"Sonic the Hedghog" box office "Sonic the Hedghog" box office

Two years ago, it’s only been two years, the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog film created a stir when its original trailer dropped and one of gaming’s most legendary characters had been remodeled into a too-human version of his 8-bit self.

After a brief delay, to redesign the world’s most famous hedgehog into something more akin to his video game roots, the film finally launched and ended up making box office history as the highest-grossing video game adaptation ever.

Almost immediately, Paramount ordered and began developing a follow-up, which is now in theaters. So popular is the franchise that a third film is already in the works, along with at least one tv spin-off.

Jeff Fowler, director of the first film, helms the sequel. Notably, artist Tyson Hesse is also back after originally joining the film franchise to fix Sonic’s look after the disastrous launch of the first film’s trailer.

Jim Carrey, James Marsden, and Sonic voice actor Ben Schwartz also each returned to their roles from the previous film. Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who voices Tails in the Sonic video games, does the same for the film, and Idris Elba steps in as Knuckles.

Critical response to the latest installment has been mixed, with most acknowledging that the film is at least a serviceable sequel which should appeal to kids new to the franchise and long-time fans alike. At the time of publication, the film’s critical review score on Rotten Tomatoes sits at a fresh 67%.

For our review roundup, we opted to focus on the few – very few in fact – reviews which addressed the film’s cgi work. Arguably the saving grace of the first installment, few critics even mentioned character design despite the increased screen time of animated characters with the addition of franchise favorites Knuckles and Tails.

Here is what a few reviews had to say about the film’s animation.

In his critique for The Wrap, Carlos Aguilar wonders if, perhaps, an animated Sonic feature might serve the franchise as well or better than the current live-action series we’re receiving.

When no humans are around, and only the animated creatures against shiny backgrounds remain (for example, during a beach scene late in the story), one can better appreciate the work of the character designers and vfx artists to make Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles mostly fit in within the live-action or photorealistic settings. Yet, it’s also during these moments that one wonders if a fully animated take on Sonic would best serve the material.

News.com.au critic Wenlei Ma reminded readers of the fiasco that almost broke, but perhaps eventually made the first film. In her review of the sequel however, it feels as though the eventual charm of the first film and its blue protagonist might have set expectations too high for the follow up.

Remember the brouhaha over the very first Sonic the Hedgehog trailer? The backlash was so fierce to Sonic’s “humanized” look, the studio actually went back and reanimated the character. What seemed calamitous at the time turned into a blessing… But expectations can also sink you because now that Sonic has set a bar, even if not an enormously high one, the sequel has to meet it. And Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is, at best, mediocre. Inoffensive mediocrity, but mediocrity.

Critical of the “jarringly cartoonish” contrast between the film’s cgi and live-action set pieces, John Nugent at Empire says this sequel only offers more of what audiences already got with the first film.

In every respect Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is really just more of the same. Steered by largely the same creative team as before, this is simply more fairly generic and forgettable family fodder: a Saturday-morning cartoon with a Hollywood budget, targeted primarily at an audience of eight-year-olds. It’s still colorful and kooky, the cg character designs are still jarringly cartoonish in their live-action surroundings, and the jokes are still, on the whole, bad. The significant differences are the addition of Tails, voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey; and Knuckles, voiced by Idris Elba, who’s like a Poundshop Drax The Destroyer.

Indiewire’s Siddhant Adlakha was among those most critical of the film’s cgi and its voice acting lineup, apart from some kind words for O’Shaughnessey. He did not, however, blame the animators for what he sees as the film’s main failing.

The biggest issue, however, is the cgi main characters, a trio of rushed creations who barely emote (no doubt a function of how ruthlessly overworked Hollywood animators tend to be). The lack of expressions makes some amount of sense in Knuckles’ case, since the hard-headed warrior has a one-tracked, violent disposition and a seemingly permanent scowl, but Elba sounds positively unenthused in the role, so he doesn’t help matters.

And finally, Tim Grierson’s Screen Daily review used the film’s hybrid format to reflect on the advancements in mixed-format filmmaking over the past 35 years.

From a technical standpoint, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is fairly impressive in its merging of live-action and animation, a reminder of the technological advancements since the days of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.