Movies based on video games have rarely, if ever, had a good reception. Why is that? The lack of a full story from the game? Lack of intriguing characters? Confusion of how to switch from one medium to another? In the case of modern games close to resembling movies, these should not be a problem. But then again, it could be that, in the case of the first mainstream live action video game adaptation, it seems to deviate from the source material at the time that it becomes something almost unrecognisable. But does that make this movie a terrible one only because of that?
As a Super Mario fanboy, I felt obliged to give this movie a fair insight, especially since it’s a childhood favourite of mine. This movie that suffered a troubled production, was rejected upon release, and named by the late Bob Hoskins as the worst film he ever made. It’s been blasted here and there, and, if I am to be fair, it’s easy to see why.
As you may have guessed, aside from the basic premise of hero saves princess, the movie bares little to no obvious resemblance to the games of its time, aside from the odd reference here and there. But not only that, the film also suffers from an inconsistent tone, never knowing if it wants to be dark and gloomy or light and fun.
Also the whole evolution of dinosaurs in a parallel dimension plot point was pointless and didn’t make much sense other than to just have an excuse for the meteorite macguffin. It’s almost like the directors only played Super Mario World and decided to go from there!
Yet, despite its errors, there are shining spots which are overlooked in my opinion. The movie features a solid cast – the highlights being Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the titular brothers – and the production and costume design are brilliantly done. (I honestly think the traditional Mario Bros red and green suits are delightful!) It also has some fun action scenes and impressive effects (mostly, the CGI is a little shoddy at times) and the film is never boring on any level. The small references to the games, few that there are, bring a nice touch as well, especially to a Mario fan.
Honestly, it’s not the deviation from its source game series that makes it suffer so much as it needing a different directing team that knew how to bring the series to life and a more consistent tone, preferably a light-hearted tone.
It had a lot of potential and under a different team and a rewrite of the script, it would fit in well with modern day retellings such as ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ and ‘Riverdale’.
The film, whilst not perfect and has so many flaws, definitely doesn’t deserve the shame it is given, especially when compared to some of the other video game movies that came after it. As a fan of the games and a film lover, it holds a special place in my nostalgic heart and that alone helps me forgive its downfalls and see it as a fun ride, if a bumpy one!