For better or worse, Hollywood is a place where radical creativity and safe formulas coexist in a complex balance. It’s how the entertainment industry sausage is made: Throw different pastas in the pot and see what sticks when you throw it against the wall. Then when something sticks, milk the sacred cow for every penny that piece of precious intellectual property is worth.
The new Super Mario Bros. Movie will certainly be no exception. This movie has been in the works since late 2017, when Nintendo partnered with Universal Pictures and Illumination (of Despicable Me and Secret Life Of Pets-fame) to bring its video game universe to life beyond console gaming.
We’ll see how the box office shakes out, but there’s a high likelihood the plumbers from Brooklyn stick as a studio tent pole.
The new Super Mario Bros. movie is a nostalgic celebration of video game escapism in the Mushroom Kingdom, appealing to fans of all ages. From the latchkey kids of the 80s and 90s who blew the dust out of their cartridges to today’s Nintendo Switch generation, the film is a technicolor odyssey through the Mario and Lugi’s universe, complete stops at Princess Peach’s castle and Rainbow Road. All the nuances are there, from the iconic music to the “here we gos!” the “woo-hoos!” the “yahoos!”
It’s impossible to not walk out of the theater and think back to Mario Kart battles in the basement with your parents, siblings, and childhood friends. Or how that once antiquated Nintendo 64 eventually came along to college and became an instant dorm floor bonding tool. It’s a precious piece of IP like that.
How Nintendo and Universal are building a franchise empire
There’s obviously a strategic vision in place to make the Nintendo franchise so much bigger than just one blockbuster movie. In February 2023, Universal Studios opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood. It’s an immersive world of thrills, beginning with entry through a signature green pipe and climaxing with a ride called Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge. A similar Super Nintendo World is under construction at Universal Studios Florida, slated to open in 2025.
The movie universe, of course, is the ultimate advertisement to get families into the park. The cast is voiced by a proverbial who’s who of big studio moneymakers: Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Jack Black as a heavy metal-crooning Bowser.
Just like in every Nintendo game ever, Bowser is the ultimate reptilian villain of the Super Mario universe. The charismatic leader of the Koopa Troopas is charmingly evil and deeply insecure. He’s driven by jealousy and vengeance towards Mario; a desperate manbaby who is obsessed with winning the affection and hand in marriage of Princess Peach.
For the first Super Mario Bros. movie since the 1993 John Leguizamo cult classic, Bowser’s single-minded desire to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom makes him a formidable foe.
Jack Black on the ultimate villain for a Super Mario Bros’ sequel
In a recent interview promoting the new Super Mario Bros. movie with YouTuber JakesTakesTV, Black brainstormed a compelling hypothetical for a sequel, which seems inevitable.
Jake asked the bearded actor what Bowser would think about his band, the iconic comedy rock duo Teneacious D. You can watch the full interview on YouTube.
Black offers a pretty good idea for the sequel in the interview. Spoiler alert: It features a mustachioed Nintendo universe villain noticeably absent from this installment.
Here’s a transcript of the conversation:
What would Bowser think of Teneacious D?
Jack Black: Bowser would dig the D. But I don’t know if Bowser has the greatest sense of humor. Bowser would be like “there’s nothing funny about rock.” Metal is real, metal is rock, metal rules.
His favorite Tenecious D song would be “The Metal.” I’d love to have Bowser on stage just fire breathing at certain moments. I don’t know how Kyle [Gass] would feel about that. My partner in Tenecious D. He might be like Bowser is on stage now? We’re going to have to get Kyle in the next Super Mario Movie…
He could be Wario.
Jack Black: Dude. I think you may have just stepped into sequel right there. That smells like sequel. You know Wario is coming in Part 2. Uh-oh, I hope Bowser is still there. Uh-oh, are they going to switch over to Wario?
You know what it’s going to be. It’s going to be Wario and you know who is going to play him? Pedro Pascal. Son of a *****. I’m looking into my crystal ball and I’m seeing the future.
The only way Pedro will play him is if there is a small child he can protect.
Jack Black: Don’t underestimate the range of Pedro Pascal. He can play anything.
Pedro Pascal as Wario.
It’s hard to not love the idea of Pedro Pascal as Wario for a sequel. There’s no denying Pascal is the Hollywood IT guy du jour at the moment. Would it be a blatant cash grab for Pascal from a new cinematic universe? Sure! But who cares when you have Pedro Pascal’s range?
After all, what’s the point of being a bankable star if you can’t make bank on it, one gold coin and one-up at a time?