It’s been a long while since any kind of Nintendo franchise made the jump over to the movie screen. And we all know what happened last time. For better or worse, enough time has passed by for many things to be different and comfortable enough for Nintendo to once again attempt to bring one of their marquee characters to the big screen. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the first true effort to make a faithful enough adaptation of the famous video game series starring Nintendo’s iconic duo. But instead of letting a studio tackle this project alone, Nintendo worked in collaboration with animation studio Illumination to bring the Mushroom Kingdom to life. Longtime fans of Nintendo will be happy to see how things have worked out much better, while others may need an extra power-up to fully enjoy everything going on.
The plot of The Super Mario Bros. Movie is shallow, but just enough to move us forward into this Nintendo world and the greater universe. Mario and Luigi are brothers who have started their own plumbing business in Brooklyn, struggling to make it successful while dealing with the harsh judgment of their parents. Mario is brave and wants to be more than he is, while Luigi is meek and along for the ride. But when a mysterious plumbing issue in the city gets chaotic, the two brothers are flung into the magical world of the Mushroom Kingdom and put in the middle of a hostile takeover by Bowser, the King of the Koopas. Mario is separated from Luigi and goes on a quest to save his brother, enlisting the help of Princess Peach and many other allies that Nintendo fans will be familiar with. It’s a wild adventure across fantastic lands and goofiness that will speak to fans of the games.
A lot of things in this story don’t make a lot of sense for why they happen or why certain characters do things a particular way, the movie just wants you to accept it without much thought. Because of that, the pacing can be incredibly fast between scenes and locations Mario goes to. While there are little moments that attempt to give more dimension to Mario and Luigi early on, all of that gets forgotten once the brothers finally go into the mysterious warp pipe that brings them to the Mushroom Kingdom. The movie doesn’t want you to linger on such things for too long because it needs to start throwing more and more references from the games at you, which may or may not work for most people.
The biggest disappointment that stands out in this story is the fact that Mario and Luigi are separated for most of the movie. It’s a switch from what Mario games usually do, with Mario and Luigi trying to save Princess Peach. Mario ends up learning a ton of things from Peach, which is a nice approach to him coming to the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time, but it also undermines the title of the movie itself. For a film called the Super Mario Bros. Movie, it’s a shame that we don’t have Mario and Luigi working together or being around each other more than they do. It’s to the point that maybe the title should’ve been The Super Mario Movie instead. Some might disagree, but how the movie unfolds and ends really does make one question whether that should have been the case.
When it comes to the fan service, the entire movie is filled with tons of references and nods to Nintendo games. And not just the Super Mario Bros. series, but many other Nintendo games that go beyond Mario. There’s a spot Mario and Luigi go to called Punch-Out Pizzeria, a Nintendo Entertainment System in Mario’s room running Kid Icarus, a store with a nod to Balloon Fight, and so much more. Most fans won’t get every reference the first time they watch the movie, especially when you’re trying to keep up with the plot or what is happening with the characters at the moment.
This is both a good and bad thing because the movie can sometimes be over-indulgent with the Easter eggs. This can get to a point where it feels like the concern was more about including EVERYTHING from Mario games, rather than making the story interesting or clever. The Mario references and Easter eggs for other Nintendo series are greatly appreciated, but when it feels like more of a priority than advancing the plot in a meaningful way, it’s time to ease up on the gas with them.
But what about the voice acting? This was a major point of contention for fans before the release of the movie. Luckily, everyone on the main cast does a solid job with their character’s voice. Chris Pratt as the iconic Mario definitely isn’t the one that will make every Nintendo fan happy, but he enables Mario to speak in a way for the first time that works with the film. The same can be said for Charlie Day as Luigi, despite only being in the movie for a short time in comparison to Mario. Anya Taylor Joy does a good job with Princess Peach, portraying a more assertive princess than what is usually shown in the video games. Even Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, the humorous rival of Mario and ape hero, does a solid job blending humor and heroism in the scenes he appears. The one voice that feels very out of place would be that of Cranky Kong, the old ruler of the Kong army, played by Fred Armisen. It might have been a better choice to go with an older-sounding voice for Cranky Kong since the character is portrayed as a much older Ape than his son Donkey Kong in the DK games.
The one who gets to chew up the most screen time is Jack Black as Bowser, both in his dialogue and humorous moments that also include singing. Often you won’t remember that it’s Jack Black voicing the character, since his approach to the voice feels like a natural fit for Bowser. A few goofy moments may come off as random and might even make you laugh, but it’s clear who was having the most fun lending their voice to a character within this cast.
Bowser’s motivation throughout the film is questionable and very weird in some spots, especially if you know about the character from later Mario games. Longtime fans might even question why another character wasn’t included in the movie, which would’ve been a much better explanation for why Bowser does certain things. As is, things just come off as very awkward and weird within the context of the story.
The presentation of the movie is most likely the one thing that will stand out to everyone who watches The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Illumination does a fantastic job of giving us cinematic versions of all the Mario characters we know, rendered in a way that previous iterations outside of the games have yet to accomplish. Mario and crew look exactly as they should; as do the many Koopas, Gombas, Toads, Shy Guys, Bob-ombs, and other goofy characters that roam the Mushroom Kingdom. Seeing Peach’s Castle in colorful splendor and hearing a remixed Super Mario 64 theme as it’s shown is what Nintendo fans have waited a long time for.
The same can be said for nearly every piece of music and setting within the movie, with some that will definitely get a pop of excitement for their inclusion. The only thing holding all of this back for the movie is random scenes that have modern or 80s pop music thrown in for comedic or dramatic effect. Instead of doing this, Illumination could’ve gone all in with more remixes to various themes and melodies from Mario games since there’s already a ton here. The pop music feels out of place and unnecessary when juxtaposed to scenes that beautifully implement core Mario theme music to the visuals.
And then we have the final sections of the movie, including the mid and after credits. While the final battle is a mixture of action movie tropes and references to Mario games, it’s fun to watch play out. Those who will recognize a few things that happen between Mario and Bowser will love when they happen, especially when the brothers finally reunite. After the action is all set and done, there are a lot of questions that still linger and leave the door open for a sequel, which is almost guaranteed at this point. But if you were hoping for a big stinger during the credits or afterward, you’ll be disappointed. Some Nintendo fans might feel a bit cheated because what happens is actually shown earlier on in another way. At the same time, it doesn’t set up a possible future threat or fully pay off its reveal. Is it clear what is coming next, yes, but was it worthy of an after-credit stinger? Arguably not.
If you just want to have a good time and not think too hard about things, the Super Mario Bros. Movie is a good way to enjoy a fun adventure based on these iconic Nintendo characters. There are definitely parts that could’ve been handled better and the story could’ve used more time to flesh out, especially if you aren’t a die-hard fan of Nintendo games. But for a true first outing for the Mario Bros. on the big screen, this was a solid introduction to these characters and this world. Let’s hope that their next adventure can be even greater and take things to the next level.
Are you a Nintendo fan who is going to watch the Super Mario Bros. Movie? What is your favorite Mario game of all time? Post everything down below in the comment section and let us know!
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
The movie has a great presentation and a ton of references that long-time Nintendo fans will absolutely love. The story is very shallow and can be a little mediocre at times, despite many of the characters being likable in one way or another. Non-Nintendo fans might not fully appreciate many aspects of the film, but can still enjoy the action that plays out.
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