Opinion: Is Sonic’s success good news for the Mario movie?

May 5, 2022

It’s probably quite clear by now, but in case I somehow haven’t mentioned it enough, I’m a big Mario fan. Playing the original Super Mario Bros. is not only one of earliest memories (I’m one of those people that isn’t great at remembering their childhoods in great detail) but also one of the most significant ones. It was the game that made me fall in love with video games and playing on that Famicom console is time spent with my dad, my brother and my childhood best friend that I will always treasure. Over the years, Super Mario (and the entire Mushroom Kingdom gang) have become a really important aspect of my life and even now as I tap away on my keyboard, the clicket clack of the keys is accompanied by at least three versions of Mario sitting on my desk staring back at me.

However, one of my other big loves is the cinema. I love movies – and I’m one of those old fogeys that actually still enjoy the whole cinema experience. So, as you can imagine, back in 2017 when rumours started swirling that an animated Mario film was on the way (followed by official confirmation in early 2018) I was quite excited to get to watch my favourite mustachioed hero on the big screen. However, after thinking about the, shall we say, strange 1993 Super Mario Movie and the fact that the Illumination (the makers of the Minions) would be studio behind the movie – I’ve got to admit that that excitement was quickly engulfed by some serious trepidation. And while I’m super happy that Mr. Miyamoto is co-producing the film, the voice cast announcement in September 2021 was a little odd and unexpected.

Charles Pratt… Chris Martinet?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not actually that worried about the fact that Chris Pratt will be playing Mario. Sure, Charles Martinet will always be ‘my’ Mario. However, he is involved in the movies in some way and I’m actually a fan of Pratt in pretty much all he does. And let’s be honest, while not necessarily relevant for a voiced-role-only, Anya Taylor-Joy looks exactly like real-life Princess Peach. Plus, Charlie Day as Luigi and Jack Black as Bowser all seems pretty good options too. My real concern is taking the nonsensical Super Mario world and trying to make it work narratively; Getting some sort of cohesive and enjoyable story out of a plumber that has magical mushroom-infused powers and saves a princes form a giant dragon-lizard king that he then races go-karts against on the weekend is… well, insane. To put it lightly. Recent revelations that the movie was being delayed (skipping a huge holiday period December release) to April 2023 hasn’t done much to assuage my fears that this one is a hard one to write.

Video Game movies are… good now!?

All that being said, recent video-game-to-movie adaptations have worked. I really enjoyed Detective Pikachu. I had a ball in the Indiana-Jones-Lite Uncharted film. And Sonic 2 just broke another viewership record while also managing to keep most critics happy too. And the Sonic example in particular is encouraging. Sure, Sonic always said a lot more that Mario and so writing where he sarcastically beats up baddies is a lot easier than working with “Let’s-a Go! and Wahoo!”. However, Dr Robotnik, collecting rings and all powerful gems and a two-tailed helicopter squirrel are not the stuff novels are often written about. Yet, even when leaning harder into the video game elements in this sequel – Sonic has managed to stay relevant and enjoyable as a movie. Plus, in Mario’s case the film will be fully animated meaning that they can take even more liberties, right? So, could it my dream actually be coming true? Will the Super Mario Movie actually be good?

Well, at this point, I’d be happy if it was just ok. And for now, I’m hanging on to the sliver of hope which is letting my excitement outweigh my worry.

Originally written for NAG

May 5, 2022

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