Even with Mario’s creator “front and center” in the movie-making process, this could go very wrong.

Almost exactly one year ago rumors began swirling that Illumination Entertainment was close to landing the rights to create an animated Super Mario movie, and a few months later both the California-based film company and Nintendo announced that the feature is indeed in development. In a recent interview with Variety, Illumination founder Chris Meledandri, who will be serving as a producer on the project, spoke more about the principles under which he wants the new Mario movie to be made.

Meledandri reveals that the film is scheduled for release in 2022, and also that he’s not at all bothered by the phenomenally unsuccessful and universally hated Hollywood live-action Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993. “I like that this was not done well the first time,” he went so far as to say, explaining that he finds that tainted legacy more “exciting” than “making another version of a film that was done incredibly well to begin with.”

Super Mario Odyssey, the most recent game in the Mario series

What’s more, Meledandri feels like he’s already fixed one major flaw from the original Mario movie by bringing in Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros. (as well as Donkey Kong, the very first game in which Mario appeared) as a producer on the new film. “I’ve rarely seen that happen with any adaptation where the original creative voice is being embraced like we’re embracing Miyamoto,” boasted Meledandri, and while he didn’t go into much detail on what Miyamoto’s exact role is, he asserted that Miyamoto will be “front and center in the creation of this film.”

As optimistic as Meledandri is, there are a couple of reasons why the Mario franchise’s existing fans might not share his sentiments. First, it’s not like everything Miyamoto is part of instantly turns to gold coins, as evidenced by the lukewarm response that followed his first foray into mobile games, Super Mario Run.

But sure, it’s nice to see Mario’s creator involved. It’s definitely worth remembering, though, that legendary game designer Miyamoto is exactly that: a game designer. While they’re both forms of escapist entertainment, movies and video games are often satisfying in entirely different ways, and expertise in one field doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other. Hironobu Sakaguchi, who rose to fame designing/directing/producing the first ten Final Fantasy games, tried his hands at feature film making with 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, one of the worst critical and commercial disasters of modern movie history.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Still, you could argue that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a failure because it had little if any connection to the Final Fantasy games, despite Sakaguchi being at the helm. Meledandri at least sounds committed to using existing Mario material as the building blocks of his film, saying “The challenge is taking things that are so thin in their original form and finding depth that doesn’t compromise what generations of fans love about Mario, but also feels organic to the iconography and can support a three-act structure.”

That challenge may prove impossibly difficult, though. Sure, there’s plenty of depth to the Mario games, but it’s found in the unique and innovative gameplay. On the other hand, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who gets really excited about the games’ narratives or set pieces. Even hardcore fans who’ve loved the franchise for years would struggle to complete the sentence “I really loved watching the scene in [insert Mario game] where _____ happens.”

▼ No one buys Mario games for the cutscenes.

Turning Mario into a passive experience is a huge risk, and a potential disaster. The franchise’s proven fun is all in the playing. For proof, look no further than two kids arguing over who gets the controller when there’s a Mario game in a powered-on system because nobody wants to be the person watching while their friend gets to play the game instead, or how the most popular Mario character these days is a product of the fans’ imagination who’s never officially appeared in the series.

Sources: Variety via Livedoor News/Cinema Today via Hachima Kiko
Images: YouTube/Nintendo