It’s finally here! The Super Mario Bros Movie has been 30 years in the making. There is a legacy of redemption here, after the 1993 movie deterred Nintendo from using their products for TV and movies for decades. After such a lengthy wait, my eagerness for this new film could not be overstated. There was a hint of trepidation, for it was possible this would all end in tears. Would this new Mario movie be another Sonic the Hedgehog (IE good), or another Street Fighter (IE not-so-good)?
Well, the film is certainly filled with references across various aspects of Mario lore. There are nods to the original game, to Super Mario 2, Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, 3D Mario World, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong… and I’ve probably missed a few too. The music score is woven with themes from the numerous games, and there are a few little cameo nods to other, non-Mario games too. Unlike the original film, this movie is faithful to the source material. That’s an immediate tick in the box. Any game-to-movie adaptation needs to be faithful to the source material. Granted, there has to be a measure of artistic licence, but too much liberty-taking will alienate fans of the game.
Being too loyal to the source material can be problematic too. If the film tries too hard to seem like a game, it can make everything artificial. This is where certain elements of the Mario film felt a little forced to me. Illumination and Nintendo were so determined to honour the franchise’s history that the story of the film didn’t flow as naturally as it could have. Some of the plot elements felt a little thin, though there is also a lot of charm to be had in this movie. Chris Pratt’s Mario works, Charlie Day’s Luigi certainly works, Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as Princess Peach. Seth Rogen is pretty much Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Keegan-Michael Key is decent as Toad. The absolute star of the show is Jack Black as Bowser.
Black’s voice is perfect for the King of the Koopas, and the quality of the animation of Bowser (indeed, all the characters really) is as smooth as butter. There are nice bits of banter between Mario and Kong, and some quirky moments involving penguins, cages, and a creepy-cute star! The film is vibrant and colourful, but I felt like more time was needed to explore the characters, and their settings. Perhaps we’ll get more of that in any would-be sequels. There’s certainly room to grow this movie universe! 8/10.