With movies Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Detective Pikachu putting an end to the “video game curse”, the future of video game movies overall looks fairly bright. While they may still not reach the same astounding quality as other Hollywood blockbusters, they may still find better critical and box office success than their predecessors, and the possibilities are endless for what franchises could be next on the list. If there is one franchise that could easily take the crown for the most difficult to adapt, it would be the Super Smash Bros film.
Could a Super Smash Bros Film Work? Maybe
The main reason for this is simply due to the nature of the series itself: it is essentially a giant crossover of dozens of other video game franchises coming together for one big fighting event. Respectfully adapting a single video game into a cohesive one is a fairly difficult feat in and of itself, especially if the franchise is as big as something like Sonic or Pokémon, but a Super Smash Bros. movie would add the additional burden of trying to logically bring together Mario, Sonic, Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid… the list goes on.
The very concept of a Super Smash Bros movie is, frankly, ridiculous, and would be perhaps an even more monumental task than the game itself already is. Why, then, is it that the idea is still being talked about as if it is possible? Memes for the live-action Sonic movie and Detective Pikachu referencing the “Super Smash Bros initiative” are still floating around. Jeff Fowler, the director of Sonic movies, has even expressed interest in making such a film.
So that begs the question: is it actually possible to make a Super Smash Bros film work, and the answer… depends.
Adapting One Medium to Another – How Sonic and Pikachu Succeed
An adaption of one media to another is, more often than not, far from a 1-1 recreation. For instance, many adaptations of a popular manga series into an anime often take out certain scenes, bits of dialogue, or even entire arcs in order to make the story flow better in the medium of animation. In some cases as well, scenes or details can even be added to provide more context to things that were unclear or to offer up a different version of the events in question that present different ideas than the original, for better or worse.
Movie adaptions of something like books or video games are very much the same thing. It’s almost never 1-1, and just because the story of the first Super Smash Bros game may work in the context of an actual video game, it is much, much more difficult to justify in a movie. Pacing, dialogue, overall story flow, these factors, and more all contribute to the overall quality of any movie. No film does any of these things perfectly, of course. However, when drawing directly from a pre-existing source, it is incredibly important to bring in elements from that source into the film’s story, but in a way that is believable and easy to follow for both fans of that source and casual viewers who may not be as familiar.
The way Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu do this is with a sort of “melting pot” approach, whereas instead of just copying and pasting the plots of their respective games into a movie, they reimagine them as something while paying homage to the original. It is much more accurate to say that the Sonic movies are based on the Sonic the Hedgehog video games, as opposed to movie adaptations of those games, and to be as successful as possible, a Super Smash Bros movie would likely have to be the same.
Although the Super Smash Bros series has attempted to bring together its various characters into a cohesive narrative before, such as with the Subspace Emissary from Super Smash Bros Brawl and the World of Light from Super Smash Bros Ultimate, trying to simply turn these into movies be incredibly difficult. Barring all the legalities involved, the stories of the Subspace Emissary and World of Light are completely dependent on the fact they are from a video game, not a movie.
The Subspace Emissary has so many cutscenes and moments that hinge on the arrival and appearance of different characters that have little to no foundation in a film media, like Wario, Ness, Samus, Fox, Diddy Kong, and many more. The World of Light is very much the same way, especially because the ending of it is completely dependent on the choices you make in-game.
So, rather than just turn any of these into movies, the best possible approach to making a Super Smash Bros film actually work is to make it both as limited as possible and as small scale as possible.
The Appeal of Super Smash Bros.
A Super Smash Bros movie ought to adhere to the main appeal of the series that likely draws so many people to it, apart from the competitive scene: a crossover. Seeing Mario, Sonic, Link, Pikachu, and so many other characters even just standing next to each other in the same game is inherently appealing because it brings different tastes and styles of gaming together, which in turn resonates with a variety of gamers.
This sort of inherent attraction to the concept of the series is what makes it so marketable, a movie based on it needs to understand this fundamental aspect to even have a chance at being successful. Instead of merely adapting the story of the Subspace Emissary or the World of Light, a Super Smash Bros. movie needs to bring together a small cast of characters into a believable setting and united against a single threat.
Something akin to Into the Spiderverse would likely work well, as it could present a reasonable explanation for how these characters are in the same place, perhaps an interdimensional anomaly or, more likely, a character like Taboo. Even though he is from Subspace, he is an extremely powerful yet rather simplistic villain that could easily be reinterpreted. Perhaps he could simply be an interdimensional entity who wishes to rule all universes and thus brings together the worlds of various characters in the Smash series to do so. Not the most complex story, but for something like this, that may not be necessary, and it is only one in potentially hundreds of possibilities for how to approach this.
As for the medium, the general consensus seems to be the idea of the previously mentioned “Super Smash Bros. Initiative” meme, which focuses on the live-action interpretation of characters like Sonic and Pikachu. A live-action approach is entirely possible, and with films such as the Super Mario Bros. movie and the live-action Minecraft movie on the way, there is even the potential for a mix of live-action and animation, akin to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
However, as stated before, simplicity is key, and trying to do too much or be too ambitious will likely only lead to a mess. It cannot and would not be perfect, of course, but just because something cannot be perfect does not mean it has to be bad. Neither Detective Pikachu nor the Sonic the Hedgehog movies are perfect, and yet they are still widely considered the greatest video game movies of all time. regardless of how or when Hollywood chooses to approach the concept of a Super Smash Bros. movie, going about it with simplicity and limitation will offer the greatest likelihood of success.