Jack Black Is Already The Perfect Bowser
The Super Mario movie received its first trailer this week. Well, kinda. It was more like two individual clips introducing different characters than a traditional trailer outlining everything we can expect. Nintendo and Illumination are being very tight-lipped about the whole thing, eager to ensure not too much leaks out, and it can control the messaging of what will likely be the biggest video game adaptation of all time.
Leaks claim it will be a musical, while Chris Pratt’s turn as the platforming mascot won’t be a Mushroom Kingdom native, but instead a newcomer to this world who views it much the same way we will. His brother Luigi must get caught up in all of the chaos too, while the characters of Bowser, Peach, and Donkey Kong he will meet for the very first time. So this is basically an origin story, albeit one we still don’t know much about beyond the reveal trailer.
There is one thing I’m already sure about though – Jack Black is perfect for Bowser. He was the one piece of casting I was fully confident in upon its announcement. Him and Anya Taylor-Joy of course, I think I’m legally bound to say that or I’ll lose my job. [Editor’s Note: correct]. But Black has the perfect comedic timing and vocal gravitas to sell a character like Bowser, especially in a movie like this where laughs and thrills are right at the top of its priority list. Half of the debut trailer focuses on him, his volcanic fortress lumbering into frame as it melts away the remains of a vast ice kingdom. Thousands of loyal soldiers line up, ready to introduce our villain as he walks forward and makes it immediately clear he isn’t to be messed with.
Black doesn’t even have that many lines, choosing to introduce himself before burning the place to the ground and claiming a shining star – much like the ones in Super Mario 64 – that possess some sort of magical power that goes beyond unlocking new levels. Those who know the actor will say it sounds exactly like him, and it does, but there’s a rougher edge to it that sells Bowser’s evil, unpredictable personality that has always been defined by a small degree of softness. He might kidnap the princess and enslave the galaxy, but he’s always down for a few matches of football or a spot of golf on the weekend with his pals. A more serious casting choice would have removed this potential for comedy, but I can see Black planning something sinister for poking fun at his allies much like Darth Helmet in Spaceballs.
We know he’s the big scary baddie, but we still have the opportunity to fall in love with his character and appreciate where it came from. Fans are scared about how this film will approach the source material, but Mario has never been a narrative juggernaut, and I’d settle for a competent story of good versus evil that ends with Mario going up against his newfound rival. Princess Peach subverting the damsel in distress trope she is so often cast into would be amazing too, and given who is in the role, maybe we’ll be in for a surprise.
The film has a visual personality that draws from a pantheon of Mario games, but when it comes to personality I’d love to see it riff on Super Mario Odyssey more than anything else. Granted, it will need to make use of classic designs and environments, but the masterful Switch exclusive was the first time we saw these characters really evolve beyond their tried and true archetypes. Characters like Peach and Pauline are much stronger figures, while Mario and Bowser are almost a comedic duo of sorts in the final stage as their Princess rejects them and the two must work together to escape a crumbling fortress.
It was fun, cute, and unlike anything the franchise had thrown away before, and that sort of humour would work so well even with spoken dialogue and megastar actors. Mario never takes itself too seriously, and the movie would be wise to learn from that attitude and create something where villains are admired just as much as the heroes. Jack Black wouldn’t have been cast if that wasn’t the plan I suppose. People know him as fun characters in the likes of Tenacious D, Jumanji, Brutal Legend, School of Rock, and Kung Fu Panda. He’s a legend in the comedy space, and even the animation found in Bowser’s lip movements seems to boast his humorous edge. Sure I could think of a few other names to fill the Koopa King’s shoes, but Jack Black will forever be the perfect choice. He’s also a gamer, so that’s a nice bonus.
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