Sonic the Hedgehog 2 1
Image: Paramount Pictures

Nobody was expecting much from Sonic's first live-action flick, but against all odds, it's an inoffensive, entertaining family film that captures the heart of the franchise. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the sensibly named sequel, builds upon the original's successes to deliver something rather rare in Hollywood: a follow-up that's actually better than what came before.

With the groundwork laid down in Sonic 1, director Jeff Fowler has been able to cast the net a little wider and reel in more characters and narrative beats from the games. The hedgehog himself is happy with his lot: Dr. Robotnik has been banished to a mushroom planet, and he secretly lives a vigilante life to let loose his speedy abilities. However, while things in Green Hills are peachy, Jim Carrey's unstable antagonist returns, and this time, he's allied with Knuckles, an echidna with a chip on his shoulder.

A clearer core plot revolves around the Master Emerald, a McGuffin that Eggman and Knuckles are after, albeit for their own reasons. Sonic, along with a newfound partner in Tails, seeks to stop the duo from getting their hands on the all-powerful gemstone. There's some extra context behind it all, but the important thing is that the film feels more in line with the games — this is less about Sonic finding his feet in small town America, and more about thwarting the bad guys.

That's not to say the human characters are gone completely. The majority of characters who aren't three-foot tall furballs are distracted elsewhere, leaving the majority of the film in the hands of Sonic and Robotnik. While the focus is definitely on the hedgehog and his colourful peers, the wider cast are of course brought into the action, although a particular scene in the second act feels a little prolonged, probably to give actors like James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, and Natasha Rothwell something to do.

Still, even with a runtime that's maybe a touch long for a kids' film, Sonic 2 is better than its predecessor in most measurable ways. The script is funnier, the action is more exciting, and locations are more varied and interesting. Reverence for the source material can be found everywhere, too. We won't spoil anything, as there are some wonderful set-pieces that directly harken back to the Genesis classics, and it's great to see.

Performances all around are generally good; Carrey's unhinged Robotnik is great, while Idris Elba puts in a good turn providing the booming voice of Knuckles — amusingly self-serious despite being a bright red oaf in clown shoes. No one is winning an Oscar for their Sonic 2 appearance, but you get the impression all involved are having fun onscreen.

Of course, things are set up perfectly for the third movie, and we can see human characters taking even more of a back seat going forward. Scenes that don't involve Sonic, Tails, or the baddies are weakest, so it follows that more emphasis will be put on the core heroes and villains. That said, Sonic 2 overall steps things up nicely, and ought to eke out a smile or two from fans young and old.

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