After nearly 25 years, Mario will get his second chance on the big screen. Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment have confirmed the earlier reports of a new animated Mario movie that will be co-produced by Illumination’s owner, Chris Meledandri, and the man who created Mario and Luigi, Shigeru Miyamoto. The film is still early in its development, so it may be a few years before Universal Pictures gets around to releasing it — but that doesn't mean we can't talk about it in the meantime.
Video game movies have a reputation for being terrible, and the very first Super Mario Bros. movie certainly helped cement that reputation. Back in 1993, Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo starred as Mario and Luigi, with screen legend Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. For those of you who were too young to have seen it, or fortunate enough to have avoided it, trust us when we say that it’s a really bad film. In fact, it was such a toxic dump that Nintendo essentially ran away from Hollywood for two decades, which may be why we’ve never gotten an epic Legend of Zelda adaptation.
Are video game movies doomed to be inherently unwatchable? Maybe, but that's only if studios continue to make poor creative choices or fail to understand why fans loved the games in the first place. When we play a Mario title, we’re not just watching Mario — we are Mario. It’s not a passive experience. The most important thing for the next Mario movie is that it needs to grab the imaginations of both gamers and casual viewers. At this point, we feel that everyone deserves a great Mario adaptation, and we’ve come up with a few key points that the filmmakers should take to heart.
Skip the origin story
Since we've had three decades of Super Mario Bros. video games, we think that everyone knows the basic premise at this point: Two regular guys from Earth end up in the Mushroom Kingdom where they save the Princess so regularly that they don't even have time to be plumbers anymore. Their reputations as adventurers proceed them. Plus, the first Super Mario Bros. movie already went through the painful, tedious motions of an origin story to explain everything. Just avoid the unnecessary exposition and get to the fun parts.
Keep Mario’s history intact
One of the most charming aspects of Super Mario Odyssey is that it actually called back to Mario’s first appearance in Donkey Kong by reintroducing his old flame, Pauline, as the mayor of New Donk City. It actually makes Mario's Mushroom Kingdom heroics easier to believe if he was already courageous long before he found his first Warp Zone. We don't even have to actually see Mario’s original battle with Donkey Kong, although it might be fun to work in a DK cameo somewhere.
It’s Luigi time!
The last few Super Mario AAA titles have shamefully shuffled Luigi off to the side while Mario hogged the spotlight. They're the Super Mario Bros., plural, and Luigi deserves his star turn just as much as Mario. It's bad enough that Luigi literally has Mario as his last name; he shouldn't have to be an eternal second banana. Plus, ensuring that Luigi remains Mario's partner and foil would go a long way towards fleshing out the personalities of both brothers. We suspect that Luigi is fairly easy-going, but we'd still love to see some of the rage behind his infamous Mario Kart death stare.
The two princesses
It should go without saying that Princess Peach doesn't need to be an eternal hostage/damsel-in-distress. Peach has fought alongside the Mario brothers on more than one occasion, and she can hold her own as a heroine. That said, the new movie could be a good opportunity to use both Peach and Daisy, another princess who has appeared in the Mario franchise. There's a real shortage of female leads in this gaming series, so why not take the chance to promote Daisy and let her share the stage with Peach and the brothers?
Bowser needs to be king
Obviously, Bowser has to be the villain of this story, although we're sure that some Hollywood executives might think that it would be a good idea to hold off on Bowser until the third film in a trilogy that's never going to happen. Mario and Luigi need Bowser because he's been their primary adversary since the very beginning, and he's got the range to be both comedic and intimidating. It can be a difficult trick to pull off, but Bowser should be able to walk the line between being funny and just threatening enough to be taken seriously by everyone involved. Great heroes need great villains to push them to their limits, and that's the role that Bowser needs to play.
The hidden mushroom kingdom
As much as we love the Mushroom Kingdom, we've seen it all before. To really wow us on the big screen, the new Mario movie needs to take us to places that we've never been in the games. And that could mean finding the hidden corners of the Mushroom Kingdom or something far beyond its borders. It's going to be difficult for anyone to outdo the worlds and locations that Nintendo has already given us in the games, but if the filmmakers can't live up to that challenge, they shouldn't be making this movie.
Bring back Yoshi!
It's been far too long since Yoshi played a pivotal part in a Mario Bros. adventure, and his cameo in Super Mario Odyssey is all too brief. Getting a chance to ride Yoshi into battle is still one of the most enjoyable parts of the series. Who doesn't want to have their own dino buddy to call upon in times of need? The very concept of Yoshi is ridiculously silly, but that's why we love him. We don't get dinosaurs in the real world — that's one of the reasons we keep visiting this one.
Put Wario on hold
There might be some temptation for studio executives to throw in Mario's evil doppelganger (or childhood rival, depending on who you believe) into this film. And there might be a place for Wario's cartoonish villainy somewhere down the line. But he's the very definition of a character that's best saved for a sequel, if there is one. And, on that note, it's been about 30 years since Mario and friends took on Wart in Super Mario Bros. 2. It might be time for a rematch.
Embrace the concept
Super Mario Bros. is a video game series, and that's nothing to be embarrassed about. There are some filmmakers who still feel the need to make their adaptations more serious than the source material, and that's not what this franchise needs. The Mario animated movie needs a director and a creative team who not only love this world and its characters but also embrace their inherent ridiculousness. Who cares if it doesn't make any sense for an ex-plumber to be riding a dinosaur in a mushroom-inspired kingdom while battling an anthropomorphic reptile? We're not asking for realism, and we don’t want it in our Mario Brothers adventure.
Give Charles a chance
If Peter Cullen can still be the voice of Optimus Prime in every Transformers movie, then Charles Martinet deserves an opportunity to provide Mario's voice. Sure, someone might want to cast Justin Timberlake or Zac Efron as Mario simply because they're well-known celebrities, but Martinet has been Nintendo's official voice of Mario since 1990, and he's really good at it. If nothing else, Martinet should at least be given the chance to win the filmmakers over.
And if that doesn’t work out, then someone should check to see if Cullen wants to reprise his role. After all, Cullen was the first voice of Mario 35 years ago in the animated cartoon Saturday Supercade. It might be fitting.