Let’s-a-Go, ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Retrospective
Original Film Poster
It's Almost Unreal
Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System is probably the first definitive videogame experience with different enemies, different levels, and an interesting story. Due to its success, it was only a matter of time until it spawned a feature film. The film features the same title as the game and came out in 1993. It was directed by Rocky Morton. Just like the game, the film's genre is fantasy adventure.
The film’s plot revolves around two Italian American brothers, Mario and Luigi, who live in Brooklyn and work as plumbers. One day, they meet a girl named Daisy who studies dinosaurs. Two guys named Iggy and Spike kidnap Daisy and take her through a portal deep underground. Mario and Luigi follow them to rescue Daisy. When they go through the portal they find themselves in a dystopia city covered in fungi and has people who evolved from dinosaurs. The two brothers must navigate through the city as they search for Daisy.
Off the bat, besides a few references, the film has very little to do with the videogame. The games feature Mario and Luigi walking left to right smashing brick blocks and jumping on turtles and evil mushroom people. It takes place in a bizarre world where clouds and mountains have faces and everything can kill you by simply touching you.
In this film, Mario and Luigi just meet random people who are inspired by characters from the games. There’s no platforming, no power-ups, no fortresses or castles, or flags. Instead the brothers use fire guns, drive a police car, and don’t even get their trademark red and green outfits until the third act of the film.
The protagonist and titular character Mario is played by Bob Hoskins. Throughout the film he gives off this vibe where it’s as if he’s always wondering why he’s in the film. In the games, his trademark ability is jumping; here it’s just whining and sarcasm. John Leguizamo plays Luigi, Mario’s taller younger brother and secondary protagonist. He’s given more development than the games...slightly. He’s just tagging behind Mario in the games, but in the film he’s attempting to rescue Daisy because he’s fallen in love with her. He has adorkable moments but his character just feels flat.
Samantha Mathis plays Daisy. In the games the main character the brothers are rescuing is Peach. While Daisy is featured in the spinoff handheld game Super Mario Land, Peach is often considered the main female character in the game franchise. Likewise it’s shown that Mario and Peach may have a romantic interest in each other, here it’s Luigi and Daisy. Daisy doesn’t really do much except stay captured for a good portion of the film. She does befriend a small dinosaur named Yoshi.
Yoshi is a character introduced in the fourth main Mario game, Super Mario World. In it he’s a green raptor-like dinosaur with a long tongue and who’s large enough for Mario to ride like a horse. In the film he still resembles a raptor and has the long tongue but is brown and is only the size of a dog. He befriends Daisy, which doesn’t happen in the games.
The main villain is King Koopa, played by Dennis Hopper. In the games he's known as Bowser, but is still a king. Just like his game counterpart, here he's interested in the kidnapped heroine for his own purposes. Bowser's species is never stated, though he appears as a cross between a turtle, dinosaur, and dragon. In the film he does say he's descended from a tyrannosaurus and does exhibit reptilian attributes. He’s portrayed in the film as being charismatic to newcomers but a large ham when upset or angered. He does have a henchwoman named Lena, played by Fiona Shaw. She is somewhat flat, but has her own agenda that doesn't really go anywhere.
Iggy and Spike are played by Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson respectively. They're pretty much the comic relief characters who don't really do much for the film. Koopas and Goombas are enemies in the games that resemble turtles and walking mushrooms respectively. Both are a little smaller than Mario. Here they both tower over Mario and Luigi and resemble large people with tiny reptilian heads.
Another minor character in the film is Daniella, played by Dana Kaminski. Mario’s first game was actually Donkey Kong, which originally came out in arcades in the early 80s. In that game Mario had to rescue another woman named Pauline. Daniella is basically Mario’s love interest in the film and is also based off of Pauline. The original script of the film even list Daniella’s middle name as Pauline.
At the very beginning of the film they play the Super Mario theme from the original game. Despite the film being in a dystopia city, much of the music is upbeat which clashes with the tone. The only other memorable song is ‘Almost Unreal’ performed by music duo Roxette in the film’s end credits.
Overall this is another film that can’t be recommended to anyone. Fans of the videogames will dislike the film due to straying from the source material and newcomers will be confused as to what’s going on. When not compared to the games it’s a somewhat descent fantasy film, but it’s only remembered due to the name attached to it.
Original film trailer
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