The year is 1985. The video game industry is still rather new, and is just making its first few steps from the arcade setting and into the home. The Atari 2600 is available, and has not only sparked the gaming industry, but has also almost killed it. However, Nintendo has just released what is still regarded as one of the best (if not the best) home consoles of all time: the Nintendo Entertainment System. And it comes packaged with a game: Super Mario Bros. This game not only singlehandedly saved the home gaming genre, but also set the standard for sidescrollers, platformers, and home video games to come. This was it. The big one. The one that sparked the worldwide phenomenon known as Super Mario Bros.
Now let's fast forward to 1993. Since '85, Nintendo has released several classic Mario games such as SMB3 and the all-time classic, Super Mario World. However, just like the gaming industry, Hollywood is also alive and well-- and they've got new material to work with: video games. The popularity of Mario and the ambition of Hollywood then create what is possibly the worst movie ever made: Super Mario Bros: The Movie. Sure, it was the first movie ever based on a video game... and sure, the source material *is* pretty hard to take in outside of a gaming setting... so we'll cut it some slack for that. But let's face it, people: this movie is God-awful. Nevertheless, over 20 years have passed since '93, and Hollywood has gone over many new hurdles. Mario is still big, but Nintendo needs help. Which poses the question:
Could there be a new, CGI Super Mario Bros. Movie?
Let's find out.
The Old Movie
Production & Licensing
So what other countries are big in the film field? Well, there's India. But... come on people, if it's not going to look good coming from Japan, Indian production's not going to help either. France? Nah, they're too artsy and set in their ways. So the only country we have left is the good old U.S. of A. Personally, I think they're our best bet for this movie. Not only does the U.S. have the most CG studios in the world, we also have the best ones. We've got Blue Sky (Ice Age, Rio, the Dr. Seuss movies), Dreamworks animation (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda), Disney (Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen), and the studio that started it all: Pixar (Toy Story, Cars, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up). Personally, I would trust any of these studios with the rights to the Mario Bros., but unfortunately, Nintendo wouldn't. And I don't blame them. The last time Nintendo sold their characters to American studios we got a terrible Mario cartoon, an even worse Zelda cartoon, and that movie I mentioned earlier that we're not going to talk about. But what about Disney? When it comes to animated films, there's no doubt that Disney is the best. With classics like Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, they're hard to top. In addition to that, their medium is making masterpieces out of stories we already know and love. They've even produced some CG films in the past few years that were wonderful as well. Plus, Miyamoto (creator of Mario and one of Nintendo's board of directors) is a huge Disney fan. Would he really turn down their offer to turn his beloved characters into an animated movie? I don't think so.
However, Disney isn't the company I would give the rights to; Pixar is. Pixar not only created the CG genre, they also have made the best films! In fact, Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Wall-E are some of the best films ever made. Even the worst Pixar movies are better than the stuff other companies put out. It's for these reasons that I believe Nintendo would allow them to produce the movie. That being said, can you imagine what Pixar would make of Mario in a movie? It would be brilliant, colorful, touching, funny, mature, appealing to adults and children, witty, original, possibly tear-enducing, unique, and everything else you love about Pixar movies. Yeah. Pixar's the best.
So now we know that the movie will be made in America by Pixar Animation studios. Actually, the best bet (but most unlikely) is that it's produced in collaboration with Disney, Pixar, and Disney's anime studio, Studio Ghibli. That way it would have the charm of Disney and Pixar and not lose any of its eastern influence. But anyway, now that we know who's making the movie, let's talk about the movie itself.
That's our next big question. What games should the movie reference? Clearly it shouldn't be based off of one game in the same way that The Lego Movie wasn't based off of one specific LEGO branch. That would seem like Nintendo is just giving out one big commercial. Anyway, we definitely should take pages from some games though. Let's narrow these games down to the primary Mario titles. Yes, we're going to kick out the spin-offs like Mario Party and Mario Kart. So, what are the plots of these primary Mario games? Well... that makes it easy. They're all the same!
In every Mario game, the general storyline is basically always the same: Mario, Luigi, and the Princess are just living their lives when all of a sudden, Bowser swoops in and steals the Princess. Subsequently, the gameplay consists of Mario and/or Luigi's quest to save her and bring her back to the Mushroom Kingdom. The only game that kind of throws a wrench in that storyline is the recent title, Super Mario 3D World. However, I think it's safe to say that we better stick to the princess-saving plot line for the movie. But where to go beyond that?
I think it would be nice if the story went a little something like this: We begin in the Mushroom Kingdom upon the Mario Bros. who work as plumbers for the Princess. Also, the Mushroom Kingdom in this movie wouldn't just be ruled by the Princess. There would be a king and queen also. Anyway, it's the Princess's 18th birthday, and a grand celebration is being held at the castle. There are several honored guests, including the seven Sprixie fairies. However, as the party is going underway, there is a sudden problem with the plumbing! And who do the royals call up to help? Why, the royal plumbers, the Mario Bros., that's who! Anyway, on their way to back to the party from fixing the pipes, Mario and Luigi run into two late arrivals: an up-and-coming sprixie (whose name is unbeknownst to me at this point) and a pizza-delivery mushroom person named Toad. They bring these two back to the celebration. Eventually, Princess Peach makes her royal entrance to the subjects and places the party in going. However, meanwhile an evil villain named Bowser is seeking to take the happiness from the Mushroom Kingdom and keep it for himself. Anyway, we see him warp his airships to the MK, and he eventually breaks into the castle. Here he kidnaps the Princess and explains his motive: now that she's 18, she can rightfully marry him and he can rule his kingdom with a queen at his side. Before Bowser leaves, the 7 Sprixies secretly make a vow to protect the Princess so that Bowser can't harm her. Bowser escapes with the Princess (and now the Sprixies too) and warps back to his own kingdom. The king and queen are now bereft and the castle is practically ruined. However, Mario and Luigi (along with Toad and their Sprixie) volunteer to rescue the Princess. Luigi is a little reluctant, but Mario has his total "Let's-a-go!" attitude. The king and queen tell the team that in order to reach Bowser's world, they must seek out a power star. Anyway the Mario Bros. and company make the quest, and eventually reach a pyramid. Within the pyramid, Mario enters alone and fights off a boss like you would see in a game, and retrieves the power star. However, at this point, Bowser knows what the team is doing. After exiting the pyramid, an airship warps to the Mario Bros., and they climb aboard and fight off Kamek (the magikoopa sentinel that Bowser sent after them). Without a doubt, the Bros. defeat him and hijack the airship. The power star they obtained then transforms into warp zone to Bowser's world. They pass through it. They reach Bowser's world, which is a dark wasteland (as it appears in the games). The team fights through the world (and eventually crashes the airship) until they split up. Toad and the Sprixie stay to fight off the enemies in the kingdom while Mario and Luigi make off to find Bowser's castle. They come to an ocean with a boat at its shore. The castle is in view, and Mario and Luigi set off for it. However, about halfway, a haggard Kamek reappears and captures Luigi in a bubble. He then reveals that he has done the same for Toad and the Sprixie. He flies off with them and leaves Mario alone in the ocean. The castle then disappears (as if it was a façade, and the sea begins to get rougher and rougher. Eventually it destroys the boat and drowns Mario. However, Mario then enters a dream-like state where a voice tells him to "remember who he is." He then has a dramatic flashback sequence that recalls to him all of his successes (his defeating of Donkey Kong in New York, his conquest of the spines as seen in Mario Bros., his hiring by the king and queen of the MK as royal plumber, and his defeat of the monster that held the power star). He then shouts out, "I'm-a Super Mario!" and the dream state begins to fade. A sudden clap of thunder awakens Mario upon the beach of Bowser Castle Island. It wasn't a façade after all. Mario stands up and sees an airship entering the castle. Its anchor is being raised and so Mario hitches a ride on it, as he does in Super Mario Bros. 3. On board, he beats up a Boomerang Bro. and steals his boomerangs and costume. The airship then reaches a loading dock at the back of Bowser's castle. When it lands, koopas begin to unload crates containing bob-ombs one at a time, each one being guarded by two Boomerang Bros. Mario takes the place of the Bro. he KO'd. Once inside the castle, Mario makes his way to the chamber where the princess is being held. He makes it there, but before he does, his BB suit is removed and the bad guys know who he is. Therefore, Bowser is there to greet him when he finds the Princess tied to a flagpole. Bowser gives a quick monologue, and he and Kamek have an epic battle with Mario. The battle ends with the classic Mario-steps-on-the-button-that-releases-the-axe-that-cuts-down-the-bridge-where-Bowser-is-standing ending. Bowser dramatically falls to his watery grave (the ocean) and Mario rescues the Princess, Luigi, Toad, and the Sprixies. However, he is very shaken, and falls. Luckily, his Sprixie friend who has been learning magic concocts a 1-up mushroom that resurrects him. The movie ends with the power star fixing the airship and Mario and co. warping back to the MK via its portal. THE END.
So... it's probably pretty evident that I've been thinking this over for some time. Anyway, what do you think? It definitely needs some more filler (perhaps more gameplay-recreating or Bowser looking upon Mario with a crystal ball?), but I think it's pretty good for a movie! For the sake of this article, we'll stick with this story for the rest.
Filmmaking, Cinematography, and Production Design
These are the next big three, and are just as well crucial elements to good movies. The first of the three is, without a doubt, filmmaking. This is what... well... makes a film! For this movie, I don't think it's that important to think about who will do it, but rather how it will be done. For all three of these aspects, we need to have one goal in mind: Let's take all the feelings we get when we play Mario and put them in a movie. And what feelings do we get when playing Mario games? Well in my opinion, our thought process goes a little something like this:
"Boy, this is fun!"
"Woah, that was close!"
"*Gasps* Wooh, I thought I wasn't going to make that!"
"Geez, this is HARD!"
"Man, I love Mario!"
and of course, "Woah... trippy..."
That being said, what would the filmmaking and cinematography be like? I think it would be important to simulate many of the instances from the games. As part of the filler we need for the story, why not throw in a sequence similar to the slide levels in Super Mario 64? Why not frequently use that camera angle that sits above and behind Mario? There's a lot of things you can do, but I feel like if we keep that one goal in mind, we'll be golden.
Let's remember our goal: to recreate the feel of the game. So, what do the games look like? Well, ever since the very beginning, Mario games have always had a distinct look. Miyamoto is a true genius when it comes to video game art. However, do we know for sure if that would carry over well in the movie? I think that for the most part, the answer is yes. The characters, colors, and themes would all fit very nicely. The trouble comes in places like layout and sets. Sure, in the games they look great, but in those, they're all designed around gameplay and not cinematography. In other words, the worlds of the game are designed so that the player can know what to do and where to go without much thought, but in a movie, you want room for some thought and possible misdirection. I think that, to achieve this, the designers of the movie should be a mix of the game/level designers and professional movie artists.
And as far as art goes, we want Miyamoto in charge. No one could design more original, charming characters than he. When it comes to art, he's a genius. But while we're on the subject, should the art be reminiscent of a particular game? To answer this, I'll give us a goal that should answer similar questions for the whole movie: We want plenty of space in the movie for gamers and Mario fans to reminisce, but we want to leave enough room for the film to still have its own originality. However, if we were to simulate the style of a game, the one with my favorite design is (surprisingly) Super Mario 3D World. This could perhaps be because it's the highest rendered Mario game, but otherwise, I feel like its release in today's nostalgic era allowed for Miyamoto and the rest of Nintendo to recreate and 3D-ify the original, classic art as seen on the early games' box art. Plus it's colorful and charming as well as modern.
Who (characters and actors) is going to be in this movie? Let's start with characters. Obviously (and according to the story), we will have the Mario brothers, Princess Peach, Bowser, Toad, the Sprixies, and the traditional enemies (Goombas, Koopas, Thwomps, etc.). Notice, however, that nowhere in the story did I mention one of Mario's most loved characters: Yoshi. I like Yoshi just as much as the next guy, but I find it hard to put him in a movie. He has hardly no dialogue and his primary function (being ridden like a horse) can only be accomplished by one character at a time. Sorry, Yoshi, you're out. But are there any more secondary characters we already know who would work well in the movie? Bowser Jr.? Maybe. Toadsworth? Yes, but with a king and queen, what is his point? And what about new characters? The king and queen will be new, and I think the boss Mario fights in order to get the power star should be original as well. Anyway, there are plenty of characters to use, and they all would work pretty well.
So what about the acting cast? This is probably the easiest question to answer: get the original actors from the games. It's that simple. We all want Charles Martinet as the Mario brothers, Samantha Kelly as Peach and Toad, and Kenny James as Bowser. The Sprixies don't have much in the way of voices in the game, but in the movie, they should each have their own unique voice. Plus, all the new characters will need a voice. To fill these parts, I think we should go more for good voice actors rather than just the famous actors of the time.
So there you have it. Now that we've looked at the most essential elements of movie, let's see if we can now answer our initial question: Could there be a new, good Super Mario Bros. CGI movie? Well, based on everything we've looked at, yes! More importantly though, will there be one? Well, this is something that we just can't really answer. Will Nintendo get the guts to sell their characters to an American CG film studio? Who knows. If you think that this should happen, then please share this blog article! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading, and now… Let's go play some Mario.