• Film reviews

    #401 – Sonic the Hedgehog (1996)

    Sonic the Hedgehog (1996)

    Film review #401

    Director: Kazunori Ikegami

    SYNOPSIS: Sonic the Hedgehog is visited with an urgent message from the President of Planet Freedom. When he goes to visit him, Sonic finds none other than his arch nemesis Dr. Robotnik, who actually wants Sonic’s help in destroying Metal Robotnik, a robot who has taken over the city of Robotropolis, where the generator for the city is about to go critical and endanger the whole planet unless Sonic can go and defeat Metal Robotnik and shut the generator down. Meanwhile, Robotnik has his own schemes at work, including one for a certain “Hyper Metal Sonic”…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISSonic the Hedgehog is a 1997 animated film made from a two-part Original Video Animation (commonly known as OVA) released in Japan. The story opens up with Sonic and Tails relaxing on a beach when they are visited by an owl who is only referred to as “the old man.” He tells them that the President of Planet Freedom wishes to see them urgently. When they arrive, Sonic and Tails find their nemesis Dr. Robotnik there, who actually wants their help. Robotnik has been forced out of his home of Robotropolis by Metal Robotnik, and the generator in the city will overload and destroy the planet soon if it is not shut down. Sonic and Tails agree to do it, and travel to Robotropolis. The story throws you into the middle of this world with little explanation of what is going on (with the brief exception of the world being divided between an upper world of floating islands, and a lower world of darkness where Robotropolis is). That’s not necessary a problem though, as a blue hedgehog that runs really fast doesn’t need too much of a backstory or exposition to engage the viewer. The characters are recognisable and act more or less how you would expect them too, so you get what you would want in that respect in a movie about the video game character.

    Sonic and Tails arrive in the lower world of darkness and encounter Metal Robotnik, and battle takes place in the ruins of what seems to be New York City, suggesting planet Freedom is actually Earth in the distant future. The action is fast-paced and delivers what you’d expect, with lots of running and jumping all over the place. Sonic and Tails are saved by Knuckles, who again is more or less the character you would expect him to be. The second part of the film sees Sonic facing off against “Hyper Metal Sonic,” a robot version of Sonic created by Robotnik. There’s not too much to say about this part of the movie, as it is more or less a straight-up fight between Sonic and Metal Sonic, with the other characters sometimes interjecting. Again, this isn’t so bad in terms of the characters and world themselves don’t need to have a comprehensive story mapped out for you. I think it more or less delivers what it needs to, but since it clocks in at under an hour, it feels like there’s a lot more that could have been done.

    As mentioned, this movie was composed of a two-part Japanese animation, and re-edited into a single movie for an English release. The dubbing industry at the time was not particularly great, but the English voices are all pretty terrible. Sonic sounds very nasally, but has a bit of the attitude you would expect him to. Tails sounds awful and always sounds like he has a cold. Robotnik’s voice is fairly decent, and sounds fairly similar to the voice he has in the video games that preceded this movie. The animation as well often feels cheap and fragmentary with a lack of frames making the animation feel rough, which destroys any sense of speed and fluidity that the movie really needs to show off Sonic’s speed. A lot of the expressions of the characters and their style or reactions are those that are typical of Japanese animation, and don’t really translate too well. This is again an issue around the early dubbing industry still finding its feet with how to approach the Japanese animation style.

    Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog is a brief foray into the world of the titular character. It doesn’t establish any deep story elements or incorporate any of the stories from the games, but relies on the recognisable characters doing what you would expect them to, and leaves the detail of the world to the imagination. The quality of animation and voices really hampers the feel of the film at points, and the style of animation is awkwardly interpreted at times, but there’s some decent action scenes, and portrays the characters in a way that one would more or less expect.

  • Film reviews

    #367 – Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo

    Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo (2012)

    Film review #367

    Director: Hideaki Anno

    SYNOPSIS: Shinji Ikari wakes up out of a coma to find he has been unconscious for fourteen years. In that time, the world has changed to a point that it is unrecognisable to him. The people he knew do not need him anymore, and his actions seem to have not mattered. As he sinks back into a state of depression, he finds a new friend; one which accepts him completely for who he is. However, fate has another twist in store for Shinji, as he is once again forced to play his part in the machinations of his Father, and the fate of humanity once again falls into his hands…

    THOUGHTS/ANSLYSISEvangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo is a 2012 film and the third in the Rebuild of Evangelion series, which remakes and retells the iconic Japanese animated TV series based around giant EVA robots piloted by a group of selected children. The film opens up where the previous one left off…well, except that it is fourteen years after the events of its climax.  The film is very neatly separated into three acts, almost as If they were episodes of the TV series. The first act opens with Shinji Ikari waking up out of a coma to find out he has been asleep for fourteen years. In this time, it seems that everything has changed, with everyone he knew now working for WILLE, a new organisation dedicated to stopping NERV and the fourth impact, which will bring about the end of humanity. The ending of the second film saw Shinji finding a purpose and doing what he wanted in order to save Rei Ayanami, a fellow EVA pilot, and when Shinji wakes up at the beginning of this film, he finds that not only he didn’t save Rei after all, but he is no longer needed to pilot the EVA, leaving him without purpose. While the two previous films followed the story of the original series quite closely, this film opens up in a completely new world that has deviated from the source material, so viewers will empathise with Shinji’s position. The problem with this is that it essentially renders the ending of the previous film null and pointless. The ending was a powerful moment in that Shinji finally found his voice and purpose, but cancelling that out completely in the opening scenes in this film doesn’t sit quite right, and sets the film back quite a bit. While Shinji can do nothing, Misato, Asuka and the rest of the people Shinji knew go into battle in the EVAs and their new battleship in quite frankly is an amazing, hugely epic battle. The animation is an exemplary mix of 2D and 3D animation, there’s lots of variety in the action, and the soundtrack is grand. It does go on for quite a while, but it really is a spectacle that is extremely busy and full of shouting orders and military execution that again gives no space for Shinji to really do anything.

    Shinji is kidnapped by his Father and told he must pilot a new EVA unit with a co-pilot, another young boy named Kaworu. In his hopeless state of mind, Shinji finds the one person who offers to help and support him unconditionally. After the high stakes, epic battle that consumed the first act, all that energy dissipates to focus on the psychological troubles of Shinji which will not be unfamiliar to fans of the series. The trouble is after the first act and its bombastic battle it struggles to find a footing and feels like a let-down in comparison. There’s a lot of re-visiting of similar themes as Shinji and Kaworu spend time with each other, as well as Shinji’s re-establishing contact with Rei. Again, all these things feel like they were addressed by the end of the second film, and they are being brought up again without adding anything new to the narrative. There’s some effort to make Shinji’s motivations more clear, but this act is very sparse on content.

    The Third act sees Shinji and Kaworu enacting Gendo’s (Shinji’s Father) wish to begin the fourth impact and to initiate the next step of human evolution. The tempo picks up again and there’s a balance between the themes and energies of the first two acts. The story however starts to get really complicated, and difficult to follow: even though this is in typical Evangelion style, it still feels like it is throwing in a lot of exposition and elements that are given little space to be considered by the viewer. The trouble is that the first act demonstrated such a powerful action sequence that the climax just can’t compare with it. It tries, but there’s a complete mismatch. The climax is still filled with drama and action, but it’s a middle ground between the first two acts, and it can’t synthesise the two to move beyond them sadly.

    Overall, Evangelion 3.0 offers a dramatic departure and something different for the series. Whereas the first two films stuck to the pace and structure of the original series, this film throws the viewer, along with the main character into a completely new world, leaving us in the same position as Shinji in order to empathise with him. I have to emphasise again that the way the film immediately renders the payoff of the previous film null and void feels like a bad move, and sends the film back to square one with the characters. The opening act does a good job of balancing the action with the impact of the situation on Shinji’s character, offering the viewer the chance of empathise with him, but the film does feel like it peaks at the end of the first act, and never quite exceeds what it achieves there. Nevertheless, the animation quality (again, mostly in the first act) is spectacular, the music is epic, and it offers a sense of scale and drama (thanks to its large budget) that the series did not do. The story struggles to find its footing throughout in this new direction, and dims the energy of the film series, but the areas it does excel in balance out the weaknesses which leave the film a mixed bag. More should probably be expected of such a highly regarded and renowned series, but it is not completely a write-off, and sets up a final film which hopefully can provide a fitting ending.