Where were you when you first started growing up with the Mario franchise? Some fans were a part of the series from popular multiplayer games such as Mario Kart and Mario Party. Others were a part of it when the franchise rebranded itself from Mario Bros to Super Mario. Regardless of your extent of the series, you witnessed the growth of the Mario franchise from video games to a brilliant motion picture.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is carefully made to satisfy the strict veterans of the series as well as being welcoming enough to bring in new fans. The film is jam-packed with references from the series’ own games as well as other games from the Nintendo world. From including iconic music, incorporating recognizable jumping and running styles and other hidden Easter eggs, the film is like an ode to those who grew up with the series. As a warning, this review contains spoilers.
The film begins with King Bowser—voiced by Jack Black— taking over the Snow Kingdom while, in another universe, Mario—voiced by Chris Pratt— and Luigi —voiced by Charlie Day— promote their ad for their own new plumbing business in Brooklyn. After a failed plumbing job, Mario and Luigi returned home for dinner with their family where their dad criticizes Mario for leaving a stable company and taking Luigi with him.
Despite hearing reprimands that he should give up and that he made a great mistake, the one line that made Mario leave the dinner table was “The worst part is that you’re dragging your brother into this.” This spurred Mario to prove himself to his father by doing something big. With Luigi’s support, both brothers decide to save Brooklyn from a massive plumbing problem.
In an attempt to fix the plumbing problem, they accidentally find and enter the classic magical green pipe. Within the green pipe, both brothers get split up and thus the official adventure began. When Luigi gets captured by Bowser’s troops, Mario begins his journey to rescue his brother, the Mushroom Kingdom, and eventually Brooklyn with the help of Princess Peach— voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy — Toad— voiced by Keagan-Michael Key— and Donkey Kong— voiced by Seth Rogen.
However the film is more than just an ode to fans and the franchise. It rebrands the franchise’ beloved characters from classic invincible heroes into more sentimental characters — they are portrayed to be more human-like with love, insecurity and endurance. These traits break the facade of being an invincible hero who can do anything into just a regular human who the audience member can see themselves in.
For starters, despite the fact that it is a very popular theme in the franchise’ games, there is a rare attention to romantic love between Mario and Princess Peach. The main focus of love is the brotherly love between Mario and Luigi. There are many instances of Mario loving and protecting Luigi from neighborhood bullies, other family members and even the King of Koopas. The most touching scene was when Mario and Luigi were reunited and they tightly hugged each other as Mario teared up.
The most shocking perspective change was Mario being insecure about how he isn’t taken seriously enough and how he is apparently a joke. How can our pixelated hero who always beats the villain and saves the damsel not be as invincible? The biggest praise of this delivery was Chris Pratt’s decision on how to voice Mario. Pratt’s decision of a more personal voice acting, specifically imitating an Italian-American accent instead of the cookie cutter “Mario” voice, made the hero more relatable to sympathize with.
Finally, endurance to not give up is emphasized throughout each heroic character. Mario doesn’t give up in saving his brother and the universes. Luigi doesn’t ever give up on believing in Mario. Princess Peach doesn’t give up on her abilities and duties as a princess. To not give in and to continue fighting is such a universal trait that every audience member should strive to imitate, especially those who are familiar with “The Odyssey.”
There are two required flaws that the film has: its pacing and its overstimulation. Although the film is rich with references, the plot is rushed in order to squeeze everything in. It lacks smooth transitions in respect to the plot, not necessarily in animation transitions. Additionally, there are so many references that it loses the audiences’ attention on the film itself. Constant scanning and hunting for key references or Easter eggs easily loses the audiences’ ability to fully appreciate the film.
The only reason why these flaws are required was because this film serves as the pioneer for future Nintendo motion picture adaptations. The biggest public worry for the Mario fan base was whether Illumination or any motion picture company would be able to fully honor the franchise’s roots.
Now that they proved to the audience that they can meet expectations, we can only hope for future adaptations to be more consistent and less fan-service oriented. This film opened up more possibilities for other Nintendo motion pictures such as Yoshi’s Island, Punch Out!, Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox and so on. The possibilities of rejuvenating a new film genre based on video games authentically are endless.