Most people from a few years older than me all the way to the current generation of children have grown up on video games that included the Mario Bros. franchise. These games, frequently about a plumber saving a princess from a giant turtle monster guy, have been around since 1983. They have gone through many iterations from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario World and Super Mario 64, all the way up to the more recent Super Mario Galaxy games. It was also one of the earliest video game franchises to be adapted into a film.
1993 saw the release of Super Mario Bros., a movie based on the video game series. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) were two plumber brothers who had to travel to another dimension to save a woman named Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from a man named King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). It was all kinds of messed up and it will be the movie that I watch for this week’s Sunday “Bad” Movies post.
I’ve seen Super Mario Bros. before. I watched it a few years ago for the first time and was blown away by just how odd it was. The world was early 1990s science fiction, but it didn’t match the games in any way whatsoever. The humour in it was mind boggling. It was an all-around crazy experience and it was easy to see why Nintendo stayed out of the movie world from that point on. If this was how their flagship game franchise would be treated for an adaptation, they wouldn’t want to risk that happening again.
This week, I will be rewatching this crazy movie. As I’m watching it, I’ll be pausing to write about some of the things that happen within it. Whether it will be the world or the jokes in the movie (Mario Mario?), there will be commentary by yours truly. So this will be a fairly real time post as I will be writing while watching. We’ll see how it works out. Now, on with the movie.
Early in Super Mario Bros., a question was proposed to the audience. What if when the meteor struck Earth, the dinosaurs weren’t killed, but were instead sent to an alternate dimension where they evolved into intelligent beings? This set up was done through an animated sequence that had nothing to do with the rest of the movie. The people behind Super Mario Bros. decided that they would explain the multiple dimensions aspect right off the bat instead of revealing it later on. It took away the potential for surprises and reveals, as the information was already known by the audience. There could have been more fun had people learned about the dinosaur dimension along with the characters, rather than watching the characters learn about it while already having the information.
One thing that seems to be common among many bad movies is that they don’t think the audience will understand subtlety. Everything gets spelled out as if that’s the only way that people will understand what is going on. It takes away from an experience by putting the story in the background in order to overexplain what is happening. Words of wisdom that get bandied about in moments like these are “show don’t tell.” The audience should be able to understand a movie through what is happening. There is no need to tell them when they can see and experience it with the characters.
Seven minutes in and there’s one detail that helped set up the Brooklyn that Mario and Luigi live in better than any of the exposition. The two brothers received a phone call asking for plumbing help and arrived at the location to discover another plumbing company was already there. There was competition in Brooklyn where the first plumber to the scene won out. For some reason, people were calling multiple plumbers and hiring the first one that showed up. It’s a weird world where the plumbing industry works like that, but that’s the world that Super Mario Bros. is set in.
The love interest of Super Mario Bros. is, for some reason, Daisy. It seems odd that the first major film based on the Mario franchise would use Daisy instead of Peach. Daisy is the love interest of Luigi both in the movie and in the video games. The original Super Mario Bros. game, however, featured Princess Peach. It was weird that a movie using the title of that game would use Luigi’s love interest instead of Mario’s. This is especially true by the fact that she was in three video games up to that point and hadn’t been shown as a love interest for Luigi yet. She had been saved in one video game by Mario, had been Luigi’s caddy in a golf game. That’s definitely not relationship status with Luigi. It was a weird choice in a weird movie.
Adaptations are a strange animal. There are two different theories on what makes a good adaptation of a property. One is that a good adaptation stays true to the source material, differing in only minor aspects. This kind of adaptation might be a little tough in that it doesn’t give creative freedom to the people working on the new version, and the storytelling method might not work in the new form. Many times, when people say that books are better than the movies based on them, it’s because books make it easier to get into the minds of the characters. When it comes to video games, it’s because of the interactive element that doesn’t exist in the film world. Yet. The other kind of adaptation is the one that gives freedom to the people working on it so that aspects can be changed to better fit the new art form. If the story can’t be told the same way on page as on film, changes are made to have it work in both forms. The downside is that the people who are accustomed to the older form might feel disrespected when what they knew is changed. With Super Mario Bros., the change from Peach to Daisy wasn’t a bad choice. It just felt unnecessary.
Also unnecessary was the name game that was being played thirty-one minutes into Super Mario Bros. The bothers were arrested in an alternate dimension and were being questioned about their names. The names of the characters were Mario Mario and Luigi Mario. That might seem weird hearing it, or reading it, but the more that I think about it, the more it makes sense. The game and the movie are called Super Mario Bros. The characters each have different first names. The only way that “Mario Bros.” would make sense was if they shared the name Mario. Since their first names are Mario and Luigi, the only way they can possibly share the name Mario is through their last name, which must be Mario. So, even though the idea of Mario Mario and Luigi Mario seems dumb, which it is, it makes sense to have the characters named that since the game and movie are both called Super Mario Bros.
There was an element brought into Super Mario Bros. once the characters got to the Koopa dimension called de-evolution. King Koopa would de-evolve anyone who spoke out against them, turning people into Goombas. There was a big machine that was used for it. But he wasn’t satisfied with the big machine. Oh no. King Koopa wanted smaller de-evolution guns. The reason that this needed to be brought up was that the de-evolution guns were repainted Super Scopes. They were gun controllers used for the Super Nintendo, a console by the company that made the Super Mario Bros. games. It’s an interesting little bit of trivia.
The use of music in Super Mario Bros. was a tad odd. There was a scene an hour into the movie where the brothers go to a club in the Koopa dimension and a strange cover of Roxy Music’s Love is the Drug was playing. Does this mean that even in alternate dimensions, the same music gets made? It was The Divinyls covering it, but it was still the song. A more fitting song played immediately after that when Walk the Dinosaur started playing. It was a good choice for the movie because the people of the Koopa dimension had evolved from dinosaurs into the human-like beings that they were. Again, it was a cover, with this version being performed by The Goombas. There were strange evolutionary parallels going on.
From this point on, there’s not much to say. It goes into that third act action stuff where there isn’t much commentary. They shoot things, blow things up, the bad guy loses, and the good guys win. Then there was a Back to the Future style ending. The only thing worth mentioning was that there were references to the games during the action. Mario used both a bob-omb and a mushroom to defeat King Koopa. All in all, there wasn’t much else to make note of because the movie devolved into action, plain and simple. It was still weird Super Mario Bros. action, but it was mindless action all the same. That finished off the movie.
Super Mario Bros. was a strange movie that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s hard to imagine how a movie could go so wrong. Was it the crazy source material that seems too weird to make into a movie story? Or was it the fact that the directors and the studio had two vastly different visions on what the movie would be, and you could see those visions battling it out the entire runtime? It could have gone wrong for either of those reasons or a multitude of others. They all added up to create a bad movie that has kept Nintendo out of the movie business since.
And here are this week’s notes:
- Other video game movies that have been watched for the Sunday “Bad” Movies include House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, the Mortal Kombat movies, DOA: Dead or Alive, and the In the Name of the King series.
- Super Mario Bros. marked the fifth Sunday “Bad” Movies appearance for Frank Welker, who has worked on Anaconda, Mortal Kombat, Hudson Hawk, and GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords.
- Kevin West was in Super Mario Bros. He could also be seen in Bio-Dome and Santa with Muscles.
- Super Mario Bros. was the second time that Richard Edson was in a Sunday “Bad” Movie. He was also in Howard the Duck.
- Lance Henrickson returned to the Sunday “Bad” Movies with Super Mario Bros. He was in a movie called Monster Brawl.
- The voice of Dan Castellaneta opened up Super Mario Bros. He was in Fant4stic as well.
- The character of Luigi was played by John Leguizamo, who was in The Happening.
- Mario Mario was played by Bob Hoskins. He was unlucky enough to also be in Son of the Mask.
- Finally, Fisher Stevens made his second Sunday “Bad” Movies showing in Super Mario Bros. after recently being featured in Movie 43.
- Have you seen Super Mario Bros.? What did you think of it? Was it a good movie or was it a mess? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- One thing that I am always looking for are suggestions for what I should be watching for the Sunday “Bad” Movies. If you think you have some movies that I should check out, contact me on Twitter or leave your suggestion in the comments.
- Do you want to see what I’m watching when I watch it? Do you want to see clips of bad movies? Add me on snapchat. Jurassicgriffin
- Next week is week 249. We’re getting close to the big 250. The final movie before week 250 will be Jonah Hex, which I’m not sure many people were anticipating, but which should make for something interesting. We’ll find out soon. In seven days, in fact. See you then.