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Fischer: Game Changer

By Travis Fischer,

Good news for all the people out there that think there are too many super hero movies these days.

Get ready for a theater slate that is instead chalk full of video game movies because the success of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has all but assuredly turned Nintendo franchises into the next big thing.

It’s fitting, I suppose.

Fischer: Game Changer
Travis Fischer

After all, the original Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993 was the first major movie adaptation of a video game and it would set the tone for what audiences could expect from the sub-genre for decades to come. Namely, that they would be low budget, wildly incoherent messes with barely a passing resemblance to the source material and held together through the sheer force of charisma from the actors involved.

This was the case for years, with each new adaptation prompting the question if it would be the movie to break the curse. Most never stood a chance. Every so often one would come around that was all right at best, but still a far cry from being an unqualified success.

If I were to pick a movie that officially ended the video game curse, I’d have to say it was “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” which may not have set the world on fire but was at least a modest success and found praise among both critics and fans.

This was followed by “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which ended up being the second highest grossing movie of 2020. Granted, that was in large part due to being one of the last movies that made it into theaters before the pandemic shut everything down, but a win is a win. “Sonic the Hedgehog” and its equally well-received sequel may be held back by their formulaic safety net, but they were still good enough to raise the bar for video game adaptations.

Right up until Mario grabbed that bar and jumped with it.

As much as it pains my inner ’90s SEGA kid to admit it, Nintendo did what Sega… don’t.

The Sonic movies may be all right, but “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has eclipsed it and every other video game adaptation by a wide margin. Approaching $1 billion in worldwide gross, it is this year’s highest grossing film thus far and has a solid shot at holding that position.

And while nothing has officially been announced, I don’t know of any studio that has ever made a billion dollars on a movie and decided not to make another one.

It’s no wild prediction to say that this could be the start of a new era for movies based on video games, and for Nintendo franchises in particular.

The comparison between Nintendo’s Mario movie and Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man” are easy to make. Both movies legitimized a sub-genre that had been languishing in mediocrity and both are natural starting points for a cinematic universe made up of several beloved franchises. A Mario sequel is inevitable, along with maybe even a Donkey Kong spin-off, but Nintendo also has “The Legend of Zelda,” “Metroid,” “Star Fox,” and a slew of other movie-worthy franchises in its catalogue.

If I were in charge of Universal Pictures, I’d be telling Illumination to start hiring every animator they can get their hands on and setting up a meeting with Shigeru Miyamoto to start working out a 10-year plan.

Beyond that, I expect that every major studio out there is frantically figuring out which video games they have the movie rights to and are racing to jump onto the wagon.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and can’t believe that the idea of a “Super Smash Bros.” movie has so quickly shifted from pipe-dream to plausible.

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