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There are bad video game movies and then there's 1993's Super Mario Bros., a reviled depiction of perhaps gaming's most recognizable character. Now, a quarter century after being burned by that film, Nintendo is partnering with Illumination Entertainment to give the plumber another crack at cinematic greatness. Illumination Entertainment founder Chris Meledandri is confident that the new film will fare better than the last one because Nintendo icon and Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto will be involved, as he explained.
We are keeping him front and center in the creation of this film. I've rarely seen that happen with any adaptation where the original creative voice is being embraced like we're embracing Miyamoto. There's a history in Hollywood of people believing that they know better than the people responsible for a property. I've made that mistake before.
Chris Melendandri reasons that one of the previous film's many problems was that those making it didn't involve Shigeru Miyamoto and figured that they knew better than the man who created these characters. We all saw how well that approach worked out. Melendandri owns that he has made this mistake in the past as well and it will not be one that he makes with the new animated film.
Based on Chris Melandandri's comments to Variety, it sounds like Illumination Entertainment will be working closely with Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto for this new Super Mario Bros. movie. That input should give this film an opportunity to succeed where the 1993 film failed so spectacularly. Of course being better than the last one isn't exactly the highest flagpole for this Mario to jump over.
Nintendo has been extremely reticent to allow its IPs to be adapted after the calamity of Super Mario Bros., so perhaps involving Shigeru Miyamoto is part of what convinced the gun-shy games company to give Hollywood another chance.
Game and movies are two different mediums, and while Shigeru Miyamoto might not know how to make movies, what he does know is these characters and why people connect with them and they have endured for so many years. The Nintendo legend created Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero and Donkey Kong, so he's probably someone worth listening to.
Just knowing Shigeru Miyamoto is involved should help video game fans to feel optimistic about this project. That alone won't guarantee success though as adaptation is always tricky, as Chris Melendandri elaborated:
It's an ambitious task. The challenge is taking things that are so thin in their original form and finding depth that doesn't compromise what generations of fans love about Mario, but also feels organic to the iconography and can support a three-act structure.
The Illumination founder hit on part of what makes Mario especially difficult to adapt by talking about the thinness of the original form. The Mario games have always been known more for their gameplay than their stories. These aren't especially cinematic in the traditional sense like many modern video games and they don't have the epic stories that demand the movie treatment like Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda.
So Illumination has its work cut out for them finding that depth Chris Melendandri talked about, all while not losing what fans love about the games and the characters.
That's part of what is encouraging about this new film being done at Illumination in the animated realm. Mario is simply too weird, crazy and abstract to work in live-action without some bastardization like we got in the original film. Animation allows this new movie to be just as psychedelic as the games themselves with the Mushroom Kingdom and a plumber who earns coins by hitting his head against floating blocks.
Super Mario Bros. is in priority development at Illumination, and while there is no release date yet, it could hit theaters as early as 2022 (hopefully followed not long after by a proper live-action Zelda movie).
For movies you can see next year, check out our 2019 release schedule.