Video game movies have dated since Super Mario Bros. released back in May 1993, and Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen!(Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!) in July 1986 with the reaction being extremely varied.
The majority of video game movies made now are sequels to long-running franchises such as Pokémon, already on its 18th film – released in Japan this July. Recent comments by Shigeru Miyamoto, though, suggest gaming giant Nintendo could see new films based on its intellectual property being developed in the near future.
Popular Nintendo characters have already appeared in recent Hollywood films such as critically acclaimed cameos from Bowser in the critically acclaimed 2012 film Wreck it Ralph and the more forgettable appearance of Donkey Kong in the more forgettable Adam Sandler film, Pixels, released earlier this summer.
In an interview with Fortune, Shigeru Miyamoto was quoted as saying “As we look more broadly at what is Nintendo’s role as an entertainment company, we’re starting to think more and more about how movies can fit in with that — and we’ll potentially be looking at things like movies in the future.” This comes on the back of a trilogy of Pikmin films entered into the Tokyo International Film Festival, so it would be interesting to see if a feature length film would be made by Nintendo or if it was more like the upcoming Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect films where outside directors, writers et cetera create their own part of the series canon.
It must be said that the decision to make a movie based on their more popular franchises must not be taken lightly. The transition from the near total interactive and player controlled narrative of a video game to the shared experience of one person or team’s vision of a story can be a jarring experience for the audience of the film. This can be for two reasons; firstly the core fan base of the film, people that play the games, will lose control of the narrative. Note how Agent 47 was eager to use guns and knives over his trademark stealth in the recent film Hitman: Agent 47 and other elements of the Hitman story felt watered down in order to make the film a better action film then a faithful videogame adaptation. Another example of story being changed is a scene in the aforementioned Super Mario Bros. film where Yoshi gets stabbed in the middle of a fight the dinosaur has with Bowser’s assistant (and lover) Lina, a human of dinosaur ancestry.
On the flip side are the regular moviegoers that may lose the subtle references or nuances to a character’s development or relationships with other characters and may feel let down that the film they set out to see, references other media they haven’t consumed or potentially even heard of.
In summary a Legend of Zelda or Metroid film (Nintendo fans know Samus needs letting out of her pen, even if it is only on the silver screen) or even a newer intellectual property of Nintendo such as Splatoon (Kids and Squids: The Film) or another use of the characters in another film series would be great to see from Nintendo and is increasingly likely in the future if Shigeru Miyamoto has anything to say about it. Perhaps the successes will bring about more from those franchises (possibly even that Legend of Zelda Netflix series Nintendo previously shot down). But that’s not to say that a bad representation or poorly received depiction of the beloved characters will not relegate the series to a lower priority for future releases on future consoles or another extended period where Nintendo doesn’t allow their characters on the movie screen, outside of the animated features.