|Super Mario Bros. (1993; |
So is the fact that this movie production-wise is all wrong the big problem with Super Mario Bros.? Well... Almost, but not entirely. There were a lot of decisions made during the production of this film that contributed to the backlash from fans of the game and the sneers from moviegoers and critics. The casting of Bob Hoskins as Mario is arguably a good choice. He’s a good actor and gained a lot of fans and a broad audience from his performance in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. However, that’s about it.
The remainder of the casting is all over the place. What is probably the worst idea made by the people behind this film was to cast Anthony Hopkins as a human King Koopa. This surprised a lot of people and they tried to back out of the decision in the end by having him transformed into a dinosaur-ish thing. After that dumb decision, John Leguizamo, another talented actor who has had many great performances since this mess, was cast as Luigi who, in the game, was to be the brother of Mario (i.e. Super Mario “Bros.”) but is here his adopted son or... something... It was not as though there was a deficit of tall, slender, middle-aged actors that could have been cast here. This was an obvious attempt to get a younger actor in to help bridge the age gap between the intended audience and the leading cast members, and to have a love interest for the younger Princess Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis. There were many more little pieces of fail in the casting but I do have to move on to plot, I simply find those two examples to be the two worst casting choices.
The plot begins as the titular Bros. are transported to a strange world after Luigi’s date with paleontologist Daisy (say, what?) goes horribly wrong as some mobsters sabotage a dig site, a rift opens up between two worlds in a connected cave, and Daisy is captured and taken through this inter-dimensional portal. The two “brothers?” follow her through said portal and end up in a strange, urban setting surrounded by bizarre creatures and neon signs. You know! The same city from every freaking movie like this (Once again, the city from Blade Runner)!
It turns out an evil “tyrant lizard” overlord named Koopa wants Daisy for the ability to use her pendant to bring Earth together with his world and take over the two together. So now Mario and Luigi go to save the princess and stumble across a bevy of odd creatures and run into dangers along the way.
Now, the plot is not the only thing wrong, as I did not mention that in Koopa’s world, humans did not evolve from apes but from dinosaurs and that Koopa has a gun that can instantly devolve a person into an idiotic lizard slave. There was also the strange decision to have the mushrooms of the Mushroom Kingdom from the game come in the form of a sticky, slimy fungus that grows everywhere and really contributes to my biggest problem with this movie. Forget the plot, the bad casting, the bad script and just look at this movie. Super Mario Bros. is a very, very ugly movie to look at.
While the city from Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into Blade Runner had a dark and grim look, the film noir style of the characters and narrative elevated us out of just the visuals and brought us into the story. This movie has no such positives to contrast the darkness and ugliness of this city. This movie looks like it was filmed inside of a forty year old factory that has never been cleaned. It has lots of steam filling the streets, lots of grimy, dirty denizens and lots of ugly, haphazard buildings. There is an attempt to make the lead characters colorful to contrast the dark look but that just makes the ugliness that much more evident.
All of these problems combined make this is a really, really bad movie. Even by bad movie standards this one stands out as a big-budget mega-Hollywood picture with no ambition, no inspiration, no warmth and no fun. It drags too much at times to be exciting, every attempt at humor falls flat, every character meant to be comic relief is just annoying and every little flaw is emphasized, as though the movie is saying “Hey! Look! Se what we did poorly?!”
Now, I should address the choices made in this film. There are many reasons why alterations to source material are made in movies: budget constraints, technological limitations, problems with equipment or the set, filming location issues, the weather, an injury on set, ect. It is really unfair to bash a movie because it failed to follow source material to the letter, also considering how one is supposed to narratively adapt a game about a plumber fighting mutant turtles in a land surrounded by giant mushrooms to save a princess. The logical direction to take is to not film it altogether and just leave well enough alone, right? Well, this brings me to my final gripe about this sloppy mess. This is a movie about dinosaurs because dinosaurs were popular at the time, based on a game that was popular at the time, following a trend that was popular at the time. In other words, this was a cash-in. It was phony, dopey, ugly, and cynicism oozes off the screen anytime you watch it. It is one of those movies where you know someone with deep pockets said something along the lines of “Screw fans of the stupid video games, they’re just idiotic little kids, they’ll watch anything. We can make buckets off this stupid little video game and the parents of those stupid kids.” Thus was born a cynical cash-in designed to squeeze a few dollars out of pockets of admiring fans of the games.