It’s hard to believe two years have passed since the outcry over Sonic the Hedgehog’s live-action film debut led producers to rethink their toothy, tiny-faced, pointy-nosed version of Sonic.
The resulting CGI redo pushed the film’s release date to Valentine’s Day 2020—and for Ars, the film gets the dubious honor of being the final film we were able to screen in a theater for the rest of 2020. But it wasn’t the worst film for that, as it included enough humor, charm, and salvaged CGI to squeak into that year’s best-of list.
But there was certainly room for improvement—which is why I’m already optimistic about how the sequel is shaping up, as evidenced by Sonic 2‘s Thursday night world-premiere trailer.
Sonic is still a plucky, young-yet-eager superhero trying to come to grips with his powers, while his caretaker and human best friend (again, played by James Marsden) reminds the otherworldly hedgehog that maybe he should slow his spin-roll instead of causing trouble as a makeshift vigilante. “There will come a moment when your powers will be needed,” Marsden’s character says in the trailer. “You don’t choose that moment—that moment chooses you.” This earns a snappy retort from Sonic, again voiced by Ben Schwarz: “Did you steal that from Oprah?”
Almost immediately, the trailer homes in on the best part of Sonic 1: Jim Carrey’s return as Dr. Robotnik. This time, he’s accompanied by an army of floating droid robots that much better resemble the machines his character rides and pilots in Sonic video games’ boss battles. Carrey is immediately eager to continue carving his own Robotnik identity, announcing his entrance with a nearly Mask-like cry of, “Papa’s got a brand new ‘stache.” (The end of Sonic 1 shows Carrey’s character getting electrocuted, and thus, transforming his somewhat overkill mustache into an absolutely cartoony exaggeration. Sonic 2 leaves this mustache in place, and I give it a giant, white-glove thumbs-up.)
After a brief, chuckle-worthy exchange between Carrey and his Sonic 1 right-hand henchman, Sonic meets longtime series character Tails for this film universe’s first time (with their introduction left unexplained in this trailer). The duo immediately spins up a few nicely staged action sequences. Sonic perches on the wing of Tails’ classic bi-plane before approaching a massive Robotnik missile-launching installation. Sonic super-runs through a lava-lined catacomb, bouncing off its walls to boost his speed. And in an assault on an apparent snow-capped fortress, Sonic rides in on a snowboard, then grabs a rocket mid-launch, flips, and throws it back, shouting, “Return to sender!” This flurry of action plays out like a high-budget Saturday morning cartoon, and it implies the film will revolve around a Sonic and Tails relationship—which I’m hopeful proves more fruitful than the serviceable Sonic-and-Madsen bonding of old. (In one brief snippet, the animal duo walks into a rough-looking biker bar, which immediately makes Tails faint. Cute.)
The trailer concludes with our first-ever look at a live-action CGI Knuckles besting Sonic’s taunt by growling, “Do I look like I need your power?” before throwing our blue hero down. This one-line dialogue hints that Knuckles’ new voice actor, Idris Elba, is aiming for a very different combination of voice and accent than we’ve heard from him before, particularly compared to his wicked, Queen’s English take on The Jungle Book’s Shere Khan. Honestly, it sounds interesting and makes me more excited to hear how Elba might transform the game series’ most mysterious hero—and to see how Elba and Carrey might play off of each other as different kinds of bad guys, each with designs on harvesting the game series’ mysterious Chaos Emeralds.
Sonic 2 arrives in theaters on April 8, 2022. And while next year should be fruitful for live-action video game adaptations, most of the ones we’ve heard about thus far are slated for TV and streaming, including The Last Of Us on HBO, The Witcher‘s second season on Netflix, and Halo on Paramount Plus. (The latter got its own world premiere peek on Thursday evening, as well, but it proved incredibly short on details, lacking conversational scenes for any sense of how Master Chief will sound or talk in the show.) Meanwhile, the live-action Detective Pikachu fork of the Pokemon series has been dormant for some time, with the last news on that front being a pessimistic “on hold” description from actor Justice Smith.
Listing image by Paramount