For as long as I can remember, theatrical movie releases have always taken place on Fridays. Of course, there have also been special occasion mid-week releases — usually around specific holidays. There was a time when almost every Thursday, the big new releases would have a midnight showing (12:01am) — meaning it was the first “Friday morning” showing.
Midnight releases (both in theaters, games, other products) are mostly a thing of the past. However, this past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Illumination and Nintendo brought back the midnight movie release with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. I was hoping to get my hands on a special press preview pass for before then, but that just didn’t happen. Instead, I purchased tickets to be among the first “paying fans” to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie in the eastern time zone.
Let’s start off with how the midnight movie premiere process has changed in just a few short years. Back in the day, people would line up hours early just to be able to sit together. Once the crowd was let into the theater it was a race to find the best seats. Next, groups would send out one or two people at a time for snacks and beverages.
This past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, we arrived at the theater as the previews were set to begin. No worries, we made our way to concessions for some popcorn and drinks (I snuck in my own M&M’s, as I tend to do for most movies). By the time we walked into the theater the lights were down and the previews had begun, but everything was fine because we had assigned seats. Thanks to assigned seating the process of getting to a movie on time has become 100% less stressful.
Video Game Ass Movie
The Super Mario Bros. Movie was exactly what I expected it to be — a nostalgia-filled, super fun adventure. Illumination executed the perfect formula for creating a movie from a well-loved, long-running IP.
The history of the Mario Bros. in video games goes back about forty years. In that time we’ve seen these familiar characters (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Bowser) take part in all kinds of adventures, both together and on their own. There’s so much to pull from, and there is still so much left for more movies in the future.
Illumination took these well-known characters and built a story that made sense for them that took place in some familiar settings. With such a rich history, they were able to then pull out characters, themes, and easter eggs from many of the games that came before. While I felt like I kept noticing little details throughout the movie I was still completely invested in what was going on — and I’m sure there are many details that I missed the first time around.
Chris Pratt as Mario
I understand a bit why some people were turned off by the announcement of Chris Pratt playing Mario at first. Mario has always been that good old Italian plumber that we know (voiced by the great Charles Martinet), with a few memorable quips and quotes “It’s-a-me, Mario,” “Mamma Mia,” “Let’s-a-Go” and so many more, but if they had continued in that direction we all would have realized that no one wants to listen to this dude’s catch phrases for an entire ninety minute movie.
I know that Chris Pratt has become “the guy” in Hollywood, but let’s not forget where he started — Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation. Seeing him go from Andy to Star Lord was quite the transformation, but he still kept his charm (and silliness). Since then he’s also become our Jurassic guy, our favorite mini figure, and a soldier in some projects.
Back in the days of Parks and Rec, I remember hearing a story of how Chris Pratt got on that show. I’m not sure if this is completely accurate, but I had heard that he was working as a server (possibly in Hawaii) and was just a very silly dude. One day a Hollywood person sort of discovered him and that got him on Parks and Rec. Is that a completely true story? I’m not sure, but I’ve always been a fan of his because of that.
I did go into the movie more excited about Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and some of the other actors, but once the movie started I got lost in the story. I was seeing and hearing these iconic characters coming to life.
Better Gaming Adaptations
I may have made this point before, but I am prepared to say it again after this movie, The Last of Us series, and the other great video game adaptations we’ve seen lately. First off, congratulations once again to Illumination (Minions, Despicable Me, The Grinch) for having their own voice and style with their animation.
They are not Pixar/Disney Animation and we don’t need another Disney/Pixar-type studio. To be honest, as big of a Disney fan as I am, Mario wouldn’t have worked in that world. They are all about original stories, and Illumination is great with established properties.
The reason why we are going through a sort of “VIDEO GAME MOVIE/SERIES RENAISSANCE PERIOD” is due to the people working on these projects — the creative people. Back when that first Mario Bros. movie was made (1993), it was a cash grab project.
Possible 90’s Hollywood Conversation*
Hollywood Exec: What do the kids like these days?
Marketing Person: Video Games?
Hollywood Exec: Which one?
Marketing Person: Mario?
Hollywood Exec: Ok, let’s make that a movie. Get me the top writers, actors, director…*This is not a real conversation that took place in Hollywood during the 90s. It’s just what I think these conversations might have been like.
The problem back then was that the people making the movie weren’t the biggest fans of the games. Perhaps some of them had played them, but they didn’t understand them. Fan culture has also changed from just liking something to knowing every single detail about your favorite fandoms.
When these projects are being created today, the writers and creative teams are made up of former geeky kids who grew up on these games. The director may have already been working on this “dream project” for years (or decades) in their head. Today’s creators are fans making these projects with love, not opportunists going after our wallets — in most cases. There still are executives behind the scenes throwing money at the next big IP, but they are at least now hiring better teams to work on the final project.
I’m sure that the creators of the games even get to consult and be a bigger part of the project. Neil Druckmann (co-creator and director of The Last of Us video game) even wrote and directed episodes of The Last of Us series.
NO MORE MIDNIGHT MOVIES
I’m happy that I got to experience the “midnight release” one more time, but I’m also happy with the new state of film releases. We now have “releases” on Friday, with Thursday “pre-release” screenings running from about 6 pm. It’s a great system. If you want to be among the first to see a new release, you can now see it at a normal hour and not risk falling asleep. The crowds are also more spread out with more showings.
I’m now fine with waiting to watch movies in the weeks after release. I don’t have that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that I used to have, or fear of spoilers on the internet. I now know that if I don’t watch something immediately I can just stay off the internet for a few days — if it’s something big that everyone is watching.
Overall, The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a great time and I can’t wait to see it again — since I did fall asleep for a few seconds here and there. It was late!. I’m also excited to see what other Nintendo properties get adapted to the big and small screen in the future.
If this movie breaks some box office records, as I believe it will, I think that can open the door for Nintendo to allow Illumination and other studios to play with their popular franchises. Imagine a spooky Metroid movie, a live-action Zelda series, or even a Star Fox movie. I can’t wait to see what The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 is going to be — because yes, there will most definitely be a sequel to this movie.