Up until very recently, Nintendo has been guarded with its wide net of beloved video game franchises. After the total critical failing of the Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993, the video game maker has been understandably cautious about sending Legend of Zelda, Metroid, or Donkey Kong to Hollywood, and has kept to what it knows: making awesome video games. Apparently, at some point down the line, Nintendo realized it could make a zillion dollars by cashing in their characters in new media. Not only is a Nintendo theme park coming, but Detective Pikachu and Super Mario Bros. are getting movies. It's the latter that has us especially excited... and a little concerned.
Nintendo's most iconic franchise will be turned into an animated movie by Illumination (Despicable Me, Secret Life of Pets) with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto producing. Detective Pikachu is a fairly low stakes situation, but Super Mario Bros. getting a movie is a big deal. It's a pretty big sign of trust from Nintendo and could very well start a new saga of video-game movies. Trouble is that video games movies are typically terrible but there are steps that Illumination and Nintendo can take to make it so they learn from the mistakes of Mario's first movie. Here's what we want to see in the Super Mario movie.
Keep Illumination In Check
Illumination has obviously found a lot of success, having made some very popular animated movies that have gone on to make a ton at the box office. However, these movies are more often than not just kind of okay, quality-wise. They are making movies targeted primarily at kids, which is totally fine, but to Illumination, that means putting lots of farts jokes, butt cracks, and other low hanging fruit. Super Mario isn't anything like that and is charming as hell, filled with well-designed creatures and incredibly imaginative worlds. I don't want to see Toads become the new Minions. Illumination is pretty good at emotion, though, so Nintendo just needs to reign in the studio's worse impulses.
Don't Make It One Big Reference
The appeal of a Mario movie doesn't really need to be explained, given the importance Hollywood places on recognizable IPs and nostalgia. Movies and TV shows with an emphasis on nostalgia (like, say, Stranger Things) run the risk of not being anything more than the sum of its references. With dozens of games and characters, the Super Mario movie shouldn't get too hung up on callbacks. These callbacks are nice for fans, but all good things come in moderation. If the movie was one reference after the next, it wouldn't be fulfilling. There also needs to be a worthwhile story to get us entertained, and it wouldn't hurt to break some new ground.
Keep Mario Silent (Mostly)
One of the hardest things about adapting Nintendo characters is that a huge chunk of them never say anything outside of a few key catchphrases. Mario never speaks in full sentences and only communicates through "Wa-ha!" and the occasional "Let's-a go!" The animated movie shouldn't change this. Mario has been around for decades and giving him a full voice and personality is, frankly, too weird. It's really difficult to imagine him as anything but the cheery plumber who silently saves the day, and trying to add depth to him runs the risk of shattering his image. However, just about every other character does speak, so a movie could rely on those characters to supply dialogue that Mario cannot.
Also, Charles Martinet has done the voice for Mario, Luigi, and tons of other characters for years, and it would be really cool if they had him do the movie voices, as well. Not every animated movie has to have an A-list celebrity voice cast!
Branch Away From The Games
I literally can't count the number of Mario games Nintendo has made, so there's no shortage of source material for Illumination to take inspiration from. But just because all that material is there, doesn't mean it all has to be used. No one Mario video game is THE Mario video game. The majority of them are essentially the same story-wise, but Illumination shouldn't just do an adaptation of, say, Super Mario 64 or Super Mario World. Take what's needed from whichever games, but don't be afraid to branch away from them. If people want to see Super Mario Odyssey, they just can play it. Let's see something fresh, which leads me to my next point...
Create An Original Story
Even people who have never played a Mario game probably know the basic premise: Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and it's up to Mario (and Luigi, sometimes) to save her. That's the basis for the bulk of the Mario franchise and everything else is just meant to be a fun experience for the player. This leaves Illumination a lot of room to play around and come up with something new to add to the kidnap plot. A Mario movie actually needs a plot, character development, and stakes, while a video game just has to provide fun levels to play through. Mario stories are deliberately light because they aren't the main attraction. A movie needs to step it up in certain categories, and maybe the best way to do that is to take the basic elements and make something new with them. Hell, maybe Peach doesn't even get kidnapped!
Have Fun With It!
Mario games haven't been around for so many years for no reason. Not only is the polished platforming super fun to play, but the world is so damn charming. Mario games are silly and a movie should embrace that feeling. Animation means that the sky is the limit and there are no restrictions in showing off all the wonders of a typical Mario game. I want to see a kingdom based entirely on cooking or an evil turtle man use a bell to turn into an evil cat-turtle man. These games are ridiculous and there's so much opportunity with that. Honestly, as long as the movie is fun and imaginative, that's three-fourths of the battle right there.
Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.
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