Hollywood runs on intellectual property that can be turned into franchises and blockbuster films.
You are under no obligation to like this, and if you want to complain that there are already too many Marvel and Stars Wars films and all that, well, that’s your right.
While the number is undeniably shrinking, there are still plenty of smaller, non-franchise films out there, and this year has seen encouraging numbers for art-house films (or at least films not budgeted at the $100 million mark) such as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Cyrano.”
Film companies love a safe bet, and there’s nothing a film studio loves more than a property with a built-in fanbase and audience recognition. Disney (DIS) largely pioneered this approach, as former CEO Bob Iger began directing the company in the ‘00s to focus on exploiting its properties for franchises, sequels, merchandise and theme park rides.
This approach is not without its benefits. It certainly has detractors, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be the cultural behemoth that it is if audiences weren’t into it. However, sometimes the relentless drive to squeeze all the blood out of the stone can lead to a film like the Pixar spin-off and box office under-performer “Lightyear,” which critics and fans largely felt had no real reason to exist.
So now every company that owns a piece of intellectual property that could conceivably (if vaguely) be turned into a film or TV series has either partnered with a studio (as is the case with Hasbro partnering with Warner Bros. (DISCA) for the Greta Gerwig-directed film “Barbie,” or are making plans to create films on their own.
So, viewed from this perspective, the latest move by video game titan Nintendo doesn’t just make sense, it seems downright inevitable.
What Did Nintendo Do?
Nintendo has purchased the Computer Generated production company Dynamo Pictures, and will rename it “Nintendo Pictures.” The company will focus on “on development of visual content utilizing Nintendo IP” and the “planning and production of visual content including CG animation.”
The company’s list of credits, per its IMDB page, includes “Final Fantasy XIII-2” and “Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2,” the anime series “Yuri!!! On Ice” and the acclaimed animated series “Giovanni's Island.”
In a notice to shareholders, as pointed out by The Verge, Nintendo announced plans to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Dynamo Pictures, which will then become a wholly owned subsidiary of the video game company. The acquisition is expected to close on October 3rd, 2022.
Video Game Movies Are In These Days (Sort of)
For a long time, the phrase “movie based on a video game” was synonymous with “terrible movie,” as The Street’s Colette Bennett and Daniel Kline recently observed.
(Though to be fair, the “Mortal Kombat” films have a reputation for being the fun kind of bad, while German filmmakers Uwe Boll adaptations of the games“Alone in the Dark” and “In the Name of the King” are so mind-bendingly awful they’ve becoming objects of cult fascination.)
But recently, the reputation of video game films has gotten a bit better.
While it’s not likely to earn any Academy Awards, the Tom Holland action film “Uncharted,” based on the Naughty Dog, got at least some positive reviews (Variety called it “better than most video game films”) and the recent Jim Carrey-starring “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” earned and mixed but not-terrible reviews. (Look, “not terrible reviews” is a landmark achievement for these kinds of films.)
Even before the recent purchase, Nintendo had been making forays onto the big screen. The 2019 release “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” starring Ryan Reynolds, earned an impressive enough 68% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter and made $433 million at the box office.
Meanwhile, Nintendo is currently working on an adaptation of the “Super Mario,” video games series with the animation company Illumination —which made “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Despicable Me.” Casting of the decidedly non-Italian actor Chris Pratt has already earned the film some cultural blowback.
So with a studio under its belt, looking for Nintendo to continue to turn its many games into films. At this point, it seems all but inevitable that we’ll be getting Timothée Chalamet starring in a “Kid Icarus” some day soon.