The Fastest Hedgehog in Video Games Never Finds His Footing

Jan 10, 2023

Home TV Reviews ‘Sonic Prime’ Review: The Fastest Hedgehog in Video Games Never Finds His Footing

With a repetitive story and lackluster animation, this multiverse misfire falls flat.

Image via Netflix

Sonic is everywhere — on the big screen in a couple of middling movies, holding a place on the small screen in recent games, and now sprinting onto streaming with the new Netflix series Sonic Prime. This isn’t necessarily a complaint, as this high-speed blue hedgehog has and can be a lot of fun. No matter what shenanigans he gets up to, he always has a wisecrack ready as he barrels ahead to smash and crash through each new environment. However, even the most playful of characters can start to feel banal when brought to life with uninspired animation and a story that never actually taps into its full potential. Such is the case with this most recent adventure, which never hits its stride either narratively or visually. It will likely have some appeal for younger and less discerning fans of the blue speed demon, though a top-tier video game adaptation this series is not.

It all begins with the titular Sonic (Deven Christian Mack) going head-to-head in yet another battle with his nemesis Dr. Eggman (Brian Drummond) that plays out about as one would excerpt. Blows are exchanged, our hedgehog hero zips around, and his friends get in on the fun. Everything seems to be going their way — that is, until the fighting triggers an unexpected narrative wrinkle that will upend the world as all the characters know it. What is known as the Paradox Prism is shattered and sends Sonic into other universes. Yes, this is a multiverse story though the series refers to it as the Shatterverse. In it, Sonic’s friends are there, but they all are different from how he remembers them. They have gained different abilities, but there are also a variety of new threats that they have to face. More troubling, none of them remember Sonic and their connection to him from the other universe. He will then have to find his way to defeat the Eggmen of these other universes and make his way back to his own.

Image via Netflix

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The jokes, from puns such as the name of a city being “New Yolk” to a reference to an old meme where Sonic says “what are these” (in reference to new shoes that convey different abilities), can be hit-or-miss depending on one’s tolerance for throwaway lines. The scenarios that the characters find themselves in are not humorous in and of themselves, as the jokes usually stem from the various snarky quips that are thrown out. There are some sequences that manage to land by shifting to a more retro animation style and mining humor from these moments of visual flair. However, these sequences are few and far between. What manages to keep some momentum going is the voice acting from Mack. He not only steps into the speedy shoes with ease but makes the character all his own. This should come as no surprise considering that he is a veteran voice actor, but one still wishes that he had been given more fun material to work with. Even as it jumps through these universes, there is a bit of a belabored setup and a general lack of spark once we then get to the other worlds.

One of the later ones involving pirates feels more fun, but the road to get there is far more scattered. It goes through loops where Sonic will stumble into a new universe, reconnect with his friends, go on a mission, rinse and repeat. Only rarely does it take full advantage of the possibility of the multiverse premise. Instead, it just goes through the motions without much imagination behind it. This likely is to appeal to a younger audience by keeping things simple and digestible. Still, one wishes there had been more of a willingness to take flight and play around with the theoretically unlimited narrative ground that it could have explored.

Image via Netflix

The characters all effectively get what are new skins depending on the universe and a new map, though this is about the extent of where it takes us. While this is very much in keeping in the vein of the video games, such previous iterations have felt more expansive and joyous than anything happening here. Creating only slight variations with the same basic progression of events gets rather tedious and stale just as fast as Sonic can run. When intermixed with what fans of the games will recognize from various sounds to other elements, there is little sense that Sonic Prime is tapping into much of anything new once the basic premise is laid out. There’s a small reward at the end of this first season when it takes to the sea for fun adventure, but this comes far too late to make up for the circuitous path that preceded it.

The greatest detriment through all of this is that the series just isn’t ever interesting to look at. Even with some of the action sequences, there is nothing that feels engaging in how it is animated. This is a shame, as the streamer has already shown that they can be home to more dynamic works of animation — whether in another video game adaptation, such as Arcane, or the recent Entergalactic. Each had its own style and ran with it in rather interesting ways. Though they are quite different from what is being attempted here, there is just far more passion and care put into the animation itself. The visuals are all largely flat and oddly stiff, leaving little to stand out in the mind over the eight episodes. All the moments of charm from abandoning this animation style for a glimpse of more inventive ones get lost in the malaise of the rest of the experience. Had it drilled down into these moments, there could have been something more to hang its hat on. Instead, it just starts to feel less and less engaging in its presentation no matter how much it throws at the screen. In the long history of this character, Sonic Prime will not be a work that stands out as it speeds by on its trip to nowhere.

Rating: C

You can watch all eight episodes of Sonic Prime Season 1 on Netflix starting December 15.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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