The animation is gorgeous (the frightening original design for the movie version of the character notwithstanding), and the Sonic-themed comedy hits most of the right beats throughout the films. Sonic never takes himself too seriously, which makes him perfect for a kids movie, and it also doesn’t hurt that Sonic has been a voice-acted character both in the games and his very own animated series for decades. Unlike Mario, Sonic speaks frequently during most of his adventures, and he has a very sharp tongue, constantly quipping with his peers and trading barbs with his enemies at a moment’s notice. It’s why the dialogue style in his films feels natural for this character (despite some truly cringe-inducing lines).
The combination of animation and live-action in Sonic’s movie universe fits the series incredibly well, too. So many of Sonic’s games have taken place in areas with metropolises and human elements. This makes it an easy translation when the character is put right back in that setting on film. Mario doesn’t really have this advantage, as exemplified by the Super Mario Bros. movie that transported Mario and Luigi to a decaying urban hellscape in 1993. There’s no denying the Nintendo hero looked and felt out of place. Fortunately, the new Super Mario movie is an animated film, meaning it can adapt the fantastical landscapes fans are more familiar with from the games as opposed to shoving the character onto realistic backdrops.
After the ’90s live-action film, it’s really no surprise Nintendo scrapped any future Mario movie plans for the next three decades. He has long been Nintendo’s prized possession, and to this day, the publisher doesn’t allow just anyone to fiddle with the character, whether it’s for a video game or another medium. This is why it’s so shocking that Nintendo is trusting Chris Pratt to voice their most important property, one that is historically silent beyond a few key catchphrases. In fact, none of Nintendo’s most iconic characters usually speak in full sentences. Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Peach have a select few phrases that they vocalize in each game, but nothing on the level of the Sonic series.
To be fair, we know very little about the plot or the direction of this new animated film. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto helped develop the film, which is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the creators of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go!with the animation being handled by Illumination, the studio behind despicable me, The Secret Life of Petsand Sing. Questionable casting choices aside, there is a great team behind this movie.
Its many failures as a movie aside, this week’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a pretty faithful adaptation of the video game universe, complete with homages to the Green Hill Zone, Knuckles, Tails, and quite a few surprises that will make fans of both classic and modern Sonic titles jump up from their chairs. It feels like a celebration of those video games, and the Mario movie creative team should take a similar approach with their adaptation. Mario is arguably the most recognizable video game character in history and the movie should feel like a new way to engage with his world and the myriad other Nintendo characters featured in it.
For example, the visuals of the Mario animated movie should mimic the bright and colorful Mushroom Kingdom that we’ve come to love. It’s a setting rich in detail, an absolute gift for filmmakers looking for ways to sneak in fun easter eggs and nods to Bomb-Ombs, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Chain Chomps. With Mario also able to dive into green pipes that lead to mysterious, new corners of his world, or travel across the galaxy like in recent games, this is a video game universe that is ripe with possibilities. Mario can even fly, possess his enemies, turn to metal, and more, thanks to his trusty collection of hats. There’s so much material to explore, including in potential sequels.