Could a video game multiverse be the next smash hit?

There’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and a DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Is it time for a Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe (SBCU) as well? Others may refer to this as the Nintendo Cinematic Universe (NCU), but Smash Bros. is more than just Nintendo. Smash Bros. refers to the video game, Super Smash Bros., which incorporates several video game characters from other video game companies such as Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Last summer, Detective Pikachu introduced the live-action universe of Pokémon. Now, the release and success of the live-action Sonic the hedgehog film brings hope for the rest of the universe and the video game movie genre as a whole. Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu are the highest rated film adaptations of a video game and both rank in the top five of highest-grossing film adaptations of a video game. Who’s next? A Super Mario Bros. animated film set to come out in 2022 and will hopefully receive the same if not better reception.

The movie industry is two for two (we’ll ignore the 1993 Mario
Bros. film) in building the SBCU. However, there is plenty of work that would need to be done before that dream could come to fruition. A SBCU wouldn’t be the first time that a multiverse was established. DC most recently accomplished this with a five-part crossover called “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which featured a montage of different Earths connecting the characters on television to their counterparts on the big screen and other characters on rival television networks. DC’s crossover took years of preparation in order to build a coherent story. In a similar fashion, Aveng-
ers: Infinity War took 10 years. These colossal crossovers only work when there is a fan-base that gets excited about the individual characters as well as the spectacular scenes of combat. Imagine watching Iron Man for the first time. Then imagine a year later, watching the first Avengers, and Iron Man is suddenly joined by a green monster, a Norse god, and a walking American flag? While Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the billionaire Tony Stark was incredible, the Avengers was only a success because the audience was introduced to the characters of Captain America and Thor prior to the big event. The individual characters not only had their own fans, but also had more depth because the audience remembers who these characters were before Avengers.

Pokémon and Sonic have established themselves, but there’s still an enormous roster of the beloved Nintendo game that needs introduction to the silver screen. Looking at the original Super Smash Bros. roster, there is Mario Bros. (which includes Donkey Kong and Yoshi), Kirby, Star Fox, Metroid (Samus), Pokémon, F-Zero (Captain Falcon), EarthBound (Ness) and of course The Legend of Zelda. The fifth installment Super Smash Bros. series SSB: Ultimate has 80+ characters to choose from. Netflix’s Castlevania, another example of the video game film/television genre success, could easily bring its characters Simon and Richter into the universe should they appear. Sonic wasn’t even part of the first two Super Smash Bros. games, but has made a lasting impact on the movie industry (see Louis Cogan’s article in the previous issue).

Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu could seamlessly combine their characters into the same scene because of their similar animation styles. However, the remaining video game characters could prove more difficult to integrate into the same animation style. In the big leagues (aka Avengers level) the MCU is able to seamlessly piece the worlds of different characters together because all of those films have a similar base style and the rest was filled in with CGI. Illumination, the animation studio responsible for Despicable Me, is supposedly working on producing the Mario Bros. film, but given Illumination’s previous work, it seems unlikely that the animation style would mesh well with either Detective Pikachu or Sonic the Hedgehog’s. At the very least, there would be an overhaul of some of the films’ animation style in order to match another. Luckily, Sonic has already introduced the perfect method to combine these universes into one.

The Sonic the Hedgehog film features the infamous blue fur ball travelling at incredible speeds, but the film also features Sonic using his signature gold rings to travel instantaneously across and between planets. So is it that much of a stretch to see those rings level up to travelling between universes? Not at all. The real challenge would be organizing these films into a coherent story. There are bounty hunters, plumbers, several talking animals and more. Logistically, filming a Super Smash Bros. movie may be easier to film than another Avengers because, a crossover film in the SBCU would mostly be CGI. Only the live-action characters would need to film while the remaining cast is sitting in a booth voice-acting their roles. Similarly, neither Detective Pikachu nor Sonic the Hedgehog have RDJ level actors (sorry Ryan Reynolds and Jim Carrey) that have incredibly busy schedules to work around.

Obviously, there are several hoops that Nintendo will need to jump through before a movie is even considered. Most notably, making sure this next Mario Bros. film is successful (fingers crossed). And assuming the video game movie genre continues this positive trend, there is still the planning and detailed writing needed to intertwine the fates of the diversified cast of fighters. Then, the studio can worry about producing those other films like The Legend of Zelda to build what hopefully will become the Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe.

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