Hear Me Out: Why It's Weird Donkey Kong Is In The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Donkey Kong with a banana cake Nintendo

There’s a new Super Mario Bros. movie on the way, and many audiences already have a ton of opinions on the cast connected to it. I’m focused on other things, like the fact that Donkey Kong will be in this movie. That's even forgetting the fact that he’s being voiced by Seth Rogen, because there are far weirder things to discuss when it comes to this character.

As a long-time Nintendo fan, I’m not the least bit surprised the company teased an announcement that has its prospective audience divided. I am a bit surprised though, to learn that Donkey Kong is a part of the action. Let me break down all the reasons why I'm confused and other people should be confused about this odd decision.

Donkey Kong in Super Smash Bros.

Donkey Kong Isn’t A Part Of The Main Super Mario Games

Donkey Kong and Mario go way back, from Donkey Kong (technically, but we’ll get into that later), the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, and all the sporting events, Super Smash Bros. and Olympic games. One place you don’t really see Donkey Kong and Mario interact, however, is the Super Mario games, in which he’s practically non-existent. Donkey Kong isn’t someone one regularly sees in the Mushroom Kingdom, especially when Mario is going through one of his classic duels with Bowser.

The Kong family has lived on an island throughout most of their video game appearances. It’s never explicitly confirmed where Donkey Kong Country (or Kong Isle, DK Island, or any of its various names) is, though it’s speculated it exists within the same world as the Mushroom Kingdom. Obviously, the island is not connected to it, so one has to wonder how Donkey Kong will show up in the Super Mario Bros. movie.

There is one interesting thing from the Mario games worth mentioning, and it comes from Super Mario Odyssey. In the game, Mario travels to a city called New Donk City, which shares its street names with many notable Donkey Kong characters. It’s also heavily implied that the events of Donkey Kong took place in New Donk City, especially since Pauline (the original damsel in distress Mario saved) is the mayor. This brings us to the next point about Donkey Kong’s weird appearance, which tackles a common misconception about the character.

Cranky Kong looking at a cake Nintendo

Cranky Kong Is Also In The Movie, Who Is The Original Donkey Kong

I’ll spare you the complicated history behind this story and just cut straight to the chase that the Donkey Kong most people know is not the original Donkey Kong. The original Donkey Kong, or the Donkey Kong Mario originally fought against in the classic arcade game, is actually Cranky Kong. Cranky will also be in the Super Mario Bros. movie. Hopefully, the movie doesn’t further complicate the story of Cranky Kong and Donkey Kong’s lineage, though I think there’s a chance it might. I mean, how else can one explain why Mario is still young, and Cranky looks old and decrepit?

Mario and Cranky Kong, even when including the game Donkey Kong, have far less crossover than Donkey Kong and Mario. The fact that Cranky is in the movie alongside his son (yes, I mean son) is super strange, especially since Cranky rarely travels beyond the confines of the island. Seeing him in the Mushroom Kingdom would undoubtedly be trippy, although not quite as trippy as Mario on DK Isle.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Nintendo has kept these two franchises very separate for a long time now. As mentioned, the characters have their crossovers in games that are entirely separate from their franchises, but you won’t see Donkey Kong crush a Goomba, or Mario bop a Kremling. These things just don’t happen in Nintendo’s world, which is what makes it so strange that not just Donkey Kong, but another character like Cranky that is exclusive to the Donkey Kong franchise would be in this movie.

Donkey Kong Family

My Theory On Why Donkey Kong And Cranky Are In Super Mario Bros.

As I've said, I'm confused about how Donkey Kong and Cranky Kong will be used in Super Mario Bros. for many of the above reasons. My assumption though, because Mario and Donkey Kong are two almost entirely separate Nintendo franchises, is that the goal will be for Illumination to spin off a Donkey Kong movie should Super Mario Bros. be a raging success.

If we’re being completely candid, I like the idea of a Donkey Kong movie more than I ever liked the idea of a Super Mario Bros. movie, so I’ll be curious to see if this upcoming movie does anything to make that more feasible. Perhaps we’ll get a surprise cameo of the rest of the Kong family? I hope so!

Donkey Kong Country cover art

Is It Possible None Of Nintendo’s Canon Matters In This Movie?

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what makes sense in Nintendo’s world when it comes to Donkey Kong, but I haven’t touched on the most obvious thing I’ve overlooked thus far. Hollywood blatantly ignored Nintendo’s canon in the 1993 movie Super Mario Bros. and created one of the worst video game movies of all time in the process. It’s my assumption that Nintendo and Illumination would like to avoid that, but does a good Mario movie need to adhere to Nintendo’s canon?

That’s a good question, even if I asked it myself. If we’re going by Nintendo’s canon, Donkey Kong and Mario don’t interact in The Mushroom Kingdom. Mario also rarely talks, Bowser has seemingly died and come back from the dead a couple of times, and the events of Super Mario 3 were actually an elaborate stage show performed by the characters. Not everything about Nintendo’s universe is consistent, and there are parts that absolutely don’t make any sense, so I assume Illumination will need to play with the world a bit to make this movie work.

If that’s going to happen, then I guess there’s no real reason to believe that Donkey Kong can’t do whatever this movie calls for him to do. DK alongside the rest of the Super Mario Bros. team would be a hell of a combination. I still think his inclusion will feel odd for the Nintendo fanbase, but hey, this is going to be a movie where Chris Pratt is the voice of Mario. Things are going to be a weird regardless for long-time Nintendo fans, no matter how you slice it. Maybe the studio will just pull it off.

The Super Mario Bros. movie will arrive in 2022. As I mentioned previously, lots of folks have opinions on this upcoming Nintendo film. For more on what we think, read up on Chris Pratt’s casting as Mario and how it could be an inspired choice.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

I like good television but also reality television. His day largely consists of balancing his workload between reporting on the latest and greatest news in Star Trek and other sci-fi, as well as 90 Day Fiancé, WWE, Big Brother, and more.