Over the weekend, Detective Pikachu opened to $58 million, the best debut ever for a video game adaptation. Couple that box office with decent, although not great, reviews and the plans for a Pokémon cinematic universe don’t seem entirely farfetch’d. Cinematic universes have team-up movies and long before 2012’s The Avengers, Nintendo was teaming up its iconic characters, including Pikachu, for a free-for-all battle in Super Smash Bros. (Pokémon aren’t entirely owned by Nintendo, but just go with me).
I think that the key to doing anything like that is to make sure that the other introductory movies are sensational. It’d be a dream to write something like Legend of Zelda, but before you can get to that Smash Bros stage you have to write the best damn version of The Legend of Zelda that you possibly can. And the same with Mario, the same with Kirby, the same with Star Fox.
Dan Hernandez brings up a great point that may seem obvious but isn’t always. For a movie on the scale of a Super Smash Bros. to work, there would have to be multiple movies introducing the various characters to audiences prior to having them all appear onscreen together in an adaptation of Nintendo’s popular fighting game.
Basically, Dan Hernandez advocates for the MCU approach to team-up video game movies, not the DCEU one where the studio just skipped ahead to the team-up without the build up of solo films. It’s not enough to just have multiple movies introducing characters though in advance of a Super Smash Bros. movie, those introductory movies have to be good.
As Dan Hernandez told Screen Rant, Kirby and Mario and Star Fox and Link all need to have the best possible solo films to make the movie of Super Smash Bros. work. On that latter character, the writer actually seemed to be quite interested in tackling a feature film adaptation of The Legend of Zelda.
Sensational solo movies build audience investment and that’s why Avengers: Endgame worked so well, as one of Detective Pikachu’s other screenwriters, Benji Samit, explained:
Avengers: Endgame is only as good as it is because we loved all of those characters individually, so when it came together it was just magic. And I think that’s how you have to approach the Smash Bros.
I tend to agree that great solo movies and a build-up would be an absolute necessity for any attempt at a Super Smash Bros. movie. Yet, even if those prerequisites were met, it would still be a daunting task. Unlike the MCU, where all of the characters technically exist in the same universe, Super Smash Bros. is pulling from multiple, seemingly incompatible properties.
The MCU is able to impose a house style and tone that despite varying from film to film, basically allows for everything to fit together. Making a medieval warrior Link, a bounty hunter Samus and an Italian plumber Mario all exist in the same film is far more difficult. But at least animation allows for greater suspension of disbelief.
I think the focus should first be on getting good live-action movies of these characters, without any eye towards a team-up film. After all, we may be 20+ years removed from 1993’s Super Mario Bros., but video game movies by and large haven’t advanced that far in quality since then.
Still, the thought of a Nintendo Cinematic Universe building to a Super Smash Bros. movie is intriguing. Such a thing would be a ways off, if it ever happens, but a Super Smash Bros. movie is just one possibility raised by Detective Pikachu.
With the dam possibly hopefully finally breaking on good video game movies, these kinds of discussions will hopefully become less wishful thinking and more realistic speculation.