The next Sonic The Hedgehog big screen adventure is here, a sequel that aims to take the series to the next level.
This time Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is joined by new additions, ally Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and foil Knuckles (Idris Elba), for another escapade that sees him once again face off against the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
This was teased at the end of the first movie, although director Jeff Fowler admits back then they didn’t exactly have a full plan in place.
He told Zavvi: “We certainly had broad strokes in mind, what fans would want to see and what might be interesting from a story perspective. And we had teased the addition of Tails.
“Seeing audiences react to that moment gave us the validation we were looking for, to build this world out and include other characters that they love.
“We had some great momentum coming out of the first film’s release, so we aimed to carry that through. But the story process is all about discovery – you rough out ideas, but it changes as you realise what the emotional journeys of these characters should be.”
Whilst the sequel dials everything up, from the action to the stakes, its focus remains on the characters, ensuring each one is fully realised.
That does go for everyone, but Sonic is continually at the heart, with the story here following our hero as he tries to find his purpose in this wide world. As Schwartz tells us:
“In the first movie he’s a really excitable kid, who didn’t have any friends but wanted so badly to be part of this world. In the second, he wants to be a superhero. But he’s just a kid growing up, he doesn’t like to be told what to do, he’s learning what it’s like to have a family.
“Sonic wants to save the day, but he can’t do it by himself, he’s taking too much on. He learns that he has to find his team, and if you do that and work together, you can accomplish even bigger things.”
With Sonic growing older and embarking on a new adventure, his relationships with his newfound family shift. For Tika Sumpter’s character Maddie, the actress tells us this meant “learning to not be as overprotective of him, realising she can let go”.
Meanwhile for James Marsden, who returns as Tom, the whole dynamic was switched up: “Last time they were buddies, but here Sonic is older, more eager to use his powers, and wants to do everything by himself.
“He sneaks out at night pretending to be Batman [a.k.a. Blue Justice, trademark pending], being reckless. Tom responds to that, so they become more like father and son.”
Of course, in this sequel Sonic isn’t the only animated character as he’s joined by Tails and Knuckles, who both play crucial roles in our hedgehog’s search for his identity.
Just like Sonic, they too are outsiders looking for community and connection, but have different ways of pursuing that journey. Tails looks up to Sonic as his idol, which is new territory for our hero as he is used to operating alone.
Having voiced Tails in the games since 2014, O’Shaughnessey brought his characterisation over to the movie: “The big differences are the situations he’s facing and where his relationship with Sonic is. But my approach with the character was the same.
“It was great working with Ben on that, even though we were via Zoom most of the time! He’s so funny and such a giving actor – I have an improv background as well so it was amazing to bounce off him.”
Knuckles meanwhile challenges Sonic in a way no one has before, helping our young hedgehog realise what it means to be a true hero.
For Fowler, British actor Elba was the right man for the job of bringing Sonic’s foil to life: “Knuckles’ entire existence is about discipline and the way of the warrior – which is a great comedic contrast to Sonic who is very jokey.
“Idris brings so much of that to the character. His voice his such gravitas and dramatic weight, which is what we wanted. Knuckles is also a serious challenger, and so we wanted fans to take him seriously. It’s the ultimate rivalry!”
Whilst the Knuckles and Sonic rivalry is one of the best from the games, his other arch-nemesis is back for more – Dr. Robotnik, played once again by Carrey who further dials up his chaotic performance.
As Schwartz says, “here you really get to see Jim play a villain” as Robotnik is looking for revenge, having previously been thwarted by Sonic.
Fowler adds that Carrey couldn’t wait to play a more eccentric take on the character: “In the first film he was so excited to give fans a glimpse at where he wanted to go with Robotnik.
“Carrey was the loudest voice in the room pushing for that mushroom planet and end scene where we saw his new look. He’s invested in every aspect of his character and in this film really goes all in – the result is hilarious.”
It’s clear that the Sonic The Hedgehog films are made by fans of the games who, just like Carrey, are incredibly invested.
One of the many ways in which that passion shines through is via the sheer amount of Easter eggs hidden within the movie. Schwartz says this is partly how they “reward the fans that have been obsessed with Sonic since the first game was released”, adding that they sneak in references wherever they can.
Fowler says he hopes it provides a fun challenge for those who want to try uncover them all: “There’s different levels of difficulty, from obvious ones casual Sonic fans would get to deeply hidden Easter eggs. That’s where the fun really is, as we couldn’t make it easy!
“We all love putting them in as we know fans will go through it with a fine toothcomb, frame by frame, seeing if they can spot everything. And then it’s straight to the Reddit boards!”
The team best get their thinking caps on in regards to Easter eggs as they will have to come up with more for the threequel, which has already been commissioned. And then there’s the Knuckles TV series that’s already in the works too!
Fowler keeps his cards close to his chest when we ask where the third film might take Sonic, only teasing that the video games hold the clues:
“We have been thinking of ideas and looking at the linear progression of the games – not that we are sticking to that blueprint, there are opportunities to jump around if it makes sense for the movies. Sonic has been around for over 30 years, so it’s like Marvel, with lots of material to pull from.”
Schwartz is on board for whatever they have planned next saying, “I will play the character as long as they will have me, hoping that my voice never fails me”.
When we tell him about our hopes that the likes of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose will soon pop up, he’s incredibly enthusiastic: “Those characters are incredible and definitely on my list.
“What’s exciting for me is that we are also doing this TV show, so there’s a whole world any side character can be a part of – it’s not just the major ones! The ideas they are discussing for the future are great. It’s going to be so much fun.”
For more Sonic The Hedgehog interviews, check out the latest edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown which features the beloved hero as this month’s cover.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is out now in UK cinemas.