Friday 21 February 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (Movie Review)

Video games rarely ever translate very well onto the big screen. This is why we've been left with duds like Super Mario Bros. and Alone in the Dark over the years. Even the more successful adaptations like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider are severely lacking in their story departments, relegating such movies to nothing more than mindless popcorn fare. So of course, my expectations were very much lowered going into Sonic the Hedgehog, which probably explains why I'd come out of it pleasantly surprised.

Based on the Sega video game series, the movie tells the story of the titular speedster (voiced by Ben Schwartz), who as it turns out is actually an alien that was forced off his homeworld and now lives in isolation in the sleepy town of Green Hills, Montana. Tired of living in loneliness, the blue hedgehog unknowingly lets off an energy signal while running laps in frustration at a baseball field. This prompts the US government to send in one of their top scientists, the nefarious Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), to trace the source of the anomaly. Now Sonic must seek the help of the town Sheriff (James Marsden) in order to escape capture.

If you by any chance happen to follow movie news, then you must've heard about the backlash received by Paramount Studios following their reveal of the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog. The public outcry was so bad that the studio was forced to delay the film's release from its November 2019 release date to February 14th. This was to allow its animators enough time to completely redesign the title character, which looked nothing like the video game mascot its fans had grown up loving.

Well, it turns out that was a great move on the studio's part, because not only is Sonic the Hedgehog the current highest opening video game adaptation, it is also a pretty okay movie. Emphasis on the okay, since the film itself is geared towards kids and fans of the game, and doesn't try to do much to subvert or elevate itself from its source material. Not that it has to, since no one should be going into the movie expecting some high drama or a thought-provoking storyline. The main highlight in my opinion is Jim Carrey's take on the Sonic villian, Dr. Robotnik, a performance that harkens to his Ace Ventura days. The story is also quite serviceable and surprisingly heartfelt, which is more than we can say about the typical video game adaptation.

In case you haven't guessed it already, there is quite a bit of enjoyment to be had with Sonic the Hedgehog. It was fun and had a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the theater full of kids I saw it with seemed to have enjoyed it quite a lot. It might not be one of the best films out there at the moment, but as far as video game adaptations go, the movie can be considered a somewhat decent one.

Friday 7 February 2020

Birds of Prey (Movie Review)

Anyone that saw the 2016 DCEU supervillain team-up movie, Suicide Squad, would remember that Margot Robbie had more or less stolen the show as Harley Quinn. So it came as no surprise when she was singled out to receive the standalone movie treatment. Fast forward some 4 years and that standalone movie finally arrives, but in the form of another supervillain team-up, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn).

After a very emotional breakup with the Gotham City Clown Prince of Crime (that is, Jared Leto's Joker for those of you keeping track), Harley Quinn begins the painful process of moving on with her life, and she does this by destroying the place where she'd proven her allegiance to the Joker, Ace Chemicals, and adopting a pet Hyena she names Bruce Wayne. The former act however signals to the city's criminal underground that the power couple were no longer together, which prompts all of the criminals she had wronged in the past to start coming after her.

This includes Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a very eccentric criminal boss with a tendency to peel off the faces of his enemies. But when a precious diamond in the possession of his personal enforcer, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), gets stolen by a young girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Harley convinces them to let her help them retrieve the diamond. Roman agrees and gives her 24 hours to do so, but to make things interesting, he also puts out a half-a-million-dollars bounty on the girl, prompting other criminals to come into the fray.

The DCEU has had some significant success of recent with movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam, and I am pleased to report that Birds of Prey is already poised to continue that winning streak. It is hands-down one of the most violent comic book movies we have gotten till date, wearing its R-rating on its sleeve. It also fully embraces what made Harley Quinn so great in Suicide Squad, and runs with it. The fact that it has some of the most eye-popping and straight-up bonkers action sequences this side of John Wick is just another achievement.

Birds of Prey is the Suicide Squad we should have gotten in 2016. But unlike that movie that was all style but with very little substance, it starts with a promise of delivering a quirky comic book movie like none before, and manages to follow through and stick the landing. It is that rare film where the trailers were nowhere as good as the actual movie itself. This is probably why I had gone into it with some cautious optimism, and I came out of it pleasantly surprised as a result.