The Sonic Shared Universe: The Real Challenge To The MCU

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about The Sonic franchise and how I think it is the only shared universe that might rival Marvel, in time.

So for those of you that haven’t seen the Sonic sequel yet you might want to look away now, as there will be spoilers in this article.

The Dark Universe, The DCEU, The Power Rangers Universe all failed, in several cases horribly. Now why they failed is up for debate, but most agree that they either didn’t need to exist or were trying too hard to compete with the MCU and so rushed things out of the gate. I don’t think Sonic has either of these issues as firstly there is a strong fan base, as has been reflected by the box office for both films, but also the creatives seem to be in good communication with the fans and listen to what they want. Moreover,  the Sonic films have not rushed to have all their characters appear on screen together as such audiences will have to wait a few years before they get their first taste of Shadow. In other climates at different studios this would have already happened, we would have got twelve spin off films and fifty streaming series to set everything up but for the most part Paramount has been fairly sparing, the most we are getting is a Knuckles tv show.

It is for these reasons that I think the Sonic universe can rival the MCU, as they still have a lot of cool and crucially popular characters left to introduce and there are a number of projects and places where this universe could go next, it is quite exciting. I am obviously a big Sonic fan, I have enjoyed the games, the animated series and now the films so I want them to keep coming and maybe that is making me look at this shared universe future with pre-emptive rose tinted glasses, but hey I think the Knuckles show will be cool and I’d love a Shadow prequel so I won’t be complaining when we get them.

We can all just hope that Paramount keeps up the quality, the heart and the fan commitment that  has made the films so far good.

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The Good Dinosaur: Pixar’s Darkest Day

1.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young and very American dinosaur, voiced by Raymond Ochoa, goes on a journey of self-discovery after being washed down river.

I won’t go after the voice actor for the lead dinosaur, he was a kid at the time and as such it is low hanging fruit, however, it was a terrible performance. If someone else of more experience had voiced the lead dinosaur then maybe it would have been better than what we got, which was incredibly bland.

Indeed, lifeless and dull are two words that describe this film down to a tee. In the past I have said that I prefer films that are bad to ones that are boring and this is a perfect example of that. This film is so deeply by the numbers that it is neither good nor bad just incredibly forgettable.

The story of the film was likewise played out, you have seen this before it takes the concept nowhere new and has very little fun with it either. Think about the heart and soul of the Land Before Time films and imagine the same sort of idea but without any of the charm and you have this film.

Overall, certainly the worst of Pixar.

Pros.

It is watchable

Sam Elliot does a good job

Cons.

It is bland

It is generic

It doesn’t take the concept anywhere new

It lacks any kind of charm or heart

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Chicken Little: Zach Braff’s Illustrious Career

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A horribly rendered chicken, voiced by Zach Braff, thinks the sky is falling down and no one believes him.

This is one of those films that you look back on it now and ask how did this ever get made? It is the sort of film that only stoners could enjoy, as those of us who attempt to watch this sober have to deal with the frankly disturbing animation that belongs in the deepest recess of the uncanny valley or perhaps the lowest levels of hell.

Truly the animation is a barrier to entry. You can’t really afford the argument of oh that was years ago and CG animation was far less developed, because though there might be some truth to that it ignores the fact that Toy Story came out years before it and looks a million times better.

If you are brave enough to carry on past the awful animation then you will get caught in the reference zone, wherein this film will reference every single other Disney film in the back catalogue, or at least it feels like it does. There is nothing wrong with a few meta jokes here and there or even a lot if done right, but here it is just done for the sake of memberberies, with the references occurring at a speed that only a child could keep up with.

Overall, a very bad early attempt at CG animation by Disney.

Pros.

It is watchable

There is a so bad it is good quality to it

Cons.

The animation

The references

Braff

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Sonic 2: Idris Elba Redeems Himself For Cats

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz, returns this time caught up in a chaotic adventure centring around the Master Emerald, an object of cosmic power that ties back to Sonic’s origins.

This is everything you would want from a Sonic sequel, it is more of the same fun from the first film, it has a lot of heart and warmth to it and it introduces a bunch of new characters which will be very familiar to all those who have played the games.

In that vein, I really liked what this film did with both Tails, voiced by Colleen O’ Shaughnessey and Knuckles, voiced by Idris Elba. I thought both new characters were introduced well and given an importance to justify them being there rather than them just feeling forced in for the sake of it. Knuckles turn from villain to hero was blindingly obvious, especially for those who have played the games, but you don’t mind it because once he joins the team him and Sonic have a really good back and forth.

Moreover, Jim Carrey kills it once again as Dr Robotnik, stealing almost every scene he is in and having what looks like a lot of fun doing it. If this truly is Carrey’s last film then he is going out on a high note, though it is a shame as if this film gets another sequel it would feel as though it was missing something if Carrey didn’t make an appearance.

The James Marsden human sub-plot has its moments and does build to something resembling relevancy, however, it is the weakest part of the film for sure and definitely goes on for longer than it needs to.

Overall, just as good as the first film if not better. Strongly recommend.

Pros.

Tails and Knuckles

Carrey

The heart

It is a lot of fun

The post credits scene, which you definitely need to stick around for

Cons.

The wedding side plot drags on for far too long

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Cheaper By The Dozen: An Advertisement For Birth Control

0.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

What the hell is this? Who asked for or wanted this? Is Martin Scorsese right is cinema dying?

Everyone knew this was going to be bad, who wanted a reboot of Cheaper By The Dozen after all, but no one knew just how bad it was going to be.

Firstly right off the bat this film reads like a diversity checklist, there is nothing wrong with having a diverse cast, but there is everything wrong with turning it into a checklist where these characters only exist to fit a representational quota. This is furthered by the fact that a lot of these characters read as racial stereotypes, and feel so far over the top that quite frankly it is offensive.

Secondly, this film is the most cringey, out of touch film I have seen in the last few years. The script reads as though it was written by a group of executives shouting out trendy buzz words they have learnt on twitter, and through the one time their grandkid showed them TikTok. Speaking of this film is clearly sponsored by TikTok as the film makes constant mention of it in nearly every scene. An example of everything wrong with the writing of this film can be boiled down to one bit of dialogue early in the film wherein the narrator explains that their dogs are called ‘Bark Obama and Joe Biten’, that is the claibur of film we are dealing with here.

Finally, the very worse crime of this film is that it has no reason to exist. It does nothing new with the property, all it does is rehash and try and recapture what the Steve Martin films did all those years ago, this highlights just how creatively bankrupt Disney and Hollywood both are.

Overall, Disney pumps out trash like this to distract you from the fact that they are removing any trace of LGBTQ+ identity from their releases and are filming near forced labour camps in China.

Pros.

Zach Braff is getting some work

Cons.

The diversity checklist approach

There is no need for this to exist

It feels cynical and hollow

It is cringe

All of the references to TikTok

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Turning Red: No One Fears This Hormone Monster

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young girl, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, confronts her coming womanhood through the form of an ancient curse that turns her into a giant red panda.

I will admit this film was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. In many ways I was expecting something more akin to Wish Dragon, a blatant effort to pander to the Chinese box office with a sprinkling of pro party propaganda forced in, usually as a means to secure a release. However, this film stayed well clear of that and instead stuck to what Pixar do well telling stories about parent-child strife and familial disfunction.

I thought the narrative and message of this film was beautiful, the notion of embracing change and your coming hormones whilst also trying to do right by those you love was conveyed in such an expert way that it would be impossible for you to feel nothing at it. Furthermore, I think it is highly commendable that this film tackled coming of age issues that are often not talked about, especially not in animation, I think it is vital we see more films like this that approach the same old story structures but from different, less-covered, points of view.

My only issue with this film is that there are a few lines that feel quite cringe, these are particularly present in Mei’s, voiced by Chiang, introductory scene. This came off to me as an ageing writers room struggling to write for a youthful modernish voice, luckily as the film goes on this becomes less of an issue.

Overall, a sweet film that reminds us all of the power of Pixar.

Pros.

The message

The emotion

The coming of age journey

The characters

Cons.

A few cringe lines early in the film

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The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical And Fractured Destiny Of Cerebus The Aardvark: A New Candidate For Best Animated Feature Has Arrived

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An animated heist film with a self-reflective Aardvark, voiced by John Di Crosta.

This film struck a chord with me. There was just something about it I really enjoyed. The thing I perhaps enjoyed most of all was the wonderful absurdist elements  that both made me laugh but were also quite deep and introspective at times, this film really goes places.

In that vein I thought the writing was clever and really helped the film to excel. The runtime flew by and by the end of it you are asking for more, if only more films could be paced liked this. The characters all felt fully realised and rounded, you ended up caring about each of them and becoming somewhat lost in the world.

The animation was beautiful and really highlighted what can be achieved on a budget. I thought the animation had way more personality than a lot of the samey looking animated films that come out, and that brought with it a lot of charm. I think the animators of this film deserve a pat on the back, they did top notch work.

Overall, a magnificent film that definitely deserves a watch.

Pros.

The world

The characters

The animation

The heart

The absurdity

Cons.

None   

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Sing: Seth MacFarlane Really Wants To Be Frank Sinatra

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A gang of animals perform in a singing competition.

In my review of this film’s sequel I said that I hadn’t seen the first film and I doubt I would gain much from going back and watching it, but regardless I knew this was outstanding so I went back and subjected myself to it. My findings being that this was actually better than the sequel, clearly Illumination at least tried with this one, whereas with the sequel they just needed to pump something out to help pay the costs of keeping Minions 2 on the shelf.

I will open by saying I didn’t think any of the voice actors did a particularly good job, in most cases I would be hard pressed to tell you who was who, and I do believe that most of the roles could have been played by any actor with very little different in quality. Moreover, I didn’t think any of the pointless side stories added anything to the characters or the film as whole other than to pad out the runtime.

The song’s were mostly just used in an irritating gimmicky way as they were in the sequel. The only one that I thought was well used was the cover of I’m Still Standing by Elton John sung by Taron Egerton. It wasn’t well used as in it added something to the film, no, it was well used in that it reminded me of Rocketman, a much better film.

The good side to this film is only attainable once one turns there brain off completely, at which time the film becomes mindless fun perhaps even so bad it is good.

Overall, mostly bad but if you turn your brain off it gets better.

Pros.

It is mindless fun

So bad it is good

Cons.

The characters and voice actors

The songs, for the most part

The side stories  

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The Ice Age Adventures Of Buck Wild: The Day Blue Sky Studios Died

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

None of the original Ice Age voice cast wanted to return, bar Simon Pegg, and Disney needed to do something with the franchise, why not send out a minimal effort picture to litter the empty halls of Disney + ?

Mark this moment dear reader,  for it is not only the moment Ice Age died but also Blue Sky Studios, which is a shame as I was hoping for Rio 3. There is so much wrong with this film that it will be hard to condense down into a breezy review for you.

I think the most glaring issues is that this film looks like it was made on a budget of a few dollars, with the quality of animation not only looking worse than any of the other Ice Age films but also any other animated film you are likely to see this year.

Moreover, the film as a whole feels like it is missing something, this could easily take the form of Scrat the series mascot or as I previously mentioned the entire voice cast of the previous films. Simon Pegg as always gives it an admirable go, but even he can’t save this rather obvious cash in.

As you watch the film you can’t escape the sense that there is no good reason for it to exist.

Overall, more trash for Disney +.

Pros.

Simon Pegg is trying his best

It is watchable

Cons.

It feels like a knock off

The animation is awful

Scrat

It doesn’t need to exist

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Sing 2: Is Illumination The Worst Studio In Animation?

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of talentless animated animals gather together to listen to licensed music with you, as the writers can’t even be bothered to show up to work.

So I didn’t watch the first film, and somehow I don’t really feel like that would have made that much of a difference as there is no plot here, I doubt there was in the last film either, so I haven’t missed much.

Frankly if I were a parent I would feel insulted by this film, Illumination clearly think that they can just send out any old slop to the cinemas and that children and begrudgingly there families will just eat it up: know your worthy families of the world, you deserve more than this. This reeks of greed and cynicism.

Until the last twenty minutes of the film I don’t even remember any of the characters singing, which is baffling as that is what the whole film is supposed to be about. Instead for the most part the characters do very mundane generic quests in the purposes of killing time and the film blares out some equally bland licensed music. This is in no way interesting.

As I left this film I thought for sure this must have been some kind of tax write off, or money laundering scheme, as I can’t see why else  it was made.

Overall, kids deserve better than this.

Pros.

I found it unintentionally hilarious a few times.

Cons.

The characters are awful

There is no plot

The animals barely sing

The music that we do get is generic and forgettable

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