A little while ago, with Assassin’s Creed on the horizon, we promised to watch as many gaming movies as we could and review them.
Now let’s be honest. It’s a pretty derided genre and the majority of gaming movies receive a really bad press. Based on that, I don’t really know if I’ve embarked on this project for you to enjoy or for me to humour myself. Either way, I’ve started now and I’ll see it through to the end.
All new things should start at the beginning though and we do things (mostly) by the book at the Outpost. So, without further ado, here’s our review of Super Mario Bros!
It’s always going to be hard making a movie based on a platformer as there’s no real story in the game itself. Instead it’s something that’s supposed to get instant enjoyment, challenge you slightly and give you some satisfaction upon completion. The Super Mario Bros movie achieves some of those to a really small extent but fails miserably in others.
In the main, this is down to a host of script rewrites that left the movie feeling disjointed and a little bit lost under the weight of expectation and a fairly decent cast. Originally set to be a story about the Mario family and their inner workings, the money men decided to change that to make it more child friendly; the result being what I watched last night. By the point that decision was made, the cast had already been assembled and everyone just had to get the job done, with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo reportedly getting drunk most nights to get through it. So, great start.
The movie itself actually starts out alright with the premise of a meteorite hitting Earth and splitting us into two parallel universes, with evolved dinosaurs on one side and evolved mammals on the other. It’s not a bad idea to pin your flag to but it’s not long before things become really chaotic.
The ‘struggle’ is that King Koopa (Dennis Hopper) needs a piece of the meteorite to bridge the gap between two universes. Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) owns this piece having been abandoned on our side of the universe for her own safety.
Again, it’s fairly simple but the execution goes so wrong it devolves. The number of times the rock goes missing or is stolen makes it feel a little like groundhog day and there are sections that feel hammered in to progress the already iffy storyline. I mean, what was the dancing in the lift thing all about?
I suppose the main thing that sees the movie ultimately fail is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. There are tones (mainly with Mario and Luigi) that could fit into a working class, family drama but when these are accompanied by scenes made for children, it all becomes a little confusing. I do have some sympathy with everyone involved because it seems that by the time the movie’s path had changed it was too late to cancel it, recast it, or even decide on one solid theme or another.
Because of that, not only does it feel like you’re on the slowest rollercoaster you’ve ever been on, the bits that are supposed to make you laugh just don’t hit home. Rather, it just feels really cringey and smacks of people just getting through it and praying for the project to die.
I said at the start that it’s hard to make a movie based on a platformer and that holds true with this movie. The one thing that could have been a saving grace would have been sticking to the game where they actually could. The biggest problem on this note is Luigi. He’s supposed to be a character that’s overshadowed by his brother but he turns out to be the main attraction. Not only that, but he doesn’t have a moustache! The things that make the Mario Bros so famous is the fact that they’re plumbers, they’re Italian (they’re from Brooklyn in the movie) and they have moustaches.
Fear not though, there is one moment that made me (almost) punch the air in triumph. Throughout the movie, Mario and Luigi are in normal plumbing clothes. As we progress towards the end and things start to really hit the fan, they change into something a little more familiar.
As the lift door opens, we have Mario and Luigi in their trademark red and green. It’s as good as the movie gets but it’s far, far too late to even attempt to save it.
Looking at it in the cold light of day, it wasn’t a great start to the genre and things don’t really improve as time progresses. There are some great gaming movies out there but rather than ever be considered classics in their own right, they’re looked upon as cult classics. I’d never lay blame at the door of one movie but I kind of feel that if the genre had better beginnings, we might feel differently about the movies we’ve had following Super Mario Bros.
1* - Mario, stop dicking around and fix this leak, we're drowning.