After meeting a young archeologist, who is then subsequently kidnapped; two plumbers from Brooklyn stumble into an alternate dimension, where dinosaurs still exist, in a dystopian world overgrown with fungus!
Released in 1993, and directed by both Rocky Morton, and Annabel Jankel, Super Mario Bros. is a comedy fantasy movie based on the Super Mario video game series. The film stars Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Samantha Mathis, and Dennis Hopper. The film is less well known known for having introduced innovative filming techniques in the transition from practical effects to visual effects, including the involvement of the Autodesk flame. What the film is best well known for of course, is being listed on several lists as one of the worst films ever made; and the production’s decision to deviate quite a bit from the source material! In later years though, it has become something of a cult classic.
The story of the film’s plot is a subtle reference to the video games; as it involves a princess being kidnapped, and the heroes have to go and rescue her. There are many other similarities too, such as the use of character names, neat little references here and there, and the colour of the overalls worn by the film’s two title characters. But on the whole, that’s about it. So why is this film regarded so negatively? Well, it could be that it’s got practically nothing to do with the Super Mario video game series…other than what I have just listed.
It’s sort of hard to really dig down and talk about this film, as it’s constantly flipping the same coin. As though while it is not exactly great, I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad neither. It’s just sort of odd and creates a sense of confusion. Allow me to explain, by A) Being a bit boring, and B) going off topic.
In 1998, Tristar Pictures released their own take on Godzilla. However, the film was not very Godzilla-like. The film featured a giant dinosaur, that did not look like Godzilla, was slightly shorter than Godzilla, and carried hardly anything else to make it look like the creature seen in the original Japanese series, except for some nearly correct dorsal fins! It’s what could be described as a loose adaptation. In addition to this, consider the 2019 TV adaptation of War of the Worlds. This is a show which I grew to like a lot, and really enjoyed; but other than the name; there is barely any resemblance in it to The War of the Worlds. I mean (not really a spoiler, but spoiler alert) two series in: and not a single tripod in sight.
Super Mario Bros. is a loose adaptation. It’s set in a world inspired by the games and features characters inspired also by the games; but other than that there is noting in this film that even breathes Super Mario. And that’s how it really needs to be considered, to allow it to then breathe it’s own breath. Because once we can accept that it has no real connection to the games, we can see it in it’s own vision. But even when we do, do that, we also see that it’s still kind of bad; but so bad that it’s weirdly good!
Super Mario Bros. is set in a really cool and thought out world, as it recreates a dystopian, and police state vision of New York. It weirdly features some positives, mainly in the fact that everyone drives electric cars; all powered by the same chicken wire system as Dodgems/Bumper Cars. Which again weirdly is something Top Gear suggested a few years ago. The film was way ahead of it’s time, as it predicted how ‘everyone’ now desperately wants to drive electric cars. So therefore, maybe it’s not a dystopian vision of our world, maybe the producers predicted how much ‘we’ all really want to live?
The film’s practical effects, and set pieces are so well designed and made, with a high level of value in its production. It came up with an idea, and then threw everything at it, to help us get engrossed into this world. We also have a large number of incredibly well-made animatronics, animatronics which would give even Jurassic Park a run for its money! All these things look simply incredible and so well made; it becomes one of the things that makes this film so confusing. Add to this the pretty good casting and acting; and altogether, we have something that just doesn’t make sense! How can something this well made and good looking, not work?
There are though two pieces of evidence which could point us in the direction as to how it doesn’t work. Firstly, and most obviously; it’s again, the whole thing with this film trying to be an adaptation of Super Mario Bros. Because whilst we can try to forget that part, everything in this film’s core structure is Super Mario based. And I am not going into that detail, because it’s all there, and has probably been discussed to death before.
The other piece of evidence is that it’s a bit long! The film by length is less than 2 hours long; but as the film drones on it feels like an entire age has passed, or that you are watching the fifth or sixth episode of a TV show. IT loses its identity in the process. Don’t get me wrong; when the film is being goofy, daft, and silly; it’s largely entertaining. Not funny, but still largely fun, and is the film at its best. But when it’s trying to be clever, dramatic, or serious, it just drones on, and all the energy is lost, and this is how the film slows down, to a pace which by the time the film reaches its final act; you just wish it was already over!
Super Mario Bros. is such a weird film. It’s weird in its design, vision, and well everything. Yes, it’s not a good adaptation, but when you consider it more as a loose adaptation, you can sort of let go of the gaming inhibitions and enjoy this mad capper for what it is. Yes, it’s a bit long; possibly too long, and you wish it just carried on being silly and entertaining rather than dramatic. It is though the pure definition of ‘it’s so bad it’s good’; because there is a lot of good stuff that is worth watching; just to see this mad cap weird world. So altogether, yeah give it a watch; it’s definitely worth seeing, if only once in your life!