerts Below.

The Video Game Curse 

It’s no surprise that video game movies haven’t exactly done so well both critically and financially. But the question is why? One might say it’s because the movie studios don’t know what they’re doing or that some games weren’t meant to be shown on the big screen. There are a lot of reasons for why games haven’t translated so well to either the big screen or even the little screen. However, that’s been changing as of recently. Shows like Arcane” have blown people’s expectations on what makes a great video game show and as of recent a certain speedy blue hedgehog has been making the rounds in the cinemas.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has been a global box office success, while critics were indifferent to it giving it a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes audiences have been loving it many saying it’s better than the first movie with a 98 percent rating.

So now the question remains, how is Sonic the Hedgehog, a character that has been mocked in the gaming community for years ever since Sonic ’06 and disappointing fans for the past 10 years, made such a positive impact on video game movies?

What is it doing right and what could other video game adaptations learn from it? 

What Makes A Good Adaptation and Why what do Video Game Movies Get Wrong?

What makes a “good” adaptation of any property? There are Four very important key aspects to making a good adaptation to any property, even video games. 

  1. Make changes so it sticks out more and gives fans of the original property something new to chew on while also giving newcomers a similar experience.
  2. Don’t make the changes so dramatic unless it is absolutely necessary. There are a lot of things the original property can offer both visually and thematically that should be kept in the adaptation or at least have a new spin to it.
  3. Properly introduce the world of the game as a movie. You are making a film not only for fans, but also for the general public so it’s important to invest in them and in the world while also getting fans interested. Make people care about the world of the games the film/show is based on.
  4. Get the right people and the right studio to get the job done along with the company or people that made the original product. 

 Granted, the process is a bit more complicated than that. Films like “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon” are almost nothing like their source material and the films are great in their own right because they also follow step two, well to an extent.  So why is it that so many video game movies fail so hard and what could they do better? 

Films like the “Resident Evil” and “(2016)Tomb Raider” offer two different spectrums. The Resident Evil film series is almost nothing like its game counterpart with only the first two films being somewhat like the games. While elements from the games are taken, like certain enemies and have a somewhat unique spin to them, the rest is just a very bad and dumb zombie flick. As the series went on it lost any of the good/interesting elements of the first movie while also losing the heart and soul of the original games.

On the other side of the coin is “Tomb Raider” a film that is too much like it’s source material, that takes every single shot and story beat from the game, but also loses the heart of the characters and the story.

So why did the Sonic Movies avoid this fate? 

A Perfect Setup

Plot wise the first movie didn’t seem like much. 2020’s Sonic the Hedeghog stars Ben Schwartz as the titular blue blur as he’s sent to Earth by his motherly owl figure Longclaw after the Echidna tribe wants Sonic’s power. Living in hiding in the small town of Green Hills for 10 years, all alone Sonic yearns for friendship. After his emotional outburst releases a huge energy wave the U.S .Government hires Dr. Robtinik  aka Dr. Eggman (played by Jim Carrey) to track down the source of Sonic’s powers.

One thing done right in both films is Sonic’s character. In the original and the sequel, Sonic is childish, cocky, confident, but also very emotional and tragic. This is a very different take on the character we all know and love from the games who most has a carefree cool edge to him and throughout the series remains a static character.

But this change isn’t a bad thing as it gives him more potential as a character to grow into a Sonic the general public is more familiar with from the games while also being more fleshed out. Along with this the introduction of Longclaw the Owl sets up some interesting lore in the second movie and for the film universe as a whole. The theme of friendship is also a key theme that is not only prevalent in this movie, but also within the games.

Finally it has good world building. The portal rings are a clever nod to the early Genesis era games where after gamers complete a level they jump through a giant ring into the next zone and it gives Sonic a reason to collect rings. While the first film is ok, it takes only the bare bones essentials and utilizes them in interesting and unique ways. Something the next installment would do even better. 

An Even Better Sequel! 

 Sonic 2 picks up 8 months after the events of the first movie. Sonic is trying to be a hero, but isn’t doing such a good job. He gets his moment to shine after Robotnik returns from the Mushroom planet along with the help a red warrior Echidna named Knuckles (played by Idris Elba) who’s in search of the powerful Master Emerald. Sonic isn’t alone. Tail the Fox (played by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) joins in to aid Sonic. It’s a race against time to get the Emerald and save the world. This film introduces a lot of the game’s mythos while also bringing something new to the table. The film also sets up other things like G.U.N, Shadow the Hedgehog and more for the foreseeable future. These are all much needed changes especially to improve certain aspects of the original games that have been missing these elements for over a decade.  

The Student has become The Master
Fans have been less than happy with many of the recent Sonic games since 2010. Many have complained that the characters have become hollow shells of their former selves. Characters like Knuckles went from a naive, socially awkward hothead, to being a dumb hotheaded side character. Tails probably got hit the worst of the Sonic trio going from a young shy kid who looked up to Sonic while also realizing he can be his own character to a arrogant smart talker who is also a total push over to villains.

So… What’s next for Sonic and Video Game movies? 

Both the first movie and the second are prime examples of what makes a great movie and an even better adaptation of an iconic game series, improving many of the elements that the  games had forgotten or have simply not done yet. As of now Paramount has greenlit a third movie and a Knuckles TV series for Paramount+. The second movie has made more than $300 million dollars worldwide surpassing its predecessor and kicking off the Sonic Cinematic Universe. This film hits every box on what makes a good, if not great video game movie and more studios should embrace this similar mindset when adapting video game properties in the future.