Written by Ewan Moore.
We can hear you thinking about the ill-fated Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993, and we can feel you panicking. Nintendo have done an admirable job keeping it as hushed up as possible, so if you haven’t actually seen or heard of it, we’re not gonna go into huge detail here, but suffice to say, it was a truly awful film (some people say they like it, but these people are not to be trusted).
Highlights: Bowser was just a normal dude, Goombas were weird little turds in coats, Luigi didn’t even have a moustache, and Yoshi was a velociraptor as opposed to a cute green cartoon dinosaur. We can only assume that some clueless executive somewhere out there decided that a film based on a game about a plumber that eats mushrooms and collects coins needed to be “gritty”. He was probably fired, as the movie bombed hard. Many people have noted that it was probably because of that howler of a film, that Nintendo have since always been so closed off when it comes to using their characters in movies. Until now…
Yes, if you haven’t heard yet, a whole mess of Sony documents and emails have leaked out into the internet, and straight into the mitts of madly speculating folk like us. Without a doubt, one of the biggest bits of news for gamers to spring from this was an email sent on the 23rd of October this year from Avid Arad (Producer of the Spider-Man films, among other things) to Sony Studio Chief Amy Pascal, saying simply “I am the proud father of the Mario animated film.”
Pascal then forwarded this email to Tom Rothman, head of TriStar Pictures (a Sony subsidiary) with the words, “Avi closed Mario brothers. Animated.” Seems pretty conclusive,right? The guys at Sony seem undeniably excited about the prospects of a Mario movie empire, with Arad noting that he can “think of 3 or 4 movies right out of the gate.” Because obviously, in a post-Avengers world, every single movie has to be connected in some sort of way.
Since the leaks have come to light, Arad has backtracked on the matter, stating that he’s just in the beginning of negotiations with Nintendo. Nintendo themselves have remained typically silent on the matter, so who really knows what’s going on with the Mario movie. Nevertheless, let’s all jump aboard the speculation train and discuss why a Super Mario Bros. movie should happen, and why it’s a more likely possibility than it’s ever been before.
Apparently, Arad has been chasing after Mario rights for a while, and Nintendo has been playing hard to get. You can’t blame Nintendo, of course. Even if you don’t factor in how hard the ‘93 movie bombed, movies based on video games have a habit of being rubbish (and yes, that’s including the Resident Evil films in that statement). Also, whatever your opinion may be of Nintendo, for the most part they have always been synonymous with a certain level of quality in all of products. Whether or not you like their games is a different issue, but it can’t be denied that the finished products are always polished and well made.
Perhaps Ninty fear that dishing out their rights in such a carefree fashion could result in a something that reflects badly on them. To be fair, you only need look at the Philips CDi Zelda games to see what can happen. Of course, it does seem like Nintendo are warming up to the idea of giving out their most respected characters to other companies. Hyrule Warriors was a recent Zelda spin off that didn’t do too badly at all, and there a few well received Nintendo cameos in the animated film Wreck-It Ralph. With Nintendo beginning to see that using their characters outside of their own teams can actually work, maybe they’re starting to visualise the ridiculous pile of money they stand to make from putting Mario on the big screen.
The most important thing to note is that it would be an animated movie. You’ll have to forgive us for coming back to the ‘93 film to make a point again, but even before that got made, most people with a functioning brain could have told you that a live action Mario was an idiotic idea, perhaps akin to putting your hand in some boiling water. The world’s most famous plumber inhabits a vibrant, creative, and gorgeous world that should be embraced, not shied away from. Bowser should be a ridiculous looking giant turtle thing, and Mario should soar through the air with stupid looking tiny wings on his cap. These days, animated films are better looking than ever, and the right team could really do justice to the colourful vistas of the Mushroom Kingdom. Also, let’s be honest, it’s a lot more likely to pull in the biggest part of its potential audience (kids) if it’s a bright, zany cartoon.
There’s only one real potential problem as we see it: the Mario games aren’t exactly known for their gripping yarns; you set off to save the princess, hit some blocks, and stomp on some turtles. It’s not really the kind of thing that could sustain 90 minutes or more on film, and there are only so many artistic liberties that can be taken. If they set even a small part of the film in the “real world” we may scream. Super Mario Galaxy is perhaps the only Mario game that tells a vaguely interesting story, (and even then, it’s pretty much the usual Mario story, just in space, and with a few extra characters) so if Sony were interested on sticking closely to the source material, they should start there. The mind bending gravity and unique look of Galaxy would make for some great set pieces. But then again, we’re not screenwriters, what do we know?
Now, at this point we should stop and think about the fact that we’re currently living in a world where the company who make PlayStation might actually be claiming the rights to Super Mario (although, who ever thought we’d see Sonic in a Mario game?). Even if it is just the movie rights, this is still a huge moment in gaming. As it happens, Nintendo and Sony go quite a way back. The Big N signed a deal with Sony in 1998 to produce a CD-ROM add on for the SNES. Eventually this deal fell apart, and Nintendo began working with Phillips instead (Sony’s rival at the time). Nintendo and Phillip’s went on to create the aforementioned appallingly awful CDi games, while Sony developed the first PlayStation. We think we know who came out on top there…
Anyway, the point is that if Nintendo have learned anything in their 125 years as a company, it’s that Sony are probably a safer bet to work with than Phillips. Nintendo and Sony don’t even really consider each other to be competition (nor have they ever, really) with Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida having previously said that he thinks the world needs a financially stable Nintendo, and that they make great games… he just happens to think they’re kiddy games.
Put the minor niggles aside though, and Sony could perversely just be the best possible people to give us a Mario movie (besides Nintendo themselves but they aren’t equipped to make movies). Obviously it’s important to note that the chaps who make movies with Sony are completely different to the chaps who make games for Sony. It’s a huge company, with a load of subsidiaries. With that said, at the end of the day, an undeniably huge part of Sony is its wildly successful and beloved video game department. Surely it would only harm the company’s image if they were given the rights to the most popular and recognised game character of all time… and screwed it up. In a lot of ways, Sony would have almost as much to lose as Nintendo, so we would hope that they use their experience in video games to their advantage.
And of course, Nintendo and Sony could go even go all inception on us by making a video game adaptation of a movie based on a video game (and therefore even more money). And let’s be honest, if Nintendo made a Mario game that just happened to be based on a movie, we would finally have a game based on a film that was actually really good. Or what if Nintendo and Sony collaborated on the first cross-platform Mario? It’s unlikely, but they could even make exclusive Amiibos based on the movie (and with Sony involved, maybe Nintendo could actually make enough to meet demand this time).
But let’s dare to dream for a second. If Sony makes this Mario movie, and it’s a huge hit, who knows what this could do for Nintendo characters on the big screen? Even aside from all the Mario sequels, we want Nintendo to branch out. We’ve wanted to see The Legend of Zelda adapted on the big screen for a long, long time, and if Nintendo’s plumber is a hit that could be a real possibility, God knows there’s a demand for it. Peter Jackson to direct? Yes please. That Metroid movie you’ve always wanted could finally get made, that Star Fox space epic could go into production, and that Mr Game & Watch movie… would probably never happen, but pretty much everything else is fair game. Who knows, they could even get in on the Marvel hype and release a few linking standalone films before putting out a huge Super Smash Brothers movie.
See, while all of this might sound crazy, a few days ago it would have sounded even crazier. The other day we woke up in a strange new land, where the company who make PlayStation might actually be claiming the movie rights to Nintendo’s most famous, moustachioed child. All the pieces fit; Sony and Nintendo clearly understand one another through the fact that it would be an animated movie, Sony has as much to lose (or gain) as Nintendo from this endeavour, and the latter has never been more confident in lending out their properties… at this point, pretty much anything seems possible to us. Even a Mr Game & Watch movie.