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Nintendo and Illumination unveil their Super Mario Bros. movie

Video game and console developer Nintendo and animation studio Illumination have finally unveiled the first trailer for The Super Mario Bros Movie, an animated adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. franchise.

As noted when the movie was first announced, this collaboration with the animation studio behind the Minions films represents Nintendo’s return to the world of licensed feature film adaptations of its characters. Chris Pratt is replacing Charles Martinet in the role of Mario, and actors Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Seth Rogen will also appear in the film in the role of franchise mainstays like Princess Peach, Luigi, and more.

Nintendo has said that Martinet will appear in a cameo role.

The trailer mostly centers on Jack Black’s performance as Bowser, who arrives at an icy kingdom in order to steal a classic Super Star. Chris Pratt’s Mario pops out of a pipe, seemingly making his first visit to the Mushroom Kingdom.

What live-action Mario movie?

After the first Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993 became a critical and commercial flop (it only grossed $38 million on an approximately $45 million budget), the Japanese developer tightened its guidelines for licensing its characters, restricting them mostly to merchandising and a handful of game development partnerships.

Nintendo’s return to the silver screen shouldn’t be viewed as a lightweight effort. Partnering with Illumination and ponying up for Chris Pratt (whose box office draw has remained strong even while movies he’s appeared in have begun to struggle) represent a pretty heavy interest in capturing a solid chunk of the billion-dollar family entertainment business.

Mario’s brand recognition hasn’t waned much in the last couple of decades, but it’s been a few years since Super Mario Odyssey, and Nintendo probably wants to make sure he doesn’t fade away in the public eye. More game studios have been pursuing adaptations of their franchises of late, with some providing clear wins (CD Projekt is now 2 and 0 with adapting its games into shows that drive sales of games), and others still missing the mark (Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed film was an early big miss in this field, and its recent adaptation of VR game Werewolves Within was fun, but not a smash success).

It’s easy to view this project in a fairly cynical business lens, but let’s not forget that the creative talent at Nintendo and Illumination are fairly well aligned on making media that resonates with younger audiences and their families. Much of Nintendo’s competition in the space is trying to target the 18-34 market with adaptations of The Last of Us or Castlevania, and Nintendo is playing to its strengths by sticking to its usual sincerity and sense of polish.

Given how the trailer shows Super Mario 64‘s talking penguins, and Keegan Michael Key’s Toad character seems to resemble the hero of the Captain Toad games, it’s also neat to see the creative work of past Super Mario developers shine as well. The Mario franchise has taken some strange turns over the years (Bob Hoskins’ turn as the character may not even have been the strangest of them), and seeing Nintendo be willing to embrace where the character has been helps add some flavor to what looks to be a pre-summer Blockbuster hit.

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