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Photo: ‘Super Mario Bros.’
Ever since it was officially announced back in January of 2018 (though there were reports from a few months prior) that Nintendo was partnering up with Illumination Entertainment to adapt its ever-popular video game franchise ‘Super Mario Bros.’ into a major animated feature. Naturally, this has since sparked a ton of buzz, as despite being one of the biggest franchises in gaming history, ‘Super Mario Bros.’ has rarely strayed outside the realm of games. Sure, we’ve had multiple animated series, a big Hollywood live-action feature film, and even a Japan-exclusive hour-long anime film, but those all came out during the series’ early days before it evolved to the extent that it has. The reaction from the general public towards the news regarding this upcoming film has been somewhat mixed; obviously, there are a lot of fans looking forward to Mario’s animated big screen debut, but some people are skeptical based on the company involved, Illumination Entertainment. Despite having a good number of financially successful films to its name, Illumination has faced a fair amount of criticism from people who don’t find their works up to par with those other established names in the animation business. But will the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie be the one to turn their reputation around?
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As previously mentioned, Illumination’s film won’t be the first time the plumber saw himself on the big screen. In 1993, a live-action film based on the games was released, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in the roles of the titular brothers. This film was met with less-than-positive critical reception upon its initial release, and its reputation stayed that way for many years. However, as the years have gone by, there have been a decent amount of people who do indeed enjoy it for what it is. Will the same fate befall this new film? Or will it be seen as an improvement? At this point, anything’s possible.
Cast and Crew
The still-untitled ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie is set to be directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who developed the television series ‘Teen Titans Go!’ for Warner Bros. and Cartoon Network. The screenplay is written by Matthew Fogel, who wrote the screenplay (in addition to the story alongside Brian Lynch) for ‘Minions: the Rise of Gru’ which is currently playing in theaters. He also wrote ‘Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son’ and received story credit on ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’.
The cast for the movie was revealed during a Nintendo Direct on September 23 of last year, and…hoo boy, what a cast it is. Voicing Mario himself is Chris Pratt, giving the actor yet another impressive addition to his resume. Other main cast members include Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya-Taylor Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong. The voice of Mario from the games, Charles Martinet, will appear in numerous cameo roles throughout the film. Naturally, the reveal of this all-star cast spawned all sorts of jokes and memes online. All the characters we’ve known and recognized for years, played by some of today’s Hollywood celebrities…it was a weird feeling, to say the least.
Story: Pros and Cons of an Animated ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Film
Due to the cartoony nature of the game franchise, ‘Super Mario Bros’ seems like the perfect subject for an animated film. With a large variety of characters, worlds, and creatures to work with, the possibilities for what you could do with a Mario film seem pretty endless when you really think about it. You could start with a traditional ‘Super Mario Bros.’ setup before a second act twist reveals a whole new layer to the story that raises the stakes and paves the way to an exciting climax! Or you could do some kind of origin story about how the Mario brothers came to be the renowned heroes that they are while touching on why Bowser is so insistent on kidnapping Peach. No matter the approach, there’s plenty of material to take advantage of, and if done right, a ‘Super Mario Bros.’ film could potentially be something to win audiences over.
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On the other hand, the games have always been light on story; not exactly the kind of works that would translate well into a film. Which begs the question: What exactly would an ideal Mario movie look like? The original Mario film was criticized for pretty much being in name only, but realistically speaking, what were people expecting from a live-action film based on a franchise consisting largely of 2D side-scrolling platformers? And as far as our yet-to-be-seen Mario film goes, the world and characters are there, and the medium of animation will help keep the overall vibe of the film close to the game’s, but what exactly will the story be? Will it be something that will please a majority of the franchise’s fans? Because this will be the first mainstream animated Mario feature film, chances are the plot won’t be too out there, as “first” movies have a tendency to play it relatively safe while leaving more ambitious stories to the sequels.
Possible Plot Leak
Earlier this year around the tail end of April, the movie’s entire plot was apparently leaked somewhere online. I won’t be sharing any story details that the leak details, on the off chance it’s legit, so if you’re curious, make sure to be careful if you decide to look into it yourself. Some of the non-spoilerific details claim things like how the animation style is comparable to ‘Hotel Transylvania’, and that there won’t be any fart jokes or dabbing…also, apparently there are musical numbers. Huh. Once again, this could all just be completely fabricated (or heck, even based on an earlier draft of the script), so this information should be taken with a grain of salt. Note that I am in no way endorsing or encouraging leaks of any kind.
Possible Spin-Off Films
According to some sources, ‘Donkey Kong’ spin-off film may or may not be in the early stages of development, complete with Seth Rogen reprising his role as the tie-wearing ape. It’s important to note that, if this information is true, nothing’s set in stone yet. Projects get canceled early on in development all the time, and only time (and the success of the Mario movie) will tell if this film comes to fruition.
In an interview earlier this year, Charlie Day expressed interest in starring in a film based on the ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ spin-off games. However, it’s important to note that this interest is merely a what-if and that no such film has been announced, or even rumored to be in development. It’s easy for rumors to spread, and a statement like this taken out of context could wind up misleading some, so just know that as of now, there are no real plans for a ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ film. Though if that aforementioned ‘Donkey Kong’ film really is in development, then I’d think that a film about Luigi wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.
Only Time Will Tell…
Right now, it’s far too early to tell what the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ film will be like. Originally set for a December release later this year, the movie was delayed to April of next year. No reason was given for this delay, though I do feel it’s a bit of a shame, as it would’ve been perfect for a movie as hyped up as this one to release during the most festive time of the year. Release date aside, I’m cautiously optimistic about this film. If the movie ends up being a smash hit, it could make a lot of Nintendo fans and animation enthusiasts happy, and it could also prove Illumination Entertainment’s worth as a company capable of greatness when they put their all into something. If it ends up not so great…well, we’ll at least know there was an effort made. But until a trailer, or even a teaser comes out, our ideas of what the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie could possibly entail will have to remain just that…ideas.
By Austin Oguri
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Austin Oguri is a screenwriter and has deep appreciation for the art of film in general, he aims to offer unique perspectives through his film reviews and feature articles. He also has a soft spot for lesser-known works, and enjoys spotlighting them whenever he can. Austin has always found it necessary for people to encourage and bring out the best in each other, and as a writer at The Hollywood Insider, he can combine that ideology with his ability to think outside the box and truly express his love for the arts in the best ways possible.