Following the monumental flop of 1993’s Super Mario Bros., Nintendo basically got out of the movie business. Nintendo is incredibly protective of its IP, and that makes sense. Those IP—Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and others—are what make Nintendo the acclaimed video game brand we know it as today. Yes, the company has had its ups and downs over the years and sometimes struggled to compete in today’s marketplace, but it’s a name that’s still synonymous with video games for a generation. And yet until a couple years ago, Nintendo still stayed out of Hollywood, content to keep its valuable properties in the gaming world.
However, that has now started to change. Next year, we’ll get Detective Pikachu starring Ryan Reynolds. While that’s a bit of an odd choice—a regular Pokemon movie would fit fairly well into the sports underdog genre—it shows a company tentatively dipping its toe into a major motion picture. Nintendo has also partnered with Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind Minions and The Secret Life of Pets, for an animated Super Mario Bros. movie that will probably make a ridiculous amount of money if it’s even halfway decent. But if Nintendo is serious about getting the most out of its IP, it should turn its attention to Metroid.
Nintendo has had an odd relationship with the Metroid franchise, seemingly unable to figure out how to treat it with the respect it deserves. The original NES game is a bona fide classic with one of the all-time great video game endings when it’s revealed that the protagonist, bounty hunter Samus Aran, who has been busting aliens the whole game in a suit of armor, is actually a woman. At the time, that was a bit mind-blowing because video games, especially action-oriented video games, were supposed to star men (granted, they showed her in a bikini, but two steps forward, one step back). Then the series went on to success with the terrific Super Metroid and later the acclaimed Metroid Prime Trilogy. And yet when it came time to celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Nintendo did pretty much nothing. Keep in mind that the company had gone all-out celebrating the anniversaries for Mario, Zelda, and even Luigi, but for Metroid, they had zilch.
But if Nintendo wants to make the most out of their IP in Hollywood, they should seriously consider partnering with a studio on a live-action Metroid movie. While The Legend of Zelda seems like a more obvious candidate for a live-action film based on the series’ popularity (and it appears that a TV series could be in the works from Castlevania producer Adi Shankar), keep in mind that fantasy movies have struggled at the box office. Meanwhile, action sci-fi is a much safer bet, and that’s Metroid’s genre. It’s about a bounty hunter called in to do a job and needing to fight a bunch of monsters.
Additionally, blockbusters are becoming more diverse and audiences want someone else than your typical male hero. That’s not to say that Samus has the rich, interesting backstory that Link has—they’re both archetypical characters suited for being a player avatar in a video game—but that’s where a good writer can come in and flesh out a strong take on the character. The point is that the premise, the setting, and the protagonist are there for development. And it’s not like there’s an overly-complicated mythology at work. The plot usually involves space pirates trying to exploit the Metroid, a parasitic creature, in order to achieve galactic domination. Samus Aran then has to come in and stop the space pirates and ultimately stop the Metroid and other monsters like Ripley and Mother Brain.
Unfortunately, looking at Nintendo’s track record, they probably won’t do anything with Metroid for a while. To some extent, certain moves make sense. Characters like Mario and Zelda have greater recognition, and Pokemon has been a worldwide force for about twenty years now. However, the company would do well to realize that Hollywood is a different ballgame with different rules. Yes, IP rules both of them, but the current blockbuster landscape would be welcoming to the property and its protagonist.
Heck, even an Oscar-winning actress is already interested in the property:
I hope not. I want to make that movie. https://t.co/6ZneOLu2Wh
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) November 2, 2018
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