-Sonic the Hedgehog 2" Review Roundup: Pros and Cons for the CGI Sequel

Only two years ago, the trailer for the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released, and it caused a stir when one of gaming's most legendary characters was transformed into an all-too-human 8-bit version of him.

After a brief delay to rework the world's most famous hedgehog to more closely resemble his video game roots, the film was finally released and went on to become the highest grossing video game adaptation ever.

Paramount immediately ordered a sequel, which is currently in theaters. The franchise is so popular that a third film is already in the works, as well as at least one TV spin-off.

Jeff Fowler, director of the first film, will direct the sequel. Also returning is artist Tyson Hesse, who joined the film franchise to fix Sonic's look after the first film's trailer flop.

Jim Carrey, James Marsden, and Sonic voice actor Ben Schwartz also each returned to their previous roles. Colleen O'Shaughnessy, who voiced Tails in the Sonic video games, also does the same voice in the film, and Idris Elba appears as Knuckles.

Critical reaction to the latest film has been mixed, with most admitting that the film is at least a serviceable sequel that will appeal to both children new to the franchise and longtime fans. At the time of its release, the film had a review score of only 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.

For our review roundup, we chose to focus on the few - actually very few - reviews that addressed the CGI work of the film. Despite the addition of franchise favorites Knuckles and Tails, no doubt a saving grace of the first installment, and more screen time for the animated characters, few critics mentioned the character designs.

Following are several reviews of the film's animation.

In a review in The Wrap, Carlos Aguilar believes that perhaps Sonic's animated feature might serve the franchise as well or better than the current live-action series we are receiving.

When there are no humans around and only animated creatures on glossy backgrounds (e.g., the beach scene late in the story), character designers and VFX that make Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles almost blend into the live action and photorealistic setting one can better appreciate the work of the artists. But it is moments like these that make one wonder if a fully animated Sonic might be best suited for the film.

News.com.au critic Wenley Marr reminded readers of the fiasco that almost broke the first film but ultimately succeeded. In her review of the sequel, however, she feels that the first film's eventual appeal and its blue protagonist may have raised expectations for the sequel too high.

Recall the furor over the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" trailer. The backlash against Sonic's "humanized" appearance was so intense that the studio actually brought the character to life. But now that Sonic has set the bar, if not a very high bar, the sequel must meet it. And "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is mediocre at best. A safe mediocre film, but a mediocre film.

Critical of the "jarringly cartoonish" contrast between the film's CG and live-action set pieces, Empire's John Nugent says the sequel only offers audiences more of what they already got in the first film.

In every respect, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is really more of the same. Headed by much the same creative team as the first film, it is a Hollywood-budgeted Saturday morning cartoon aimed primarily at eight-year-olds. It's still colorful and creepy, the CG character designs are distinctly cartoonish in live action, and the jokes remain generally bad. The big difference is the addition of Tails, voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessy, and Knuckles, voiced by Idris Elba, who looks like Drax the Destroyer from Pound Shop.

Indiewire's Siddhant Adlakha was the most critical of the film's CG and voice-over lineup, aside from a few kind words for O'Shaughnessey. He did not, however, blame the animators for what he considered the film's main failings.

The biggest problem, however, is the CG protagonists, a hastily assembled trio of mostly emotionless (no doubt an effect of how ruthlessly overworked Hollywood animators tend to be). In Knuckles' case, the lack of facial expression makes some sense, since he is a strong warrior with a single-minded, violent personality who seems to be constantly smiling fearlessly, but Elba sounds completely unmotivated for the role, which does not help matters.

And finally, Tim Grierson's Screen Daily review uses the film's hybrid format to reflect on the progress of mixed-format filmmaking over the past 35 years.

From a technical standpoint, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is quite impressive in its blend of live action and animation, reminding us of the advances in technology since the days of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."