Following a surprise announcement earlier this week, Nintendo debuted the first trailer for its upcoming film, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” a film based on the video game character and series that, after a single, groundbreaking title in 1985, one could argue is most responsible for the success of the video game industry.
Films have frequently served as breaking points for mimetic breakthroughs on the internet. They’re like erupting volcanoes, shifting the meme landscape to its chaotic whims. Several such eruptions have already occurred in the twenty-first century. “Shrek.” “The Bee Movie.” And now, very likely, the Chris Pratt-led Mario film.
The trailer shows Bowser — who is played by Jack Black — attacking the nation of penguins, who were famously featured in the level Cool, Cool Mountain in “Super Mario 64.” Bowser asks who would dare to challenge him in a fight that is over in seconds. Enter Mario, who is voiced by Chris Pratt with all the passion of a Chris Pratt character, sounding exactly like Chris Pratt and not at all like the games’ chirpy, “woo hoo” voiced by Charles Martinet.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to become Mario,” Chris Pratt said, straight-faced, before the trailer aired.
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The film appears to depict Super Mario Bros’ first visit to the Mushroom Kingdom, echoing the Japanese science fiction storytelling tradition of “isekai,” in which a stranger from another land magically teleports into another unfamiliar world for adventure. The trailer concludes with his twin brother Luigi, voiced by Charlie Day (though we’ve yet to hear him say anything), being chased by ghoulish Dry Bones, a nod to the character’s starring role in the cartoon horror series Luigi’s Mansion.
The trailer follows the release of the film’s first official poster, which has received a lot of attention from fans. It provided a first look at the Mushroom Kingdom’s warp pipe infrastructure and sparked a public outcry in some quarters: fans urged Nintendo and Illumination, the film’s production company, to beef up the plumber’s should-be-extraordinary derriere.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the series’ creator, unveiled the voice cast last year in a very matter-of-fact presentation, and internet denizens erupted in laughter and shock as soon as Pratt’s smouldering headshot appeared on the screen. The subsequent casting announcements, including Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, only added to the surreal nature of the event.
It’s also worth noting the presence of Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) in the cast, two Mario-like characters who have their own successful franchise. While it’s not impossible for these two to appear in this film — they frequently appear in Mario spinoff games — their presence has fans guessing about Nintendo’s intentions.
Dynamo Pictures, Nintendo’s most recent acquisition, was officially renamed Nintendo Pictures earlier this week. Nintendo has admitted to being hands-off with previous film adaptations of its intellectual property. The trailer for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” appears to be Nintendo’s first direct control over a cinematic venture.