Sonic and Robotnik is one of the most enduring rivalries in gaming. Mario and Bowser are the obvious comparison, but the Italian plumber's clash with Bowser feels more like a love-hate relationship. They're constantly putting each other aside to race go karts, play tennis, play golf, play… well, just about any sport, really, or even just have a swinging shindig. Robotnik and Sonic have been involved in these sorts of spin-offs from time to time (Team Sonic Racing, for one), but the rivalry has always seemed fiercer, more competitive, more mean-spirited, especially from Robotnik's side. With the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and its recent sequel, this rivalry made the successful jump to the silver screen.
Part of the reason this jump managed to stick the landing is the chemistry between Robotnik actor Jim Carrey and Sonic actor Ben Schwartz. Both are improv-heavy comedians, and as Agent Stone actor Lee Majdoub told us earlier this year, Carrey would throw out a lot of variations on the lines out there for Schwartz to respond to, meaning this rapid fire call and response comedy stylings could be maintained even without both actors there on set together. Stone himself plays a role in why the chemistry works so well – he humanises Robotnik, but also acts as a foil for him. Robotnik is always the villain, but with Stone by his side there is a touch of sympathy there too.
That Sonic does not want to beat Robotnik, only stop him, is key as well. This is not a rivalry fuelled by hate or animosity, but an unwavering necessity on both sides. It's through this dynamic that Knuckles is able to have such an effective introduction, as well as why we've speculated as to the future of the SCU (that's Sonic Cinematic Universe).
It also helps that Schwartz is such a major video game fan himself. While many video game movies just take a handful of images and general iconography from the movies they're adapting, Sonic has always felt like Sonic. The plots are new, but the characters are exactly as they should be – even the poster for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a deep cut reference to the original Sonic 2 box art. When asked what his favourite Sonic zone was, Schwartz ducked the easy option of Green Hill Zone to say "In Sonic Mania, there's this incredible film world, or zone, that I love so much. I found it to be so interesting, and I know I'm in film so maybe that's why, but I thought they did such a good job." There was a similar enthusiastic and nerdy response to his favourite game reference in the movie itself, where he describes Tails' tail-copter flight system.
Video games are full of rivalries that spur our heroes on, and platformers might be the most rivalry-fuelled genre of all. There are rarely heroes without villains to stand in their way. But even in such a crowded field, the Blue Blur and the Eggman stand out as one of the most endearing, and one of the most enduring.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is available to Download & Keep on June 15 and on 4K UHD + Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on August 8, from Paramount Pictures
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