Warning: This article contains Spoilers
On February 14, audiences encountered Sonic the Hedgehog on the big screen for the first time. Though this film may have mixed critical reviews, it has been well-received by the fans. One of the reasons I loved the film is for its portrayal of the two central characters: Sonic and Dr. Robotnik and how they react to the notion of community.1 Sonic’s manic energy helps him live up to the mantle of the “Blue Blur” he earned almost thirty years ago. Jim Carey’s portrayal of Dr. Robotnik taps into the intellect of the character and reminds the audience of how cartoony the entire Sonic universe is.
At the film’s outset, Sonic yearns for community, but he fears that someone will attempt to take advantage of his super speed and use it for criminal purposes. As a result, Sonic chooses seclusion and anonymity in Green Hills, Montana. He longs to connect with the residents but simultaneously is afraid that something bad would happen if they knew about his existence.
Keep in mind that Sonic is a teenager who has lived most of his life alone. At several points early in the film he laments that he cannot befriend others. When he finally begins to interact with Tom Wachowski, a local policeman from Green Hills, Montana, Sonic comes to life as he begins developing a relationship with him.
By contrast, the intellectually gifted Dr. Robotnik has no interest in friendship or community. Robotnik introduces himself by interrupting an army official to inform him that he is no longer in charge of the investigation into a power outage accidentally caused by Sonic. Nobody gets remotely close to Robotnik. He uses his intellect to formulate technology that flawlessly carries out his intentions, unlike the unreliable humans he treats as peons. Since his intellect far surpasses the people around him, he finds interaction with people dull and pointless. Robotnik will use them in his efforts to harness Sonic’s powers, but he will never regard them as partners.
Though Sonic struggles in his attempts to befriend Tom and the others he meets along the way, he ends up making a lasting impact on them which helps him in the final battle against Dr. Robotnik (who is piloting a plane at this point). Sonic realizes that he has to use his inherent speed-based powers to protect those he cares about, not to run away and hide from his problems.
Tom uses one of Sonic’s magic rings to open a portal to another world. Sonic then charges at Robotnik and knocks the villain into that ring-shaped portal which traps him in “the mushroom planet,” reminiscent of previous Sonic games. 2
His foe vanquished, Sonic ends up with the family he has always wanted. Sonic is happy because he has people who care for him. Robotnik `is driven nearly insane because of his isolation from any other sentient being or his trusty robots. And this ending doesn’t surprise me me. The Sonic franchise has always shown Sonic working alongside others to try and save the day, while Dr. Robotnik almost always tries to work alone to achieve his goals.
Because Sonic values community, he seeks it out and ends up finding it, even though his efforts come with a number of false starts (for example, causing a power outage that sets the plot in motion. He starts to slow his frantic pace and accept himself.
Robotnik tried to separate himself from others so much that his desire for isolation was fulfilled at the cost of his sanity. . Angry and frustrated, his final scene sees him trying to escape the alternate reality.
The film reminds us that if we really want to be cared for and build community, we can do so. We cannot fear vulnerability, even though it comes with the risk of being hurt. And community will not always be perfect. Our attempts will sometimes be clunky, like when Sonic introduced himself to Tom. As long our efforts are genuine, though, they will make a difference. Through commitment, we can foster community that is sustaining and fulfilling. Sonic learned that Tom and the others around him cared about who he was, not what he could do.
And should we choose to shun others, we may end up like Robotnik. In his isolation and lack of authentic relationships, he never lived in a “real” world. His banishment to the Mushroom World only serves to highlight how unreal his world really was.
The choice between the authentic community or artificial isolation is ours to make.
Photo from IMDb, used under Fair Use Laws