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It's Time To Stop Dismissing Video Game Movies Before They Are Released

This article could have easily been written immediately after "Sonic the Hedgehog's" release in 2020. While the internet may have ultimately saved the speedy blue hedgehog from disastrous early designs, the pre-release vitriol was palpable. Yet, the movie enjoyed a successful opening weekend with nearly $58 million in ticket sales in North America, which outpaced "Detective Pikachu's" $54 million the prior year. Globally, "Sonic" pulled in over $319 million in its theatrical release, whereas "Detective Pikachu" drew over a whopping $433 million. Both films received average critical reviews (via Metacritic), but arguably shined when it came to audience scores — "Sonic the Hedgehog" just barely edging out "Detective Pikachu."


Clearly, moviegoers were willing to give these video game adaptations a shot. Despite the content of these films not being everyone's cup of tea (especially, apparently, film critics), audiences, many of whom are most likely gamers themselves, are still willing to accept (and actually enjoy) them.

But here we are again having dredged up the same preliminary debates about which video game movies will and won't be accepted and why. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" releases in theaters on April 5, and the internet continues its tired trend of pre-release cynicism.

It's 2023, everybody. Although it could be easily argued that the so-called "video game movie curse" was never actually a thing, we've seen the term slowly fade out of the popular vernacular. You'd think at this point, as we await the release of another major video game movie adaption of an iconic IP, we could all just chill out and save our critical opinions, rants, and negative reviews until after the movie is released. It's well past time to do so.


Changing tunes

If you've been following along on social media, it's been interesting to watch the collective opinion change for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" with each new trailer, teaser, and bit of news.

At first, the response was that of pure outrage. Why in the world would Chris Pratt be cast as Mario, especially when Charles Martinet — the legendary voice of Mario who's been bringing the Italian plumber to life since 1991 — is actually in the movie as well? The sheer absurdity of the idea made it feel like a real insult to Mario fans everywhere.


Then, more trailers started to drop, and we started getting a deeper glimpse into the world of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" chock-full of references to the video games that span the duration of the franchise's 30-plus year history. "Mario Kart." "Super Mario Odyssey." "Super Smash Bros." Rainbow Road and its Leap of Faith, etc. With each bit of related news, there was a noticeable shift on social media to "Well, maybe this could work..."

While skeptics still remain, it's been interesting to watch the broader perception soften and even shift in some directions. Why couldn't this have been the initial reaction, though, rather than fans immediately being up in arms before anything was known about the movie?


A reasonable request

Of course, not all has shifted for the positive in the Mushroom Kingdom just yet, and it has nothing to do with Bowser (well, it could, depending on your opinion of Jack Black).

Fans are still hung up on the character casting choices, especially that of Chris Pratt who recently addressed his role in the movie and the backlash that he was met with.


"Go watch the movie and then we can talk," Pratt said in an interview with Extra TV. "The answer," Pratt continued," is that this is a passionate fan base. [...] This is the soundtrack to your youth, and you don't want someone to come along and cynically destroy it as a cash grab with the movie. [...] It honors the world of Mario and is very promising as to what we could expect over the next 10 years like an entire universe of these types of movies. They're super nostalgic."

A fair response? Absolutely.

It's hard to imagine that Illumination — the production company behind "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" — would risk dropping the ball on such an iconic IP just to make a buck. After all, this is the same company that has produced beloved long-running franchises like "Despicable Me," "The Secret Life of Pets," "Sing," and "Minions." It's interesting, though, that these titles are bracketed within a more kid-friendly genre. Let's explore that a little further.


Maybe this movie wasn't made for you

Pratt's mentions of "the soundtrack to your youth" and general nostalgia are great ways of saying that this movie can appeal to those of us who grew up playing each new game within the "Super Mario Bros." universe. However, it's safe to say that the movie is not 100% made for those of us holding its source material close to our hearts. Illumination is no stranger to inserting adult humor into its films, but the fact remains: the core audience for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is going to be children.


It's likely that the movie adheres to the principles of family-friendly entertainment, regardless of how much emphasis it puts on nostalgia and fan service. That doesn't mean there won't be anything for grown-ups to enjoy in the film; it just means that everyone needs to adjust expectations accordingly.

A new generation of kids is exactly why "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is happening. It's designed to capture the imagination of kids, no matter how old they are or what their level of video game experience may be. There are going to be plenty of kids out there who are only vaguely familiar with Mario and crew, and countless others who may only have access to a movie theater, with no gaming console at home. Seeing these characters on the big screen is a way of introducing them to this world by way of Hollywood entertainment, and that experience can be just as important as playing the actual games themselves. With Mario having such an impact on many of our lives, why not bring that same joy to a new generation? That's what this movie is all about.


Take a breath and 'go watch the movie' first

We're all familiar with the age-old adage of not judging a book by its cover. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is no different. Despite any preconceived notions we may have, it's important to remember that the cast and crew worked hard to create something special here. Depending on who you ask, the "Super Mario Bros.," "Street Fighter," and "Mortal Kombat" films of the '90s were actually great films for their time, and, frankly, we're spoiled in 2023 with technology that allows studios to produce modern-day movie versions of our favorite games.


The sentiment of fans wanting to protect their favorite franchises from being mishandled is understandable. It's a natural feeling, and one we've all experienced at some point in our lives. But this protective and entitled mentality has become more toxic than anything else. It's ok to enjoy things for what they are without getting bogged down in unnecessary complaints and nitpicking.

And, although the sample pool is small, Hollywood has a pretty damn good recent track record of taking beloved franchises and adapting them with the respect they deserve. So, let's give this and future video game film adaptations a chance before blindly dismissing them without actually seeing them.