Sonic the Hedgehog fans are a patient bunch. Sometimes. Patient in the fact that they have been waiting for the redemption of the series not just in their own eyes, but in the eyes of the media at large. It’s hard to say you love something that hasn’t had a critically praised game since 1998. Hiding behind all of this has been a longing of a different sort – the yearning for a Sonic the Hedgehog movie. After all, Mario was able to receive the full big screen treatment (even if it was completely insane) at a time when Sonic the Hedgehog was just entering his biggest period of popularity. With two television series, comic books, and numerous other media, it was simply assumed that Sonic would be in a feature film. And while the west did get a “movie” (which was simply a two-episode direct to video animation from Japan stitched together), it wasn’t that high-budget extravaganza people were hoping for. And though rumors of a Sonic movie have been circulating since the Mega Drive days, as of the dawn of Sonic’s 20th anniversary celebrations, nothing has come to fruition. Thus, it was inevitable that a Sonic the Hedgehog fan film would be made. Now, there has been plenty of talk over Eddie Lebron and his Sonic fanfilm, especially with the announcement that he secured original voice actor Jaleel White to reprise his role after a decade. And there’s been even more talk over Richard Kuta‘s numerous attempts at his animated feature for reasons I’m not going to get into. Though live action interpretations of Sonic are abundant on YouTube, there is one man who has beaten everyone to the punch by making a full-length live action Sonic fan film – Jim Sass. Clocking in at over 70 minutes, the original Return to Little Planet is nothing less than…well, a Sonic the Hedgehog fan film. I think. I mean, Sonic and Tails and Knuckles are in there doing things. But I’m not reviewing that right now. I might do a “retro review” at some point, but on New Years Day the “highly anticipated sequel” was finally released to the masses. How does it fare? …let’s just say my job would be so much easier if I could come up with an arbitrary score that you could skip down to so we could pretend none of this ever happened. Warning: There are spoilers ahead. So read on at your own risk if you haven’t yet watched Return to Little Planet 2. The film opens with a little girl turning on a radio, listening to Walter Winchell, who goes on about the Valentines Day Massacre of 1929. And even though it is obviously filmed in the living room of 21st century suburbia, we meet Owney Mannen, famed anti-prohibitionist gangster of the 1920’s and 30’s. With a small child polishing his shoes and some random little girl ready to shave his face (or kill him, not sure which) Mannen doesn’t want that shave just yet – he has to speak to “Big Blue.” Obviously the best way to open a Sonic the Hedgehog fan film. Wait, what? Ok, so Sonic is in depression-era Chicago. With a known criminal. Who throws out racial slurs and demands he kill Winchell. Sonic of course turns down the offer, and proceeds to get fired upon by Mannen and the girl. This is the part where I ask why Sonic felt it was a great idea to befriend a gangster in the 1920’s, and why said gangster would assume that Sonic would even consider becoming a hired assassin. But the fact that I’m asking this isn’t a big deal. It would have been great if Jim Sass would have asked it, though! Oh, enough of this. Let’s jump to a completely different era. Hey look, there’s a man in a hospital bed. A man who is…I’m presuming Dr. Robotnik. I only know this because earlier trailers told me that this is the man playing the good doctor. Yes, I know it’s not the same guy who played him the first time around, but I can overlook that. It’s a fan film, people can’t always get together to do things…heck, even the studio system is forced from time to time to recast people in sequels and film franchises. What does bother me about this sequence? That we have no idea why Robotnik is in the hospital, if we’re supposed to care, or if it’s amazing that he is now currently awaking from whatever coma he may or may not have been in. For those of you wondering, Dr. Robotnik was defeated by Shadow the Hedgehog in the first film, involving Chaos Control or something along those lines. But there was no hint that his fate would result in him being in a coma. If that is actually what is happening in this scene. And…I’m not even eight minutes into the film. Is this when I thank Jim Sass for making a movie that’s only 32 minutes long? Ok, so Sonic…returns to the present day as well? I think this is what’s happening. There is another little girl watering flowers near a pool. And she’s not even trying to look 1920’s so she has to be from the present, right? And I guess because Sonic can’t swim he gets to fall in the pool to be funny. Though it’s all kinda glossed over because men wielding machine guns attempt to kill him, even though they should have no idea that he’s there. Unless they wanted to kill a defenseless girl. To be fair, she is wearing glasses. In the chaos that occurs, Sonic defeats the “SWAT sentry” including one who is played by the same actor playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Who is also the only one of the sentry to piss himself in fear and run away. Ignoring the very idea that urine humor has any place in any Sonic film (or for that matter A SCENE THAT TAKES PLACE IN 1929) it is not good to confuse your audience by having the same actor play the hero role and the “villain comic relief” with the only physical difference being the villain wears a shirt that says “henchmen.” Because I really thought the guys wearing black trying to murder Sonic were the good guys. One awkward fight later, we discover this little girl is Vanilla, even though she acts exactly like Cream the Rabbit…who has a mother named Vanilla. And then Sonic asks why she is trying to break into his house (wait why does Sonic have a pool at his house I thought his one character flaw was that he can’t swim did he put it there because he sometimes likes to kill himself). Now, if the film was going to be kind and actually follow Sonic the Hedgehog logic, maybe we’d find out that Sonic didn’t go as far into the future as he thought, and that he was a generation back. But no, Vanilla makes it painfully obvious that Jim Sass doesn’t know much about his source material when she goes “it’s really you…Mr. Sonic” and tells him that “Mr. Prowers” would be happy to see him. Did Tails take it upon himself to make sure that Sonic’s garden is well kept while he’s away? Doesn’t he have more important things to do like make a Tornado IV or find the Chaos Emeralds or…or…MOVING ON. Hey look, an establishing shot of a house with a gate around it. I’m pretty sure Jim Sass didn’t get permission to film this. But that doesn’t matter since we get treated to “Emperor Robotnik” drinking wine with random women and his SWAT sentry. They talk about their encounter with Sonic and…hold on a second. Since when is Sonic a “terrorist?” When did Robotnik even become an emperor? Is he just one in his own mind? Those women sure seem frightened of him, though. Especially the one who doesn’t finish her wine…pouring it onto the grass much to the amusement of…1920’s girl?! Why is she here! She’s practically wearing the same thing, too! Then she wanders off, Robotnik says he has unfinished business with the other women, creepily touches her hair, and then… CHANGE SCENE. Right. Sonic and Tails reunite! Hey Sonic, where you’ve been? “Oh, just jumping through time. Met a 1920’s gangster! And saw Cheap Trick live.” What! But you’ve gone forever! “You know how it is.” No, I don’t. You were traveling through time. You could have reappeared five minutes after you left! There’s no reason for you to have been gone the unspecified amount of time that is shocking to everyone except you. And why oh why did you throw in a Ferris Bueler reference, Sonic? So Vanilla gets the guys attention because there’s something in the sky! And while it would be cool if it was The Little Planet, instead we see it’s Angel Island. Oh man, Knuckles! I’m sure the movie is going to get fun now!…oh wait. Knuckles is wearing black. Is that supposed to mean he’s working with Robotnik? It seems they have some sort of uneasy alliance going on, even through Robotnik is trying to negotiate with him. Negotiate about what, though? What is Robotnik trying to accomplish here? The evil doctor reveals he has a Chaos Emerald, much to the anger of Knuckles the Echidna. Even though the previous scene with Robotnik established that the SWAT Sentry had failed acquiring the Chaos Emerald from Vanilla, who for some reason had it and gave it to Tails. Where did she get it? Was it hiding in Sonic’s flower bed? Is that why she was watering them? Lord knows if I had a Chaos Emerald and needed it to get to safety, instead of running to Tails workshop, I’d do menial labor with no gain on my part. Whatever. Knuckles isn’t happy, the SWATS are about to shoot him, Sonic magically shows up and Knuckles takes off his black coat in perhaps some sort of symbolism while Jim Sass Henchman pisses himself again. And after the two talk about absolutely nothing, Sonic reunites with Amy. Gives her a rose (oh I get it) and says he missed her (wait when did Sonic become about romance) and Sonic tiptoes over water. Does this mean he’s Jesus? Or is it just a reflecting pool and he doesn’t want to get his red Nike shoes all wet? Doesn’t work either way. OH LOOK JAPANESE SONG THAT’S BECAUSE SONIC IS FROM JAPAN RIGHT. Ok, I’ve been ignoring the fact that whenever a new scene starts, it is announced as a new “level,” a thematic idea carried over from the first film. However, while those levels were based around what YouTube could handle time-wise, this is just done arbitrarily. This go around? “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Because when I think of Sonic, I think of classic Spaghetti Westerns. Like the Dust Hill Zone! So Robotnik shows up, gives his evil grin, a mood breaking musical sequence occurs, and Vanilla runs up…which results in a pointless dialogue exchange of how she just got contacts a few days ago. Wait, didn’t we just see her wearing glasses? And what point did a few days pass? Why do I get the feeling the only reason this is in the film is because the girl playing fake-Cream got contacts in real life and didn’t want to “look like a dork” or something silly like that, and Jim Sass was forced to come up with an arbitrary way to explain this one fact. Almost like he cares about continuity and flow! Robotnik invites Amy Rose and Sonic to dinner…and hey look! It’s that little girl from the 1920’s again! At least this time Sonic is just as confused about her as the audience. Robotnik explains that she is “Chai,” a “brilliant Chaos Physicist” whose father has just passed away due to an “unfortunate accident.” So wait. Am I supposed to think Robotnik killed her father? Or did she do it herself? She thought it was pretty funny that the hooker from before dumped out all that wine instead of drinking it…and…and…wait, is Chai supposed to be related to 1920’s moxie girl? I wish the film would explain this to me. But they do explain to me that Vanilla and Chai are related. Oh man, will this cause drama? Will it result in a final confrontation between two characters whom we don’t care about and are related in a way we are never told? Nope. Level: The Dinner Scene. Wow, I didn’t realize it would get more awkward. But it has! Robotnik has either 1) become a mack pimp daddy, or 2) has enough money to buy three hookers. Either way, why would Robotnik set this up? To give Jim Sass and the actor playing Robotnik an excuse to “reminisce about the old days” and pretend this actually has something to do with Sonic the Hedgehog? Oh, big swinging ball. Like the Sonic 1 boss. And…did Robotnik just say “XD?” I hope that I just misheard that, and it’s really “thanks to you.” Ok, I feel a little better. Too bad I can’t pretend that Sonic isn’t actually eating a chili dog that uses bread as a bun. Did they really run out of money in the budget where they couldn’t afford a bag of hot dog buns, or is Jim Sass allergic to them? Maybe he should have thought of this before he took on the title role. Or wrote a scene where he eats a chilli dog. He could have done what Amy is doing in the scene and go “hey maybe Robotnik is trying to poison us don’t eat anything he hands to you!” Oh: spoiler. They’re not poisoned. For the first time, we’re actually clued in as to what is going on with Robotnik and Mobius. After “the Emperor” compliments Sonic’s taste in women, he goes on to explain that the world turned to him after Sonic “abandoned” them. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as Sonic was never a leader and his disappearance wouldn’t have thrown the planet into chaos. Even if it did, they wouldn’t have chosen Dr. Robotnik to become the supreme ruler of the planet. I could see how Robotnik would use this as a cover story to explain his takeover (minus the whole Sonic angle) but…not once does anyone seem to question this. Heck, why didn’t Amy, Knuckles, or even Tails (Sonic’s best friend) inform Sonic of any of this? That “hey Sonic! Robotnik took over Mobius because you weren’t there to stop him and the rest of us are incompetent when it comes to these things!” That would have been nice to see! But no. We get Robotnik’s take on things without any sort of challenge. Which brings up even more questions. 1) How did Robotnik do this? First time we saw him in the film he was waking up from a coma. 2) Did Tails/Knuckles/Anyone actually try and stop him? 3) Does this mean he gets discounts on hookers? 4) If it’s such a big problem, why doesn’t Sonic GO BACK IN TIME USING THE TIME STONES HE STILL HAS to stop Robotnik from ruling the planet? So Robotnik asks Sonic to offer his allegiance to him, and of course he declines. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? But instead of trying to murder Sonic, he lets him wander away. Wow, great action scenes! But that’s ok, because the real action is between Sonic and Amy! Walking on that same coastline where the finale of the first film happened, we get to see Sonic admit his true feelings to Amy. Not out of character at all! And he admits that he hasn’t been there for her the way he should have been, and she agrees. Once again, not out of character at all! And then…an earthquake happens for no reason. Well, I’m sure there is a reason, but we don’t get to find out. Sonic does, because someone calls him. We don’t find out who, what is said, or why Sonic has to run off. But Amy gets angry! Angry at Sonic for being a hero. Even though the only reason Amy is in love with Sonic is because he is THE HERO OF MOBIUS. He has saved her time and again, and defeated Robotnik over and over and over! And because he is blue and cool like the planet. So why would Amy Rose get upset and act like she gets upset over this every time it’s ever happened?! If anything, the only reason Amy would get upset is because Sonic would run away when SHE would try to tell HIM that she liked him and that they should get married. And now that the shoe is on the other foot… …wait, this is the end of the film? I mean, aside from the pointless recap of every event that didn’t make any sense coupled with “Amy throwing the rose Sonic gave her into the ocean” bit. That’s…that’s the end. In a film where absolutely nothing happens. Fantastic. I…I… There is no way this is actually how it was supposed to end. One of two things must have happened. Either he decided to cut Return to Little Planet 2 in half to shut up everyone asking for it, or he made this film to mess with everyone’s head, never intending to make a sequel in the first place. It is possible that there is an “Act II” or a “RTLP 3” in the works as the first film was called “Season One” on YouTube. But that still doesn’t excuse it from every single flaw. It might have been nice if Jim Sass told everyone this was a series. Unless he actually means for his film to end like this, with no resolution of anything ever. Maybe the actress playing Amy Rose broke up with him, so he had to tack on this ending because it was the only thing she would agree to. But there has to be more to this! Remember when all those “character trailers” came out to announce this fanfilm? Silver was one of the characters! And he doesn’t appear in one single frame! What about the first real trailer? Where Sonic berates Knuckles for being ambushed by little girls! In this, only Sonic gets attacked by little girls. Remember how the behind the scenes footage made such a big deal of the biplane model they found, and how the entire set was used for a minute, and the plane was relegated to the background? Nothing about this film makes sense! It doesn’t even follow up on the first film! The first film ended with Shadow going back in time to see Maria. Something could have come of that! Or maybe something else involving the Timestones aside from “Sonic the Hedgehog’s Excellent Adventure (Which You Don’t Get To See).” And what about the Little Planet? It still has yet to even show up in either film! Would be nice if, in a film called “Return to Little Planet” the characters actually…y’know…WENT TO LITTLE PLANET. This film doesn’t succeed as a real film, let alone a fan film about Sonic the Hedgehog. While I wasn’t a fan of the first, and would often find myself confused about certain characters and why things were playing out the way they were, at least it had an internal consistency to it. You could see character motivation, there were story arcs that actually followed through, and the people behind it actually looked like they were having some degree of fun. It might not have been done well, but at least it was something. In the sequel…all of that has gone out of the window. Instead of getting the fun-filled, action-packed romp the initial trailers seemed to showcase, we get a pseudo avante-garde wannabe Tarantino film that focuses more on style than substance, and using elements from the Saturday morning series in the most boring way possible! For anyone to say this was a film “for Sonic fans” needs to step back for a second and look at it. Just because the main character is called Sonic, wears blue and has red shoes doesn’t make it a Sonic film. I would love for someone to tell me just how this is a proper Sonic fan film that is everything a fan has been asking for. And not just “oh you don’t like it because it was made with a shoestring budget!” The original Little Planet film was far more entertaining, and likely made with even less money! Oh, and for those paying attention? There are 43 shots in the film that focuses on a character’s feet. You know Jim Sass, you only needed one establishing shot of Sonic’s shoes. Not twenty. THEY ARE CALLED ZONES NOT LEVELS C’MON JIM.
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