Super Mario Bros.: On-This-Day Thursday

Every Thursday, an older film released on this opening weekend years ago will be reviewed. They can be classics, or simply popular films that happened to be released to the world on the same date.
For May 30th, we are going to have a look at Super Mario Bros..


I felt like we had enough perfect classic films featured. We gotta get some more rants on here. Therefore, enter Super Mario Bros.: the murderer of childhoods and imaginations of millions. There are adaptation liberties that some films take. The Sweet Hereafter took its story to modern day Canada to create a statement on the cultural mosaic community found there. Removing part of the ending of The Return of the King shortens an already-long ending. With Super Mario Bros., pretty much every decision is an abhorrent one. How is this film a classic? Well, it’s become a yardstick for terrible adaptations (particularly video game films).

Many years later, Sonic the Hedgehog has been lambasted before it was even released. Why? Because Sonic’s design is off. Part of the problem is how human Sonic looks. Well, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say he isn’t too bad. That is true, compared to many of the decisions in Super Mario Bros.. I also think a fungal infection looks better as well. The biggest problem is that we had a crew of people that truly believed that this film had to make sense in our world. A video game about a plumber that can shoot fireballs and eat mushrooms, that has to save a princess from a spiky shelled reptile, had to make sense in our world. This includes real dinosaurs, monstrous goon goombas, a dystopian world, and brothers named Mario Mario and Luigi Mario (get it? Because they’re Mario Bros.? So, that had to be their last name because we call him Mario but it’s the Mario brothers? Ugh.)

Also Bowser is apparently the worst Frank nightmare Jeffrey Beaumont ever had.

Also Bowser is apparently the worst Frank nightmare Jeffrey Beaumont ever had.

I don’t even know what to say about this one. The film ends off with Daisy (who acts less like a damsel in distress and more like a cool character, which is one of the only decent changes here) telling the Mario brothers that there is more for them to do. Of course it’s a lead into a sequel film; one that never happened. Thank the video game gods. They destroyed any hopes we had with one film. Why do they need to do it again with two? Why is Mario trying to swoon a female baddie to get something he needs? Why does Bowser keep wanting a pizza? What’s with the sci-fi weaponry? Why is this a dystopian world? Why do the Mario brothers even have to check in to a restaurant? This film feels more like Brazil on LSD and done by someone with only a sliver of the vision Terry Gilliam had. Why does it need to feel like Brazil at all? Is that because Bob Hoskins is in both? I flat out do not understand how difficult it was to make a film about a dude in red clothes and denim overalls who smashes some bricks and reaches castle dungeons. Without CGI. With the worst CGI. It was the early ‘90s. This was entirely possible.

No. Instead, we get the poster film as to why video game films are almost always a disaster. Exhibit one: the over complication to compensate for a video game’s simplicity. If these folks did what I said above, the film would still be terrible. However, it would at least resemble the game. Super fans would have at least admired something about their favourite game coming to life. Instead, even fans hated this junk. If you go to a store to buy ice cream pops because you have a craving, you’re not going to like receiving spicy nachos that appeared in the wrong box. It isn’t a happy accident. This isn’t a thankful doorway to something one would never check out. This is a violation of expectations. Sure, Sonic looks pretty bad. At least he looks like Sonic. Dennis Hopper as Bowser looks like… I don’t even know what he looks like. But it isn’t Bowser.

At least Bob Hoskins looks like Mario. That’s about all I can say.

At least Bob Hoskins looks like Mario. That’s about all I can say.

Exhibit two: don’t be in it for the money. Not so blatantly, anyway. How was a return expected on this? Because of the big names? Kids don’t know these performers, and most adults likely knew to stay away from this one. What about the special effects? The ones that push this film further away from its source material? The ones that turned a bright, outdoor world into a dismal urban junkyard? You can argue this is meant to resemble the underground worlds found in the Mario games, but those are just dark. Just a black backdrop has more life than the migraine found in this film. What was the plan? Money was clearly expected, because Daisy sets up a next film.

At the end of the day, Super Mario Bros. is loved in a way that is unintended. Its countless flaws are adored. How many people love this film for what it is in an honest way? Chances are that there are not many. This is what happens when an audience is not treated seriously. I don’t believe films should be made for fans, but if this is meant to be a money maker, the fans’ expectations should matter. Regardless, this is still just a grossly unenjoyable film. It loves to circle around the stupidest of running gags, it’s hideous to even witness, and none of it makes sense (even when linked to the original lore, never mind taking this crap on at face value). Most video game films are problematic, but most (thankfully) do not come close to the Chuck E. Cheese nightmare after a mass-possession by Satan known as Super Mario Bros. the film.

And King Koopa never got his pizza. Could they have at least wrapped up that joke?

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.