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Mario: Can Chris Pratt help Nintendo solve the puzzle of video game films?

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Mario: Can Chris Pratt help Nintendo solve the puzzle of video game films?



"It's-a-me... Chris Pratt?"

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Nintendo's iconic video game character, Mario, returned to dominate the game developer's showcase yesterday - but not as you might expect.

Rather than announce a new console instalment, they instead said "let's gooo" to a new animated big screen adaptation, which will see Chris Pratt lead an all-star cast as the moustachioed Italian plumber.

This includes Charlie Day as Mario's brother Luigi, with The Queen's Gambit's Anya Taylor-Joy playing Princess Peach, Jack Black voicing supervillain Bowser and Seth Rogen becoming Donkey Kong.

It follows the recent success of Pokémon spin-off Detective Pikachu as well as 2020's Sonic the Hedgehog (once those horrifying teeth had been sorted). The Mario franchise's nostalgia value was emphasised by Chris Pratt saying "dreams come true", recalling that he played the original game as a child.

But the Universal Studios project, scheduled for release in 2022, is also entering dangerous territory.

Pop culture is filled with a chequered history of game-to-film adaptations - none more so than the universally-panned first effort to bring Mario in front of the camera in 1993. And then there was the time Kylie Minogue joined forces with Jean-Claude Van Damme for Street Fighter in 1994, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, neither has mentioned since.

So, what makes video games so hard for the big screen to master?

On paper, video games appear ripe material to transform into blockbuster films. Games such as Mario and Sonic offer fantasy worlds full of entertaining, vibrant characters that hold family appeal, while titles like Tomb Raider, fronted by the empowered Lara Croft, tease perfect popcorn-action potential.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Heritage titles like Mario originate from a gaming era that, due to technical limitations, offered only basic character development - instead relying on player participation for value.