SUPER MARIO BROS. is a good movie, dammit!
JURASSIC PARK landed in the middle of the summer of 1993 and, like a T-Rex doing a cannonball into a swimming pool, left a wake that completely altered what audiences would expect from films' special effects going forward. If a FX-heavy film was released on the wrong end of JURASSIC PARK's opening weekend, it was in trouble. But when you're dealing with a film as big as JURASSIC PARK, time sometimes has a way of running in both directions and SUPER MARIO BROS, another movie that dealt heavily with dinosaurs, was released two whole weeks before JURASSIC PARK and was still screwed.
SUPER MARIO BROS. is a film that deserves a revisit.
I'll pause for a moment to let your derisive laughter die down.
I'm not going to promise that, 20 years after the fact, the movie has miraculously metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly. There’s a good chance audiences are still going to hate SUPER MARIO BROS. as much as they did in 1993. That said, there is just something infinitely weird and wonderful about this misguided attempt to turn a children's video game into a nightmarish punk-sci-fi action film set in a bleak, hellish alternate universe in which dinosaurs and fungi rule the world. This is a movie that was production designed by the same gentleman who helped birth BLADE RUNNER - it's a live action cartoon that looks like a '90s neon hellscape.
To consider this movie being made in 1993, picture somebody taking MY LITTLE PONY and turning it into a movie about flesh-eating horses that rampage across a post-apocalyptic Florida. In a world obsessed with making every piece of nostalgic children's entertainment from the past =a gritty, neo-realistic shadow of itself, watching SUPER MARIO BROS is like discovering a fish with legs. It's the birthing pangs of the modern approach to GrimDark and, while sometimes evolution is ugly, it never boring!
With at least nine writers working on the script, SUPER MARIO BROS. was a mess before production even began. The actors were constantly drunk and belligerent, the press was ready to pounce on what they saw to be a wounded animal and the directors (co-creators of MAX HEADROOM) were woefully over their heads. The movie was never going to work but - despite all that - there is something maddeningly beautiful about this film nonetheless. It is an adaptation made by people who did not understand the property (some of the creators may have actually had serious contempt for video games). There's something incredibly interesting about that.
Today, if anything, video game adaptations are overly faithful to their source material – making for some very boring movies. In a world where your average video game is a completely cinematic, fully-interactive story with emotional depth on par with most anything Hollywood is putting out, why would you want to sit and watch some actor roleplay the game when you could be the one controlling the action yourself?
With SUPER MARIO BROS, though, the filmmakers – rightfully confused on how you could turn a simplistic fairy tale into a live-action movie - threw their hands in the air and proceeded to open their maws and let the hornets fly out. This film is an angry, crazed reflection of the video games it was supposed to be promoting. In all that madness, though, there is something really cool and unique going on – from the creature designs to the props and costumes. This is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be but all the disparate parts work together to create something freaky, unsettling, and oh so watchable.
Sure SUPER MARIO BROS. lost a lot of money but the film bombing isn't even that big of a deal in retrospect. Films based on video games historically have had very little success critically or commercially. That hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying, though. With new video games being released every week, there will never be a shortage of games for Hollywood producers to look to for inspiration — thus, there will never be a shortage of bad video game movies to mock. Honestly, movie studios should just stop trying to adapt video games because they will never reach the heights of SUPER MARIO BROS.
However, if Hollywood is determined to keep making video games, I - as somebody who has established his Good Taste™ by defending SUPER MARIO BROS, have a few pitches for the next wave of video games ripe for the picking in the celluloid cabbage patch that is development hell:
PAC-MAN — Jonah Hill stars as a yellow HAZMAT suit-clad space miner struggling with addictions to both little white pills and spontaneously generated fruit baskets. As he battles his inner demons, he must also face the vengeful ghosts of the multi-ethnic miners he replaced after they died due to becoming lost in the mine’s mazes.
DUCK HUNT — Josh Brolin is The Hunter, a good ol’ boy from Texas who enjoys hunting ducks with his wisecracking canine companion (voiced by Chris Tucker). When a mysterious virus turns the world’s duck population into deadly killing machines, The Hunter is America’s best chance at salvation. Armed only with an orange and grey laser gun, it’s always duck season for The Hunter.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION — Society has sunk into a dark totalitarian regime this side of Orwell’s 1984. All forms of expression have been outlawed and creativity is punishable by death. It’s up to Johnny B. Smooth (as played by Zac Efron) to save the populace with the only weapon he knows: dance. Using every tactic in his arsenal (from The Shuffle to The Robot to The Running Man), Smooth will bring about a revolution with his dance — or make a fool of himself trying.
TETRIS — When Steve Jackson (Jason Stratham) was falsely accused of murdering his wife, little did he know he was about to become part of the cutthroat world of prison block building. Forced to compete in the nationally televised competitions, Jackson has two choices — build walls out of the highly combustible, oddly shaped bricks he has been given, or be shot by the prison guards. In order to escape, he’s going to need to build his way out — one brick at a time.