Less than a month into its theatrical release, the Super Mario Bros. movie is on track to make a whopping $1 billion at the box office, a feat only 51 films have ever accomplished. More than 40 years after Shigeru Miyamoto first conceived the jump-and-running Italian plumber with his trademark red hat, Nintendo, Universal, and animation studio Illumination finally brought him and his many friends and foes to the big screen.
The only question is: Why did it take them four decades to do so? Disney and Pixar have been making chart-topping animated movies since the mid-90s, and movies attached to existing intellectual property have made up a large share of top grossers for 20 years.
While I’m sure there’s a long and complicated answer, the short one is that Nintendo does not half-ass things. If they do something, they do it wholeheartedly, whether it’s venturing into the legal maze that was acquiring the rights for Tetris for the GameBoy, going into motion-based gaming with the Wii when everyone else was gunning for higher-quality graphics, or, well, turning its most beloved franchise into an animated movie.
When you’re producing a movie you know millions of people will go to see, if only for the nostalgia factor or because their kids drag them into it, it’s easy to let it slide. After all, no matter how bad it’s going to be, the fans will show up. But if you do, those fans might not be there for the sequel, and so Nintendo always chooses the opposite direction: “Millions of people will see this. Let’s not mess this up.“
Everything had to be right. The production quality. The cast. The music. The sound of the voices. The jokes. The plot. The easter eggs. That’s why, unlike many other video game franchises, like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, or Mortal Kombat, who offer no lack of often bad movie adaptations, the Mario gang had to wait. And wait. And then wait some more.
Even after greenlighting the film project, it would take another ten years for it to eventually be released — but if you asked anyone involved with the movie today whether the wait was worth it, I’m sure they’d all give you the same answer: “Yes! Sometimes, you just have to take your time to get things right, and that’s what we did.”
Sometimes, waiting is a mistake. Often, it is the smart thing to do. Every now and then, however, it is neither wrong nor clever but necessary — because going slowly and doing things right is the only way to do them at all. Why wait? Because when we deserve your best, doing anything less won’t let you sleep peacefully at night. We, too, are better off with your brightest performance — and for that, we’ll all gladly wait.