TAGGED AS: movies
Video game adaptations sure are leveling up this year, if you’ll forgive the pun. HBO’s take on The Last of Us got the year off to a good start, but this spring, the most iconic video game character of all will be making the jump (pun also intended) to the cinema. The Super Mario Bros. Movie, from Illumination and Universal Pictures in collaboration with Nintendo, will stomp into theaters on April 5, 2023.
If you have questions about The Super Mario Bros. Movie, allow us to answer them as if we were punching a big floating “?” block. Let’s-a go!
(Photo by Jon Kopaloff, Phillip Faraone, Samir Hussein, Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Nintendo announced the cast of The Super Mario Bros. Movie in September 2021, with Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto revealing the news during a Nintendo Direct event — one of the gaming company’s regularly streamed preview presentations. Mario is a man of few words in the games; Charles Martinet has voiced the character since 1992, but “It’s-a me, Mario!” isn’t quite enough dialogue to fill a feature-length script. A new, more talkative voice actor was required.
But when Miyamoto revealed that Mario would be voiced by Chris Pratt, there was some outcry. The Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star has done voice work before — he’s quite good in The LEGO Movie and Onward — but there were criticisms that he was overexposed as an actor and that his Mario voice would probably just end up sounding like… Chris Pratt. Your mileage may vary on the first point, but when trailers for the movie came out, it was confirmed that Mario does indeed sound like Chris Pratt in this film. Meanwhile, Martinet will still feature in the film in what’s been described as surprise cameos.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
The rest of the cast is less controversial. Anya Taylor-Joy, star of The Witch, The Northman, and Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, voices Princess Peach. The movie, as with more recent games in the Mario series, gives Peach more agency as a capable leader of Mushroom Kingdom rather than just relegating her status to a damsel in distress. Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia, Pacific Rim, and The LEGO Movie (in which he co-starred with Pratt) plays Luigi, Mario’s younger, green-clad brother. Day’s on-screen persona tends to lean towards the manic, which should be a good fit for Luigi. Jack Black voices Bowser, Mario’s archenemy and frequent kidnapper of Princess Peach. Based on early reactions to the trailers, Black’s take on King Koopa looks poised to be a highlight of the film, as he’s imbuing the character with a good mixture of menace, bluster, and comedy.
Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele, Wendell and Wild) voices Toad, Peach’s dutiful but oft-hapless assistant. Seth Rogen voices Donkey Kong, who was technically Mario’s first villain when they both made their debut in the 1981 arcade game, but they’ve since become allies — or at least acquaintances who go-kart and party together. Fred Armisen voices Cranky Kong, an elderly and, well, cranky member of Donkey Kong’s family. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco voices Foreman Spike, a relatively obscure Mario character who made his debut as Mario and Luigi’s boss in the 1985 game Wrecking Crew. Kevin Michael Richardson, a veteran voice actor, lends his pipes to the role of Kamek, Bowser’s magic-using right-hand man — err, koopa — and Khary Payton voices the Penguin King, the monarch of a chilly land that Bowser conquers.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
Typically speaking, the Super Mario games are not known for having deep, complex plots. There are exceptions — the Paper Mario series of RPGs are fairly lore-dense — but for the most part, the mainline platformer games are pretty bare-bones: Mario must find peach and defeat Bowser. The spin-off games are devoid of a plot. (Mario and Bowser and Co. race go-karts because of… reasons?) The Super Mario Bros. Movie, based on the trailers, seems to be adding a little more context to the basic premise while also drawing in lots of video game Easter eggs.
Bowser is attempting to conquer the world, as one does, and once he obtains a Super Star (the sort that makes Mario temporarily invincible in the games), he has the power he’ll need to do so. Only Mario — who it appears is a newcomer to Mushroom Kingdom — stands in his way. As a character, Mario is said to be an Italian plumber from New York City, but most games don’t really engage with his supposed real-world background or hometown. He just jumps around and plays golf and tennis in Mushroom Kingdom. It seems like the movie’s Mario hails from a place that’s more like our real world and less fantastical than Mushroom Kingdom, but it’s unclear exactly where he’s from.
Upon arriving in Mushroom Kingdom, Mario meets Toad and is taken to Princess Peach, who attempts to train Mario in order to face off with Bowser. There are Yoshis, a Super Smash Bros.-like duel with Donkey Kong, and a Mad Max-esque chase down Rainbow Road, a classic course from the Mario Kart games.
(Photo by ©Buena Vista Pictures)
There have actually been two movies based on Mario before this one. In 1986, the anime film Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! opened in Japan. It’s notable for being the first film ever that was based on a video game, though it technically shares the honor because Running Boy: Star Soldier’s Secret, another video game adaptation, came out on the very same day. The plot follows Mario as he’s sucked into the video game he’s playing, an early example of what’s now known as the isekai genre.
Western audiences are probably more familiar with 1993’s live-action Super Mario Bros., which is either a cult classic or one of the worst films ever made, depending on who you ask. Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the titular Bros. and Dennis Hopper as Bowser, the film drastically altered the basic Mario story, reimagining King Koopa as a highly evolved dinosaur from a parallel world that first formed when a special meteor hit the earth. It’s a mess, albeit one that’s not without its charms, but its commercial and critical failure is reportedly part of the reason it’s taken so long for Nintendo to allow more film adaptations. Nintendo worked with Universal Parks & Resorts to build Mario-themed lands at Universal’s theme parks, and that relationship helped lead to the upcoming feature film.
Talk of a new movie began in the mid-2010s and production began in earnest in 2018 when Shigeru Miyamoto and Illumination founder Chris Meledandri were confirmed as co-producers. The film is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic; Horvath oversaw Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, while The Super Mario Bros. Movie marks Jelenic’s feature film debut.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
Nintendo saw some big-screen success in 2019 with the release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, a live-action adaptation of a Pokémon spin-off game. Should The Super Mario Bros. movie be a success, there will probably be even more adaptations, and Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has said as much. There are already (unconfirmed) reports that Illumination is prepping a Donkey Kong spin-off, but there are so many Nintendo IPs that could easily become movies. The Legend of Zelda? Metroid? Star Fox? Fire Emblem? And imagine them all coming together in an Avengers-style crossover (too much?). It could be the start of a new wave of video game adaptations, one that could finally disprove the conventional wisdom that all video game adaptations are bad.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie opens in US theaters on April 5, 2023, and it will open in Japan shortly afterward on April 28.