It’s been an absolute age since this movie was released. How well does it stack up today? We revisit the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie. Don’t laugh!
Never in the history of cinema or video games has a movie adaptation of a video game been any good and this may be the one that got it wrong the most and in every way!
In it’s defence Super Mario Bros Movie is actually the first live-action movie based on a video game, but the problem with video game and cartoon adaptions to live-action movies is that they always seem to hire the wrong director. One that knows nothing about or cares anything for the the original source material.
Unfortunately Nintendo did give the screenwriters free creative licence with their property and they took it and pretty much changed everything from the original concept. Mario is one of the most recognised mascots in the world, how could they do this?
They don’t realise that these characters are iconic for generations of kids and adults and any changes or re-envisioning you make will be met by much criticism. Just see what happened with the Sonic movie in 2020. If social media was around in 1993 this movie would have been absolutely slaughtered before it was released. The prime example of this is Michael Bay and the Transformers franchise and the awful Street Fighter Movie.
Obviously the main problem you have with Mario Bros is the whole wacky Japanese concept. Two Italian plumbers who travel around in green pipes in the mushroom kingdom battling a giant turtle like koopa and his army of kids and er… koopa troopers. Aiding you in your quest are mushrooms to make you bigger, flowers which allow you to throw fire and a small dinosaur called Yoshi! There is also a guy called Toad who is a mushroom man who helps out too. Did we mention that Bowser also rides a flying ship?
The Characters. Who’s who?
The first thing that you notice about the movie is that no character in the movie with the exception of our beloved Bob Hoskins looks like any of the game characters they are based on. I watched this movie with my kids who are 8 and 5 and even they were comparing how the characters were not right to the game at all!
Let’s take a look
Mario (Bob Hoskins)
Yes, they both look similar because they both have moustaches!
Luigi (John Leguizamo)
Daisy (Samantha Mathis)
She looks more like Peach than Daisy!
Koopa (Bowser (Dennis Hopper)
Toad (Mojo Nixon)
Iggy (Fisher Stevens)
Come on now what is going on?
Spike (Richard Edson)
Have they lost their god damn minds?
Big Bertha (a Spiny Beetle?) Francesca P. Roberts)
Okay these are quite close
But then we think to ourselves and take another look at Mario and think, wait a minute it’s all a trick as Mario isn’t fat, old or bald! It’s the god damn moustache that’s tricking us all this time! You could have stuck that moustache on Johnny Depp and it would have looked just as effective!
Talking about casting choice… They originally wanted Danny DeVito as Mario and Tom Hanks as Luigi and either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michael Keaton as Koopa!
So what’s it about?
About 65 million years ago, a meteorite crashes into the Earth, killing the dinosaurs and splitting the universe into two parallel dimensions. The surviving dinosaurs cross into a new dimension and evolve into a humanoid race.
At the start of the movie we see a lady drop off an egg at an orphanage and out hatches a baby girl (Daisy) and nobody thinks this is strange at all!
Koopa catches up with the lady and she is killed by some rocks.
I’m not going to spoil the whole plot for you but Mario and Luigi are plumbers from Brooklyn, New York and they are on the verge of being driven out of business by the mafia-operated Scapelli Construction Company led by Anthony Scapelli. Luigi falls for NYU student Daisy, who is digging under the Brooklyn Bridge for dinosaur bones. After a date, Daisy takes Luigi back to the bridge only to witness two of Scapelli’s men sabotaging it by leaving the water pipes open. Mario and Luigi manage to fix it but are knocked unconscious by Iggy and Spike, Koopa’s henchmen and cousins, who kidnap Daisy. Mario and Luigi awaken and pursue them through an interdimensional portal that leads them to Dinohattan.
Basically Daisy is the lost princess of Dinohattan and she carries a rock that Koopa needs as it can merge the two dimensions together and he can be ruler.
Played by the brilliant late Dennis Hopper who was probably high when he accepted the role is the ruler of Dinohattan. I really get a Donald Trump vibe with his portrayal and look of a mega-lo-maniac despot!
The Mushroom Kingdom in the video games is a bright blue skied, green-hilled paradise with castles and mountains. Ranging from lush green valleys to snow peaks and into desserts. In the movie the world of Dinohattan is located underground and looks like a cross between Demolition Man’s underground city (also made in the same year and probably used the same set) and Mars from 1990’s Total Recall.
The people who live there have apparently evolved from dinosaurs or fungi in the King’s case, but totally look like humans.They even eat dinosaurs so also enjoy a bit of cannibalism too!
The evo machine
Koopa has managed to create a machine that can de-evolve or evolve people. If you piss him off he de-evolves you back to the stone age. As you can see above Toad who is mushroom descent in the game is de-evolved to a dinosaur! Makes no sense!
In one scene he evolves Iggy and Spike so they aren’t so dumb. Doesn’t realise he could also do the same to himself and solve all his own problems!
No green pipes, gold coins or power-ups unfortunately
The green pipes are so iconic in the video game and lead to all kinds of different places throughout the kingdom. In this the only reference to the pipes is the giant boiler room and the long tunnel .
As well as the green pipes, the gold coins, item blocks and mushrooms etc are also absent from the movie. Okay, it might not be practical to see Mario and Luigi banging their heads on an item block but what I would give to see live-action Mario grow in size or get hold of an invincibility star!
No other familiar bad guys
Where are the koopas? Where are the Hammer Brothers (they seem to have a tattoo parlour in the background)? Is Big Boo or Lakitu here? No. The only other characters apart from Koopa, Iggy, Spike, Snifit and Spiny Beetle (if that is even supposed to be them) is Bob-omb and Bullet Bill who both make a tiny appearance.
First of all Goombas aren’t dinosaurs. Get your Goombas right! Secondly, they ain’t big and thirdly why do they have such a tiny head?
I never realised until I re-watched this movie the other week that Lance Henriksen plays the King who is turned into fungi by Koopa. He has very limited time on screen (about 5 seconds) and is completely wasted in this movie!
Did they not turn Toad back to normal?
Poor old Toad no matter how annoying he may be doesn’t deserve to stay as a Goomba come on!
The open ended ending
In the end Mario and Luigi have been back to normal life for a few weeks but then Daisy busts into their apartment and says she needs their help and they aren’t going to believe this which left it open for a sequel. The film bombed so much that all sequels were off and Nintendo shut their doors to Hollywood and would not let anybody else play around with the intellectual properties for a very long time. It’s a good job they didn’t make sequel as it would probably be about Mario Kart but they’d swap the karts for tanks or something crazy!
It’s not the best movie or even the best movie based on a video game, but it’s a fun family movie and my kids loved it. Why not give it a watch and see what you think?
This movie is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
So we will see what the next Super Mario Bros movie will be like which is supposed to be scheduled for a 2022 release.