Jack Black discusses the surge of video game adaptations in light of the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie

Mario, arguably the most recognizable character in gaming, is once again making the transition to the big screen. The cheerful Italian plumber, who is now 38 years old, is receiving the Hollywood treatment, and producers are hoping for a better reception than the infamous 1993 version, which starred Bob Hoskins.

Chris Pratt provides the voice of the mustachioed protagonist, and this is the latest in a trend of video game worlds, characters, and narratives being adapted for television or film. Jack Black, who portrays the fire-breathing antagonist Bowser, has told the BBC that he anticipates more and more video game intellectual property being transformed in a similar way in the years ahead.

He stated before the film’s release, “In the future, film and television will continue to employ the stories told in video games because that market appears to be expanding and growing exponentially.”

“The TV and film industries seem to be seeing a little bit of shrinkage. It will be interesting to see what happens to the entertainment industry over the next 20 to 30 years but I think we will be seeing more storytelling from the gaming universe.”

Jack Black, who is a major video game enthusiast, operates his own YouTube channel that features a blend of gaming and music material. He plays a range of games, from Minecraft to Doom.

While gaming adaptations have historically had difficulty being as well-liked by critics and fans in a new medium as they are in their original form, Black believes that the recent success of the HBO series The Last of Us has demonstrated that gaming stories can thrive in a linear format.

He explains: “I’m a fan of adaptations, when done right.

“The Last of Us was fantastic. And what’s crazy is how loyal it is to the original source material. It’s basically all from the game with just a couple of tweaks. It’s going to win all the awards.

“They used the video game almost like a storyboard and I was like, ‘Whoa, this looks just the same.’

“And there are some great games that have yet to be explored in television or film. Maybe there’s going to be a Red Dead Redemption movie? There should be, because I think that [has] just as good or [an] even better story than The Last of Us.”

Although The Super Mario Bros. movie and The Last of Us have distinctly different themes, a strong showing at the box office is likely to encourage studio executives to consider other games that could be adapted for film.

In terms of critical reception, game adaptations that have performed well at the box office, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu, have targeted a younger, family-oriented audience.

Despite the mixed track record of video game adaptations in film and television, with critical receptions ranging from poor to lukewarm for movies like Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, and Street Fighter, there are numerous projects currently in development.

These include adaptations of popular games such as God of War, Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Gran Turismo, Fallout, Death Stranding, Twisted Metal, Borderlands, and BioShock, as well as a new version of Assassin’s Creed.

Even more projects are rumored to be in the works. The critical acclaim of The Last of Us series is a rare success in this field, and it seems that the trend of adapting video games for the screen is only getting stronger.

Adapting Mario for cinemas is a no-brainer for Black because, he explains, it comes with an audience ready-made.

Black says that when he was asked to take on the role of Bowser, “my instinct was to say ‘yes’ straight away, but then my agent says, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second. Let’s negotiate with them.’

“But for me, it’s one of those no-brainers. ‘They want you to play Bowser in Super Mario Brothers?’ That just sounds like a home run. There’s a built-in audience of kids around the world who are familiar with this brand. So it’s got that, and it’s being made by Illumination who have done some of my favourite animations over the years.

“Who wouldn’t want to party with with that band? It’s two ginormous brands meeting together in a perfect storm of entertainment.”

As there isn’t a definite storyline to draw from for Mario, the film takes inspiration from the character’s numerous adventures, as well as from video games such as Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, and Luigi’s Mansion. This approach provided the producers with creative freedom to steer the plot in any direction, resulting in nods to fans throughout the movie.

However, this also causes the film to feel a bit disconnected, as it seems like a collection of individual segments that are not strongly linked.

Black disagrees with the notion that taking on a brand this big creates more pressure to be successful: “There’s always a little pressure when you’re dealing with something that has a following already. That’s not as big a concern as doing something brand new that no-one’s ever heard of.

“Like how are we going to catch people’s interest? What if it goes straight to the streamers? It’s actually a big plus to be dealing with big characters. It’s cool to be the most recognisable villain in the world of video games.”

Now he’s played one of gaming’s most famous characters, Black says he’s open to performing as a character in a game for his next job: “I don’t really differentiate, [whether] it’s a game or a movie or a cartoon. I just like to put on a shirt, tell a story, play a character.”