‘Knuckles’ Review: ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ Spin-Off Feels Like An Unedited Film Masquerading As A Miniseries


It’s hard to pinpoint when the streaming platforms that were touted as the future of entertainment were turned into dumping grounds for films that were deemed unworthy of a theatrical release. But this insidious release model really took shape during the pandemic. And while some movies were given a direct-to-digital release, others were turned into bite-sized episodes to extend the stay of a viewer on a streaming platform, thereby increasing revenue. Dangerous and Indori Ishq were two of the most noticeable examples of this practice. Then, after greenlighting a slew of projects, Disney and Marvel started doing the same. Yes, I’m looking at Secret Invasion and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Everything on Quibi fell into this category of “shows.” Now, it seems like Paramount has jumped on the bandwagon with Knuckles.

John Whittington and Toby Ascher’s Knuckles, whose episodes have been written by Whittington, Brian Schacter, and James Madejski and directed by Jeff Fowler, Ged Wright, Brandon Ross, Jorma Taccone, and Carol Banker, pick up the story of the titular Echidna from where Sonic the Hedgehog 2 left it off. Knuckles is a creature who only knows how to wage war. So, after arriving on Earth, defeating Robotnik, befriending Sonic and Tails, and settling down with the Wachowskis in Green Hills, he is finding it quite difficult to simply chill out. When he learns about Wade Whipple and his mission to win a bowling championship, Knuckles decides to channel his energy in Wade’s direction and help him achieve his goals. However, The Buyer and G.U.N. agents Mason and Willoughby threaten to upend this budding friendship by stripping away Knuckles’ powers for their own nefarious purposes.

To be clear, I am a huge fan of the previous two Sonic movies. They were sincere and funny. I even got a little teary-eyed when Sonic referred to Tom as his dad. That’s why the decision to follow it up with a miniseries felt odd. Why would anyone in their right mind release a spin-off on the small screen after the massive box-office success of its predecessors? And with each passing episode, it became pretty clear that Knuckles was supposed to get a theatrical release. But some genius probably had the idea to release it as a streamable show to boost Paramount Plus’ revenue. Hence, here we are. Of course, I don’t have any concrete proof to support that statement. However, something about the way every single scene is stretched via improvisational acting to the point that its core themes are diluted makes it seem like there wasn’t enough material in the script to fuel six episodes. If they stripped away most of the unfunny interactions, this could’ve been a decent 90-minute-long action-adventure film. They still could, like Hulu did for the Quibi “show,” The Stranger.

Knuckles isn’t entirely bad, though. Those six episodes are peppered with some genuinely great moments of action and comedy. There’s a dinner table fight sequence where Knuckles has to protect a pair of candles, and those candles become the axis of the set piece as the camera spins around to show Knuckles and Wendy Whipple decimating a bunch of goons. The CGI, the VFX, the wirework, the stunt work, the breakable set, the action choreography–it’s all so well done. Using an over-the-top musical theater production–complete with props, costumes, movable stages, and a full-on song–to tell Knuckles’ backstory is nothing short of genius. The jousting bit with katanas, a motorbike, and a bicycle is hilarious, really well edited, and shot in a dynamic way. Every scene involving Knuckles and the G.U.N. agents is visually engaging. However, given how all these moments are followed or preceded by the most boring instances of character or plot development, their impact is diluted. At the cost of sounding repetitive, this could’ve been an efficiently edited film.

Although Idris Elba plays the titular character, the spotlight is reserved for Adam Pally, and he is good. The man is funny. It’s just that he is overused. Meanwhile, Elba is criminally underused. There’s supposed to be an arc in Wade and Knuckles’ friendship, but their interactions are so one-note and sparse in nature that it never gets the chance to blossom. Edi Patterson verges on annoying. Stockard Channing is fine. Julian Barratt is fantastic and makes the most of his limited screen time. Rory McCann is barely there in the miniseries and, hence, not very memorable. Scott Mescudi and Ellie Taylor get to do a lot over the course of six episodes, and yet they end up being forgettable. The cameos from Tika Sumpter, Ben Schwartz, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, and Christopher Lloyd are really half-hearted. So, of course, Cary Elwes ends up stealing everybody’s thunder with his sassy and mischievous performance. This is a tepid take, maybe, but Cary Elwes should’ve been the big bad of Knuckles because he is more integral to the central theme of the plot than Rory McCann’s character.

The slump that Marvel and Disney are facing in terms of viewership is proof that there’s no guarantee that the fanbase that made their movies a raging success is going to turn up for their spin-off shows and miniseries. Because, at the end of the day, those properties don’t end up impacting the larger story. The same can be said about Knuckles. There’s not much in these six episodes that fans of the two Sonic the Hedgehog movies need to know to “understand” Sonic the Hedgehog 3. On top of that, it’s more tedious and not as entertaining as those two movies. So, what’s stopping them from simply reading the plot synopsis of this miniseries and calling it a day until the third film in the franchise arrives? To be honest, nothing. Hence, my advice to production houses that are planning to release a spin-off series that kind of connects to their theatrically released films is to go ahead and not do that. Theaters are open. Yes, it’s a bit expensive. But if people thronged the theaters to see Knuckles on the big screen, maybe let him stay on the big screen instead of limiting his awesomeness to the small screen.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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