Connect with us
What it lacks in sensible storytelling, it makes up for in ambition — even if that ambition is misplaced and very poorly executed.

Film

25 Years Later: ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Remains a Weird, Iconic Mess

What it lacks in sensible storytelling, it makes up for in ambition — even if that ambition is misplaced and very poorly executed.

Sure, Super Mario Bros. is most famous for being a colossal trainwreck, but video game movies hadn’t been done before 1993; it was trying to break new ground. The film wanted to be for all audiences, but never really found a single one to latch onto — other than in people’s living rooms as they got friends together to laugh at it (something I did earlier this year). It’s a bad movie, but what it lacks in sensible storytelling, it makes up for in ambition — even if that ambition is misplaced and very poorly executed.

Super Mario Bros. takes the popular video game characters of Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) and thrusts them in a plot involving a kidnapped princess and a plan to have dinosaurs take over the entire planet. This plan is of course led by King Koopa (played by Dennis Hopper), a dinosaur that was forced to live in an alternate dimension after a meteor hit Earth 65 million years ago and split his species and humans apart. Up until the last it, this sounds relatively close to a Mario story, doesn’t it? There are plenty of versions of earlier screenplays where that alternate dimension dinosaur stuff isn’t even in the movie, and it’s by far the part that immediately throws people off — a Rocky Morton (co-director of the film with Annabel Jankel) idea that has literally nothing to do with the games.

I’m not going to sit here and situate blame on everyone involved in the film, or even the directors. Yes, they had an idea for a darker movie, one which would take the franchise in a much more serious direction. The movie’s main setting of Dinohattan is very evocative of Blade Runner’s dystopic Los Angeles, and though the city has a lot going on with tiny references to the game every now and then, it also feels nothing like anywhere explored in the Mario games. The basic plot might seem familiar, but even still, the roles of Mario and Luigi feel different. Luigi winds up being the real hero of the story, while Mario is the only one with any semblance of a character arc, though very minor in impact.

None of this is to say that Super Mario Bros. ever had to be like the games. I think what has given the film a lot of its charm is that it bears very little resemblance to its source material. It feels like its own weird thing, created with a specific audience in mind, but with no real vision of how to execute it. Its darker setting is at complete odds with every character cracking wise, as well as Dennis Hopper chewing scenery left and right. Everything feels divided and separated; nothing comes together seamlessly, and even narrative threads feel arbitrarily tangled up in each other. It’s a mess.

The legacy left behind after twenty-five years is staggering. Video game movies continue to be bad (I enjoy a couple, but for similar reasons that I watch Super Mario Bros.). The behind-the-scenes drama is still talked about today, and the film has left itself a stain on Bob Hoskins’ legacy. Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel are two directors that basically fell out of Hollywood after the release, and we can’t help but breathe Mario’s name in almost every remark about bad video game movies. Super Mario Bros. is a trainwreck that has been remembered in cinematic history.

Yet, for all the harm its done, it can’t be blamed for not trying. No one sets out to make a bad movie, and Super Mario Bros. wears its effort on its sleeve. I’ll continue enjoying watching Hoskins and Leguizamo try to maneuver through a film that was being re-written as they were filming it. Hopper still makes me laugh with how gloriously cheesy his performance is. The dark aesthetic feels so much from a bygone era that I can’t help but smile seeing it. It’s a movie that tried to be something — it’s just almost impossible to see what that something was supposed to be.

Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kyle Rogacion

    May 30, 2018 at 12:45 am

    I remember watching this a good deal when I was kid and not feeling quite right with what I was seeing. Thanks for reminding me of its existence! I think I’ll have to get some friends and dive back into this weird, wonderful mess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five

Culture

Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means

Culture

Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 

Culture

Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases

Culture

Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age

Film

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Comics

Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”

Film

Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 

Film

All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022

Wrestling

Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World

Film

Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 

TV

Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride

Culture

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap

Culture

Bullet Train movie review Bullet Train movie review

Bullet Train Makes All the Wrong Stops

Culture

High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence

Features

Sci-Fi And Superheroes Sci-Fi And Superheroes

Buried Treasures, Hidden Gems – Movies Due For a Revisit: Sci-Fi And Superheroes

Film

Connect