During the past three or so weeks, HBO has been airing the classic Super Mario Bros movie from 1993. I’ve taken the opportunity to watch it a few times and the truth is that it's not as bad as most people say. Now, it’s not even close to be one of my favorites, but from a hardcore gamer’s point of view, I can’t help but appreciate how the creators took the most iconic family of gaming characters and created a completely new world for them.
If you’re going to watch the movie, you must forget everything the games are about, both the classic ones and the post-SM64 ones. There’s no Mushroom Kingdom, no castle, no Princess Peach, no platforming and no charming music.
Instead, the movie tells us the story of a couple of plumbers who live in Brooklyn, NY, named Mario and Luigi brought to life by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo who are almost in bankruptcy because most of the plumbing jobs are taken by their competitors, a family named Scapelli.
During a ride around the city looking for a job, the protagonists learn that several girls are missing and wonder why no one is doing anything about it. Later, Luigi meets a girl named Daisy and completely falls for her, he offers her a ride to a dig site where she works and shows him some dinosaur fossils.
After the Scapelli family sabotage the dig site, Mario and Luigi run to it and fix the tubs but Daisy is kidnapped by a couple of goons who seem to be working under the orders of someone named Koopa.
Mario and Luigi chase after Daisy attempting to save her but accidentally run through a portal to another dimension that was created 65 million years ago when a meteorite hit Earth. In this dimension, the plumbers find themselves in a very mature-looking post-apocalyptic city where dinosaurs are around and everyone seems to be crazy.
The place is being ruled by a dictator named Koopa (Dennis Hopper) who is looking for a princess who carries around the last piece of the meteorite, if Koopa completes the meteorite, both dimensions will be one again and he will rule the world. So Mario and Luigi decide to stop him and save Princess Daisy.
Now, notice what I just mentioned: The movie takes place mostly in a very post-apocalyptic looking city like the ones we see in mature action thrillers. Nothing like in the games where everything is colorful, cheerful and even the most common objects smile at the player.
But while the environments shown in the movie are a mature, the events aren’t. The movie is full of jokes everywhere that when together with some of the character’s awkward acting, make things look even funnier.
Sadly, the story and narrative aren’t very good and most of the times the dialogs feel extremely silly and out of context. Some of the action sequences are badly done, even by 1993 standards and while many of its actors are very famous and praised, they didn’t do an excellent job in Super Mario Bros. But younger audiences can find the story charming and interesting.
The music is bad as well, completely unrelated to the games. It doesn't help one bit to remind the viewers that they're watching a film based on the most important videogame character ever. The only sound the movie takes from the games is the 1UP tone in one scene.
In the other hand, the special effects are great. Many characters transform into other beings, the car chases are good and the dinosaurs move like they were real. As far as I’m concerned, they invested a lot on the special effects and you can clearly see that while watching the movie.
Most of the videogame’s most important characters make a cameo of some sort, including Yoshi, who is just a small dinosaur who accompanies Daisy in some scenes, the goombas, who are very weird tall reptiles in trenchcoats with very little and ugly heads or Toad who is a singer from the city who Koopa transforms into a goomba to add him to his army.
Curiously, Princess Peach is nowhere to be seen, instead, we get this girl named Daisy who has nothing to do with the princess we sometimes play as in the multiplayer Mario games like Kart, Party and Tennis. Also, the girl in the movie falls for Luigi, instead of Mario.
Koopa obviously represents Bowser but unlike in the games, Koopa actually has a reason for kidnapping the princess, even if his objective is very silly. To inflict terror, Koopa uses some machines that can “de-evolve” people into simple and non-intelligent life forms.
Now, I can understand why the creators of the movie made up an entirely new world to tell this version of Mario and Luigi’s story. A movie faithfully based on the games would simply not work at all. (The main reason being that the games don’t actually have a storyline). But surprisingly, this world was never reused.
In my opinion, the movie’s world was the perfect scenario for a spin-off. The film even make the plumbers use some cool tools like flying boots, de-evolving rifles and portable Bob-ombs that could perfectly fit into a series of action-adventure games like Jak or Ratchet & Clank.
The movie itself implies that a sequel was planned but sadly, it never happened. Most likely because of the bed reviews it has gotten over the past 18 years. But the truth is that I feel this film is severely underrated. Again, it isn’t the best movie in the world, not even close but it doesn’t deserve the hate it sometimes gets.
For closing comments, I can say that I do recommend watching it if you have the opportunity, the film is completely unrelated to the videogames; in fact, it’s just an original kids story with characters who share the names of the Super Mario universe. The storyline isn’t very good but the special effects are. Super Mario Bros is a great example of what the creators were capable of eighteen years ago.