Quicktime (Sonic the Hedgehog, 2020)

Sonic_the_Hedgehog_PosterSonic popularity came about at a time when I had no access to video games. So I watched a lot of the discourse around the film lacking any real skin in the game.  There are two things that stood out.  One was the initial trailer that drew outrage over the look of the Sonic.  This led to the studio rushing back to the drawing board and aggressively redesigning and animating an all new Sonic model. Since the movie was released, it seems pretty universal that the altered model is a big improvement.

The second issue seemed to revolve around how relevant this would be for young kids. One example is that on Fandom’s Charting with Dan, Dan Murrell and Lon Harris asked if kids really cared about Sonic. But honestly, at the time, the only reason I expected to see the movie, it was because my nephews liked Sonic and wanted to see the movie.

We are introduced to young Sonic, who lives on a magical island in another universe and is looked after by an Owl.  She warns Sonic that he has special abilities that people will always want to exploit, and so he must always keep himself a secret. She gives him special rings of gold and explains to him that if trouble ever happens, he must escape to another universe using the rings.  When they are attacked, Sonic is forced to leave on his own. He ends up in our world, where he spends the next ten years living in hiding.

He lives his life alone, pretending to have friendships with all the locals, with a special attachment to the local Sheriff, who he has named Donut Lord. Meanwhile, Donut Lo-uh Tom lives with his wife and is trying to chase a life of excitement by joining a larger police force. When Sonic accidentally causes a massive power outage with his powers, the U.S. Government sends out eccentric scientist Doctor Robotnik to find Sonic.

Tom finds himself road tripping with Sonic to San Francisco to locate his lost rings, bonding and trying to escape the grasp of Robotnik.

And you know…the movie is actually a lot of fun. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic with an excited child like quality.  James Marsden is always a solid Every Man (in spite of his leading man good looks). And Jim Carrey is clearly having a blast here.

The CGI works pretty well, and successfully bridges the cartoonish and real.

I am not a huge fan of the whole “You can Never Share Your Secret” narratives, as it often feels kind of an easy setup. But for the most part, once the movie kicks into gear, you kind of forget about it until the end.  Some of the humor falls flat (like the running jokes about Olive Garden).

But I was far more entertained by this film than I expected to be.  Sonic is one of the more fun video game adaptions and makes for nice light entertainment.

 

He’s Back! (Superman Returns, 2006)

superman_returns_posterSo, nearly twenty years later, after numerous failed attempts to bring Superman back to the big screen Warner Brothers managed a major coup.  The wrangled Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris away from the X-Men franchise to bring Superman back.  This seemed like a decent idea.  One of the things Singer talked about was a love for the character and the first two Superman films.  He wanted to stay in a loose continuity with those films and ignore films III ad IV entirely.  They set out and found a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Reeve, named Brandon Routh.  Truthfully, it would have been wiser to simply begin again with a new continuity, especially since they were starting with an actress ten years younger than Margot Kidder was in Superman II.  And to facilitate the “Returns” part they had Superman go on a five year journey to explore the floating rocks of Krypton.

Here is part of the problem with that.  In the end of Superman II?  Superman promises the President he will never leave the world in the lurch like that again.  So, if we are to understand this…Superman very quickly breaks that promise.  Superman returns to earth and Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet…with nobody noticing the huge coincidence.  Lois has a child who may be Superman’s (because they had sex in part 2) and has moved on, now dating Perry white’s son Richard White (James Marsden, in a move that caused Cyclops to be killed in X:3 due to scheduling needs).  Clark struggles with this, and is bothered by an article written in the time he was gone called “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”.  In the meantime, Lex Luthor has been scheming by marrying an old wealthy widow who is on her deathbed.  She gives Lex everything in her will, as the family stands outside pounding on the door.  Why wasn’t Lex in Prison?  Superman missed the trial because he left.

Lex goes back to the Fortress of Solitude and starts gathering the green crystals that contain Krypton’s records as well as ones similar to the crystal Clark used to build the Fortress in the first film.  He also steals Kryptonite to facilitate a masterful crime.  Well, not really.  See, Superman is full of loving homages to the first two Superman films.  This would not be a problem if it was done sparingly, but almost every shot seems to re-create Singer’s favorite things from the first movie.  Clark running towards the camera ripping open his shirt?  Of course you pay respects with that.  But Lex Luthor making another land grab?!  Arg.  If they had started over, as a brand new Superman, they could have still used Kevin Spacey and done business man Luthor.  Spacey could have defined the role that way.  He is great in the role…

Superman saves the day in the end, as expected, but not without getting creepy.  Superman keeps watch as he suspects Lois’ son is his son as well.  Can we pause a moment and reflect on this.  Superman wiped Lois’ memory of their time together.  How frightening must it have been to be pregnant with no idea how you got pregnant?  And Superman left shortly after, but his super hearing did not pick up on the forming child?  Superman runs out on his pregnant girlfriend who he has removed any memory of…and now acts like a jilted ex-lover.  It is an embarrassing storyline.

One thing this film does well is it’s actions scenes. Superman’s heroics are grand and exciting.  Superman saves people with great feats of strength and heroism.  The plane sequence is especially fun to watch.

I also really liked Brandon Routh.  I felt that, considering what he was given in the story, he made the most of it.  He is likeable most of the time, except those stalker moments.  I was sorry to see that this film ended any chance he would return as Superman.  If they had started over, we might have seen him begin a new and exciting franchise.

Superman Returns was a disappointing return, ironically enough.  It did not revitalize a dormant franchise, it nearly put it to sleep.

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