Video games movies haven't had the best track record, and that's putting it mildly. Even when all the right pieces on both sides of the camera seem to be in place for a successful adaptation, things somehow, always, go awry. One of the earliest and most notorious examples of the precarious practice of adapting video games to film is 1993's Super Mario Bros. The film, based on Nintendo's most iconic franchise, was so widely loathed and Nintendo felt so burned by it that the company hasn't had a film adaptation of one of its games since. But, it appears that Nintendo is loosening its grip after all these years and is willing to give things another shot. Mario and Luigi, the faces of Nintendo, will be getting their own animated movie.
Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment are close to a deal that would see the plumbers return to the big screen, this time in animated form. Illumination Entertainment, which is responsible for films like Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets, has been in talks with the games company for over a year about a Super Mario Bros. film. Apparently a big sticking point for Nintendo, per The Wall Street Journal, in giving up film rights to the characters has been the desire to be involved in the creative process. This is understandable given that the 1993 film, while a surreal experiment, was Super Mario Bros. in name only. This time around it looks like Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary creator of Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda, was involved in the talks and will be a producer on the film. While only one film is currently planned, the deal could allow for multiple films should the first be successful.
Illumination Entertainment is an unsurprising choice. The studio's films are backed and distributed by Universal, and Nintendo made a deal with its theme park division to create rides based on Nintendo properties. Nintendo is riding high at the moment given the success of its latest console, the Nintendo Switch, and the critically-acclaimed release of the former plumber's latest game, Super Mario Odyssey.
If Nintendo is going to allow Mario to return to the big screen, this seems like the smartest way to go. I personally feel animation is the only way Mario can work. There is no version of a live-action Super Mario Bros. that makes sense. The story is almost non-existent and the environments and gameplay are too weird. There is a level of disbelief and willingness to accept a certain level of strangeness that is afforded to animated films, but not usually their live-action counterparts. The Legend of Zelda must be in live-action, Super Mario Bros. cannot be.
This is in early development so if the deal goes through we won't see the film for at least a few years. Perhaps if it avoids being a total trainwreck like its live-action predecessor, that will open the door for more Nintendo film adaptations. In the meantime, the next big video game adaptation is Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander, due out on March 16, 2018.