sonic the hedgehog 2 has had a wild ride since its release. From becoming the highest-grossing video game movie of all time to surpassing the likes of Morbius and Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets to be celebrated as an amazing film in its own right, the film series has come a long way since that first trailer in 2019. And while the film is amazing in many ways, that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. The occasional pacing issue and a bizarre wedding subplot are two notable issues. Yet one problem trumps them all – one that stems directly from the first film and which, if not fixed soon, could continue to be the series’ greatest detriment. And that flaw happens to be one of the greatest strengths of the games they’re based on: the music.
Music played a major role in Sonic franchise for decades. From the very beginning, each game composer has masterfully used music as a form of storytelling to explain the overall tone of each level or boss battle while emotionally engaging fans. It’s become a franchise staple, and fans have come to have even higher expectations than the games themselves. But for some reason, the same can’t be said for the movies.
In games, music is a key element in making the audience feel emotions, but it also helps tell the story. Especially in previous titles, where dialogue was absent and cutscenes rare, the music helped tell fans what was going on. Green Hill Zone’s music is fun and whimsical, making the player feel safe and at home. Eggman’s music, by contrast, is menacing and imperialistic; it makes it clear that Doc Robotnik is a cruel villain who cares more about his conquest than the people he hurts. It also amplifies the reader; in pivotal moments of intensity, music is crucial for fans to feel the energy to keep playing. And all of this combines to create a truly masterful experience for the audience, one where the quality is amplified a thousandfold by the music and what it is trying to convey.
Sadly, the movies seemingly lack all of that. Throughout both Sonic movies, the scores have been relatively forgettable and mundane, nothing like what fans have come to expect from the series. And what’s strange is that the main composer isn’t exactly inexperienced. Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL has composed many well-known and beloved scores in the past for other films including Mad Max: Fury Road, dead Pool and Justice League. Something like sonic the hedgehog shouldn’t be a problem, especially given Holkenborg’s electronic music history, that the Sonic franchise is certainly no stranger to.
Now, one could easily argue that, for legal reasons, the production team simply couldn’t get the rights to the game’s music. After all, a lot has been tangled up in legal confusion over the years. . Or, further still, perhaps they wanted to do something different, choosing not to get caught up in what came before them and forging their own path. And that’s certainly right, maybe even correct, but the problem isn’t that the score lacks pre-existing melodies; it’s the fact that it fails to capture the same level of quality, emotion and storytelling as these melodies. In fact, the games have proven time and time again that it’s more than possible to capture the same spirit and energy of what’s come before with entirely new music, tunes, and even composers.
Perhaps Holkenborg saw the series as little more than a cheap kids movie and chose to try less. Maybe he was just pressed for time. Or maybe it was something else entirely out of his control. But given the inspiration from the source material and Holkenborg’s own history of the iconic scores, there’s no denying that whatever the reason, both Sonic the movies had dull, almost imperceptible music that leaves a lot to be desired.
In the end, one thing seems clear: something has to change. For a franchise as beloved and known for its music as Sonic, giving movies lower than normal scores just won’t work in the long run. And especially as Paramount and Sega gear up for Sonic 3 and joins, it’s becoming increasingly important that they correct their course while they can. Now, that could mean any number of things, from just asking Holkenborg to try something new on future projects to getting a whole new composer. But whatever Paramount chooses, it needs to put a lot more emphasis on making the music as memorable and engaging as fans have known it to be for 30 years.
To hear its forgettable score for yourself, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is in theaters now.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: is it too early to [SPOILER]?
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