When Illumination Studios got its hands on the beloved Super Mario franchise, public expectations were at an all-time low. People are still anticipating that The Super Mario Bros. Movie will ruin everything enjoyable about the classic series. The moments of footage currently available demonstrate that they’ve gotten at least one thing right.


The casting of The Super Mario Bros. Movie has inspired a lot of very good jokes and very little faith in the film’s quality. Despite Chris Pratt’s comically dull performance in the title role, the limited exposure fans have had to every other performer in the film has been well-received with one enormously popular standout.

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RELATED: Jack Black Shows Off More Of His Bowser Voice For Super Mario Bros. Movie

Jack Black is one of the most beloved movie stars of the modern era. He’s a stellar character actor with the sheer charisma that commands attention in even the least glamorous role. Black’s a great musician, a fantastic comedic actor, a perfect romantic lead, and one of the most compelling scene presences in modern blockbuster cinema. When used well, he owns the films he appears in. He’s been in plenty of bad films, but he has an infectious energy that communicates his love for performance in any context. His name on the cast list for The Super Mario Bros. Movie was the only flash of hope for many. The way the recent teaser puts Bowser in the center demonstrates its focus on the character and its understanding that it’s nailed one of gaming’s greatest villains.

Bowser is the overarching villain of the entire Mario Bros. franchise. He’s the final boss most people picture when they consider the term. He’s a tyrant who seeks to spread his influence and conquer new domains across his universe. Like Mario, he changes to fit the scale of the game. In the earliest examples, he rolls in with his army and steamrolls multiple enemy royals on his quest to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. He almost always succeeds outright, leaving Mario to fight his way through impossible odds and eventually win back the freedom of the rest of the world. In more modern games, Bowser is a cosmic threat, capable of destroying worlds single-handedly. Regardless of the scale at which he operates, Bowser is a unique villain. Not in his methods or his motivations, but in the way he approaches villainy as a profession.

Someone once said that no one thinks that they’re the villain and that every antagonist is the protagonist of their own story. This generally extends into fiction, granting the overwhelming majority of villains some justification for their actions. Thanos wants to destroy half of all living things because he thinks a universe with fewer mouths to feed will flourish. The Joker sees himself as an agent of chaos and seeks to undermine the established social order to lay bare that impulse in others. Their actions are not justified, but they also see themselves as the hero of their own tales. Nintendo’s villains are under no such delusion. Nintendo’s villains tend to be representations of ontological evil who do bad things because that’s what they exist to do. Bowser stands out among even that camp.

Look to Ganon, the villain of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Both flagship Nintendo franchises are works of high fantasy, but the difference in villains is massive. Ganon, like a lot of villains from video games, is prophesied to be the destroyer of worlds. He’s the living embodiment of ill intent. Bowser’s coming isn’t foretold by the ancient scrolls, nor does he justify his actions as the emissary of something important. He’s the villain by his own accusation. He reclaims the term and wears it like a kingly crown. His actions are evil, and he likes it that way. In the Mario games that delve deeper into the individual characters, Bowser is able to revel in his villainy and explore what that means to him. Bowser knows his role in life, accepts it, and enjoys every moment of it. The film seems to have understood that aspect of the character and capitalized on it, both in writing and performance.

For a kids’ movie and for the game franchise that birthed him, Bowser is the perfect villain. A lesser film adaptation would waste time establishing a tragic backstory or giving some moral justification, but this film seems to double down on his fun-loving villainy. Jack Black’s take on Bowser seems set to be the high point of The Super Mario Bros. Movie. If there’s one thing Illumination has been able to pull off, they can characterize a charismatic villain, even when they’re the main character. Bowser has decades of pedigree at the top of the video game villain charts, the movie needs to get him right in order to succeed. From what’s out there so far, Jack Black and the film’s crew seem to be pushing King Koopa in the right direction.

MORE: The Super Mario Bros. Movie: 7 Funniest Memes About the Teaser Trailer

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