Release Date(s)2022 (August 9, 2022)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
In the thirty years since Sega first introduced Sonic the Hedgehog for their Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System consoles, there have been nearly a hundred different follow-up games, variants, and compilations in a wide variety of genres: 2D platformers, 3D platformers, racing games, fighting games, educational games, arcade games, and more. There have even been some crossovers that included Nintendo’s Mario character. The series has also worked its way into other media, including multiple animated television series and comic books. With that extensive history and lore to draw from, it’s no surprise that the franchise eventually made its way to the big screen in 2020 with Sonic the Hedgehog, and that the film was so successful that it spawned a sequel just two years later. It’s also not surprising that Sonic fans are passionate about the character, so when the first trailer was released for the original film in 2019, there was an online backlash over the way that the character had been designed. Paramount took the unusual step of delaying the film’s release date in order to provide time for the production team to re-design the character, and the move paid off with $319 million in global box office receipts.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 picks up several months after the events of the first film, with the alien Sonic (Ben Schwartz) living on Earth with his adopted human family members Tom (James Mardsen) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). With Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) banished to another planet, the friendly blue hedgehog struggles to find his place in the world. When Dr. Robotnik finds his way back to Earth thanks to some assistance from Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), Sonic must team up with his new friend Miles “Tails” Prowler (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) to stop the notorious Eggman from conquering Earth.
Both Sonic films were helmed by Jeff Fowler from Blur Studios, who had handled the cut scenes for a couple of the Sonic videogames, so he certainly was familiar with the character. Despite the variety of genres that the games have explored, the franchise has always been a platformer at heart, so it’s nice that there’s actual platforming action in the sequel. There’s still too little of it in a film that runs far too long for its own good, with much of the running time taken up with struggling to dig up some emotional depth. That said, there’s a very nice touch near the end when Sonic finally recognizes Dr. Robotnik’s real weakness, and empowers himself through it. Plus, the core message of the film is one that’s always welcome: true families are what you make them to be, and not just the result of birth. For Sonic and his adopted family, water truly is thicker than blood.
Cinematographer Brandon Trost captured Sonic the Hedgehog 2 digitally at 4.5K resolution using ARRI ALEXA mini LF and Red Komodo cameras with Panavision T-series anamorphic lenses. Post-production was completed with a 4K Digital Intermediate, which was framed at 2.39:1 for the theatrical release. Paramount has prepared a new 4K Ultra HD release of the film, graded for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on the disc). Whatever you may think of the film, it offers some impressive eye candy. The image is razor sharp, with every blade of grass and every grain of sand being perfectly delineated. Facial textures are equally impressive, with sharply-defined features, including the facial hair—Robotnik’s mustache is always well-resolved. Granted, much of the running time for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was generated on a computer, and while it’s likely that the effects were rendered in 2K and upscaled for compositing, they still integrate well with the extreme clarity of the live-action footage.
Unsurprisingly, the HDR grade is equally dazzling. The colors are as brilliant as in any video game, but with far more depth thanks to the wide color gamut. The contrast range is generally strong—highlights such as sparks and other energy effects are blazing, and on the other end, the black levels are equally deep. There are just a few shots set in dimly lit interiors where the contrast range flattens a bit and the black levels are somewhat elevated, but those moments are few and far between. It’s not quite a reference-level transfer, but it’s pretty close.
Primary audio is offered in a hyperactive English Dolby Atmos mix that’s genuine demo material. All channels are fully engaged throughout the film, including the overheads. It’s such an aggressive mix overall that they can get a bit overwhelmed by the nonstop aural assault, but they’re really noticeable in moments such as the scene in the underground vault when Sonic breaks through the ceiling, or with the lightning bolts generated by Robotnik later in the story. There’s also a great moment where there are multiple Tails surrounding the viewer, and his voice ping-pongs between them, all around the room. The entire film is filled with prodigiously deep bass, and it includes plenty of seat-shaking moments. That’s certainly true of the sound effects, but the Junkie XL score offers its own potent low end. To paraphrase John Lennon in A Hard Day’s Night, this soundtrack is a window rattler, son. If you’re accustomed to falling asleep to family films from Disney that feature compromised audio tracks, lacking in bass and dynamic impact, this Paramount disc will wake you up in dramatic fashion. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio and Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French 5.1, and French (Canada) 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Danish, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin American), French, French (Canada), Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. Commentary subtitle options include English, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French, and French (Canada).
Paramount’s 4K Ultra HD release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is UHD only—meaning that it doesn't include a Blu-ray copy of the film, but instead offers a Digital code on a paper insert tucked inside the case, as well as a slipcover. The following extras are included, all of them in HD:
- Audio Commentary by Jeff Fowler and Ben Schwartz
- Animated Short: Sonic Drone Home (5:19)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (7 in all – 17:17)
- Bloopers (3:18)
- Music Video: Kid Cudi – Stars in the Sky (3:06)
- Finding Your Team (6:31)
- The Powerful Puncher: Knuckles (5:43)
- Rapid Fire Responses with Ben Schwartz (3:20)
- Robotnik Reimagined (5:37)
- A Sibling for Sonic: Tails (4:46)
In the commentary track, Fowler and Schwartz freely acknowledge the fact that there probably aren't going to be many people listening to it—they dedicate it to the two fans of their commentary for the first film. That sets the tone for the rest of the track, which is lighthearted and energetic. They’re clearly friends who enjoy spending time with each other, and they keep things moving at all times. There’s a lot of information here for fans of the film, but this is actually worth a listen even for casual viewers. Be sure to stick with it until the end, as they identify the character who appears in the mid-credits scene, and they also call one of the other voice actors and chat briefly.
The rest of the extras are a typically superficial collection of deleted scenes, bloopers, and EPK fluff, with one short subject as well. Sonic Drone Home is a fully animated short featuring a new adventure with Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. While Schwartz returns to voice Sonic, neither O’Shaughnessey nor Elba were involved, unfortunately. There are 7 total Deleted and Extended Scenes that can be played individually, or as a group: Mushroom Planet Intro, Sonic Caught Sneaking Out, Getting Ready for Hawaii, Tails Meets Wade, Robotnik’s Fake Crowdfunding Scheme, Knuckles Learns the Meaning of Lying, and Wade Discovers Robotnik’s Secret Hideout. They were all deleted relatively early in post-production, so the effects work is still in animatic form. The Bloopers are mostly just unamusing mugging for the camera, but there’s more Jim Carrey improvising, if that's your kind of thing. Finding Your Team focuses on the new group of human characters, with the actors talking about working with Fowler and dealing with the effects work. The Powerful Puncher examines the introduction of Knuckles into the cinematic universe. Rapid Fire Responses features Schwartz free associating to either/or questions. Robotnik Reimagined offers all the Jim Carrey that you could possibly want. At least he does seem to genuinely be having fun in the role. A Friend for Sonic looks at the interaction between Sonic and Tails in the film, compared to how they're used in the games.
Producing a big-budgeted film based on a video game character can be a challenge, because it’s difficult to find a balance between pleasing the fans of the game, and making any kind of sense whatsoever to people who have never played them. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 seems to skate a fine line between the two, so it’s diverting enough for the whole family. Paramount’s UHD also offers nearly reference-quality video and audio, so there’s also something here for home theatre fans as well. We all love our eye candy.
- Stephen Bjork